THE modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) has commenced in the Province of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City effective May 31 to June 15. The good news is people can now go back to attending the Sunday masses but with only 50 percent occupancy in churches.
The Diocese of Bacolod is yet to issue its official statement of the matter.
But citing the guidelines set by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines through its President Archbishop of Davao Romulo G. Valles, the church leadership issued their own health protocol dated May 16, 2020, purposely to guide Catholic churches in the country on how to conduct mass with regulated conditions.
SunStar is sharing some of the significant inputs that CBCP has pointed out when the liturgy will be conducted with faithful in attendance.
CBCP has pointed out that the priests and lay ministers who take part and assist in the celebrations should wash and sanitize their hands properly before and after each celebration; they should wear face masks when they are not to speak to lead in prayer, give instructions or proclaim the Word of God to the assembly.
But the priest celebrant should not wear masks or gloves during the celebration of the mass. Instead, he should remain more than one meter from the congregation during the mass. In such circumstances, there is no substantial risk of infection. Social distancing in the sanctuary should be practiced. Therefore, only a minimal number of altar servers and lectors need to be in the sanctuary.
The number of choir members who will sing during the celebrations needs to be reduced in order to keep social distancing. It may even be advisable to have only a cantor who will lead the assembly in the singing.
The faithful attending the mass should all wear face masks.
There should be markers on pews/benches inside churches to indicate where the faithful could go and sit while inside the church. These markers will help the strict observance of social distancing.
The anticipated mass shall be reckoned beginning any time after 12 noon on Saturday; a faithful who attends any mass after midday of Saturday shall be in fulfillment of Sunday obligation. All evening masses from Wednesday to Friday, using Sunday liturgy, may be deemed anticipated Sunday mass satisfying the Sunday obligation..
The new schedule of masses should be circulated well.
The entrances and exits of the church could be planned and well indicated to help maintain social distancing during the entrance and departure of mass-goers.
There should be station ushers at entrances of the church to help "direct traffic," to ensure that the faithful keep one meter from each other while entering and exiting the church.
Thermal scanners are to be used for a temperature check. Ushers will handle this at the entrances of the church.
Foot baths will be set up in all entrances of the church in compliance with the requirement of the Department of Health. Hand sanitizers should be made available at the entrances of the church.
Users and collectors should be trained to equip them to guide the assembly on how to sanitize before they enter the church, where to sit in the church, when to come to the communion line during Holy Communion, and when and where to enter and to exit the church.
The Offertory procession will be omitted.
Special provisions should be made for the collection. Baskets should not be passed from person to person. Long-handled baskets could be acceptable if the ushers can remain at a suitable distance from others. There can also be designated boxes or collection points where the faithful can place their contributions.
If hosts for the communion of the faithful are to be consecrated, they should be placed on a second corporal on the side of the altar. This allows the priest to say the words of consecration directly over the host that he will consume, while the other hosts on the altar are not directly in front of the priest as he speaks the Eucharistic Prayer.
The holy communion will still be distributed only on the hand. The ministers of Holy Communion (both priests and lay ministers) need to wear face masks and sanitize their hands before and after the distribution of Holy Communion. In areas where the faithful might stand in line to receive Holy Communion, place tape on the floor, to indicate proper spacing between persons. The faithful are also led to the line by pews.
No holding of hands during the singing/praying of the "Our Father" and shaking of hands during the sign of peace (CBCP Circular No. 20-05, dated January 29, 2020).
The church needs to train younger Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Many of our EMHCs are elderly and therefore are the ones vulnerable to the virus. Care is to be exercised in this regard not to expose them to the infection of the virus.
Parishes should also distribute Holy Communion outside of the mass for the sick and those who are taking serious caution not to be contaminated by the virus and therefore avoid gatherings of people even in church.