THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued guidelines on the conduct of the Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi novena Masses held from Dec. 16 to 24, in accordance with the safety protocol prescribed by health authorities to slow down Covid-19 transmission.
The CBCP in its Nov. 27 Circular No. 20-82 said parishes will still enforce mandatory wearing of masks, observance of social distancing and the ban on mass gathering in the nine-day dawn masses.
For Simbang Gabi, the CBCP recommends to start the Masses in the evening as early as 6 p.m. In the morning, the last Mass can be held at 6 a.m.
The CBCP said bishops, in consultation with the priests and in coordination with the local government units, may schedule more dawn Masses in large venues that can accommodate more people and where social distancing can still be observed.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said he will allow the conduct of dawn masses if these are held inside the churches.
Church officials met with Labella on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to discuss Misa de Gallo matters.
Msgr. Camilo Alia, team moderator of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said the meeting ended without a final decision, adding the mayor may call for another meeting.
The CBCP still encourages the livestreaming of liturgical celebrations for those unable to join physically in the novena masses.
On Christmas Eve, the vigil Mass may be celebrated at 6 p.m. while the last Mass of Dec. 24 would take the liturgy of the Midnight Mass of Christmas.
The dawn mass of Christmas may also be celebrated early morning of Dec. 25.
Since kissing or touching of the images is still prohibited, the CBCP encourages families to bring their family image of the infant Jesus during the Christmas Masses.
“The celebration of Christmas may be different this year. We will not have the same frenzy and stressful preparations that we had before the pandemic. But we pray and help our faithful to see the heart and the essence of the season, in the simple, sober, silent but strong and loving truth of the God who comes to us in Jesus’ incarnation,” CBCP president and Archbishop of Davao Romulo Valles said in the circular.
Alia said Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will likely call for a special meeting with the liturgists and the board of consultors following the CBCP instructions.
Waiting for order
Fr. Japheth Geonzon, vice chairman of the Commission on Worship of the Archdiocese of Cebu, also said the Archdiocese is still waiting for the final executive order of Labella on the conduct of dawn Masses.
He said the CBCP did not give a uniform to-do list during Misa de Gallo for all parishes. The stand of the CBCP is very clear that the conduct of Masses depends on the number of active Covid-19 cases of the place where a parish belongs.
Geonzon said the number of Covid-19 cases in Central Visayas is not alarming anymore.
The Archdiocese of Cebu is contemplating encouraging parishes to hold two dawn masses to split the number of attendees.
Geonzon believes that Archbishop Palma will not disclose his schedule of dawn Masses to prevent people from flocking to the parishes.
The CBCP explained that the original nature of Misa de Gallo (Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass”) was for nine straight early morning or dawn Masses. But during Martial law in the Marcos era, these Masses were moved to the previous evening due to curfews preventing people from going to church early in the morning. These evening masses continue to be celebrated today despite the lifting of those curfews. (WBS)