Pastoral Letter: A Call of Charity for the Common Good
My dear people of God,
The alert level for the COVID 19 has now been raised to Code Red sub-level two (2). We are enjoined to avoid large gatherings of people to avert the further spread of the virus. We heed this call not with panic but with care for charity to others and the common good. Hence in the Archdiocese of Manila I dispense all the faithful from the obligation of going to Mass this Sunday. There will be no public celebration of the Holy Mass and no public activities in all the churches in the Archdiocese for seven days, starting Saturday, March14, till Friday, March 20. I recognize that this may impact many faithful and priests but let us do this with the spirit of sacrifice for the good of all. Within the week we will monitor more fully the situation in coordination with health agencies and government bodies. Further instructions will then be issued in the coming days. Please keep in touch with the official website of the Archdiocese of Manila* in order to be updated and to avoid fake news.
Although we will not be able to come to Holy Mass, this does not mean that we no longer can come to the Lord. We should all the more strive to be in touch with Him by fervent prayer. Thus from March 14 onwards let all the bells of our churches be rung every twelve o’clock noon and eight o’clock in the evening to call all people to pray the ORATIO IMPERATA prayer to fight this virus. Let us join in this prayer. Let families gather together at 8 pm to pray as a family for divine protection. After the Oratio Imperata the families can pray the rosary and read the Scriptures. The fervent prayers of all the people of God will draw us closer to him and away from the scourge of this disease.
In the spirit of Lent let us accompany our prayer with acts of penance and charity. Penance, which calls for self-abnegation, keeps us from being selfish and thinking only of ourselves. Charity opens our attention and our hearts to others. Let not fear run our lives. Hence we avoid panic buying. We should not consider only our needs but also the needs of others. Driven by self-preservation, we can easily fall into selfishness in moments of fear, thus we think only of ourselves. Let us also think of the needs of others, especially of the poor who are the most vulnerable. Therefore let our parishes go out of our way to help and serve them. Scripture warns us: “those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves call out and not be answered” (Prov. 21:13). Whereas, by opening our hands to give, we also open them to receive God’s help and blessing.
I enjoin the parishes and places of prayer to be open all day so that people may come and find solace in silent prayer. However, let sanitizers be available at the entrances and let the churches be regularly cleaned. For the moment let us not organize Kumpisalang Bayan to avoid large gatherings of people but let all priests give definite time to hear individual confessions during the day to be of service to the penitents who come. Although there are risks, priests must be available to visit the sick and minister to them. In time of crisis people need the Lord, and the priests show God’s nearness by their presence among the people.
We can use the social media and other means of communication to help us in our faith. Please tune in to Radio Veritas 846 and TV Maria for their regular broadcasts of Masses and other religious activities. Quiapo and other churches also have live streaming of their Masses. We will coordinate with other media outlets participate in our noon and evening prayers. You can also follow the daily readings of the Mass by reading your Bibles. The Word of God in the Scriptures gives us hope, strength and guidance. Being in community quarantine can be an opportunity to be more present to our loved ones and to the Lord.
Let us be assured that this crisis too will pass. This has come upon us so quickly and unexpectedly, but let us take this as a call to be more faithful to God and more loving to others. “So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Gal. 6:10).
Once again let us trustingly invoke the intercession of Mary, our Mother, the Health of the Sick.
+ Broderick Pabillo
Apostolic Administrator of Manila
March 13, 2020