Metro Manila dioceses cancel Masses amid coronavirus lockdown

Metro Manila dioceses cancel Masses amid coronavirus lockdown

Catholics wear protective masks as they pray at the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Parañaque City on March 11, 2020. ELMARC LIM

By Roy Lagarde

March 13, 2020

Manila, Philippines

Several dioceses in Metro Manila have suspended public gatherings including worship services and Masses amid coronavirus outbreak.

At least four dioceses have now suspended public worship for the coming weeks after the government has put the Metro under a lockdown.

In Manila, the first to release an instruction, Masses and other public gatherings in the archdiocese will be suspended from March 14 to 20.

But Manila administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo said parish churches and chapels will remain open to the faithful.

“I enjoin the parishes and places of prayer to be open all day so that people may come and find solace in silent prayer,” he said.

Masses will also be suspended in the Novaliches diocese for a month, from March 13 to April 12.

Churches and other places of religious significance “will be kept closed to the public to discourage such gatherings in groups”.

Bishop Roberto Gaa of Novaliches said that being cautious is “not just about protecting ourselves but also the people around us”.

There will also be no public Masses in the dioceses of Cubao and Pasig from March 14 until further notice, but churches will remain open for Catholics.

“Those who are visiting the churches must maintain the necessary precautions —proper hygiene, proper respiratory etiquette and social distancing,” said Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao.

“I enjoin our faithful to cooperate with the government’s efforts to contain this serious threat even as this challenge comes to us during the Lenten Season when we observe our long-cherished traditions,” he said.

The Pasig diocese is also set to release guidelines in light of the coronavirus within the week.

In the Parañaque diocese, Bishop Jesse Mercado ordered the suspension of public Masses from March 15 to 21, while allowing churches to remain open. 

However, he asked the priests to make themselves available for individual confession and pastoral care of the sick, while following the necessary health precautions issued by the health department. 

As of Friday, the COVID-19 has killed two in the Philippines and infected 53, mostly in Metro Manila.

The government has discouraged “mass gatherings” as part of the “stringent social distancing measures” that would be implemented until April 12.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said that dioceses “must discern on the matter and consider with great priority the safety and health of the people”.

The archdiocese and three dioceses in Metro Manila have decided that daily Masses will be broadcast live on their Facebook pages, so as to be close to the faithful and those who are suffering from the epidemic.

Aside from Manila, Pasig, Cubao, Novaliches and Parañaque, the Metro also covers the diocese of Kalookan.