Church official: Suspend pilgrimages abroad amid COVID-19 woes

Church official: Suspend pilgrimages abroad amid COVID-19 woes

Visitors stand in line near the grotto in the Church of Nativity Dec. 1, 2019, in Bethlehem, West Bank. DEBBIE HILL/CNS

By CBCP News

March 9, 2020

Manila, Philippines

A Church official advised Filipino Catholics to reconsider pilgrimages overseas as cases of the coronavirus continue to spread across the world.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said that pilgrimages abroad should be postponed as nations around the world scramble to contain the virus that has so far killed more than 3,000 people.

“First, personal safety is the utmost priority and, for the common good, the gathering of huge groups should be avoided,” Santos said.

After all, the bishop said that some sacred places like Bethlehem are closed to pilgrims and a limited number of visitors are allowed in other places.

“What we have to do is pray more, be more cautious with our personal hygiene and always follow the medical directives of our government officials,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs also urged Filipinos planning to visit the Holy Land to postpone their trips until further notice.

The Palestinian authority earlier decided to temporarily ban the entry of all tourists into the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho.

The Israeli government also restricted all travels to Bethlehem from Israel.

According to Israel’s Health Ministry, four more Israelis were diagnosed with coronavirus on March 7, taking the number of cases in the country to 25.

In Palestine, 16 cases of the coronavirus disease had been detected in the West Bank, including nine new cases in Bethlehem.