The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reminded the faithful yesterday to remain vigilant against the coronavirus disease 2019 despite the easing of restrictions in religious gatherings.
“While some protocols are now being relaxed, we urge the public to still exercise caution as Covid-19 hasn’t been extinguished yet from our midst,” CBCP Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, Fr. Jerome Secillano, said in a Viber message.
This as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) allowed religious services at 50 percent seating capacity from the current 30 percent capacity in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) starting Feb. 15.
“We are still not safe from this virus and its unpredictable nature makes it really a threat to everyone’s health,” the CBCP-PCPA official added.
Secillano, however, said he is not privy as to whether the CBCP has requested the government to allow a higher seating capacity in churches.
“I didn’t know of any official request from the CBCP concerning the matter. The IATF is deciding based on their appreciation of the situation,” he added.
Aside from Metro Manila, the other areas under GCQ until the end of this month are the Cordillera Administrative Region, the provinces of Batangas, Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and the cities of Tacloban, Davao, and Iligan.
The rest of the country is under a modified GCQ.
The easing of restrictions came ahead of the country’s observance of Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17.
At present, a 30-percent and 50-percent seating capacity for religious activities are allowed in areas under GCQ and modified GCQ, respectively.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, co-chairperson of IATF-EID, said Wednesday that the existing health and safety protocols will be followed in the observance of Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent.
Instead of the traditional marking of a cross on the forehead, Catholic prelates just sprinkled the blessed ash on the penitents’ heads last year as part of the preventive measures against the Covid-19.
Catholic faithful will be allowed this year to burn palms at home and use the ashes to sprinkle on family members on Ash Wednesday, according to the Archdiocese of Manila’s Circular No. 2021-05.
The circular also authorizes parishes that will have difficulty finding old blessed palm branches for this year’s Ash Wednesday to use dried leaves of plants or trees as an alternative.
Traditionally, the palm branches blessed during the previous year’s Palm Sunday mass are donated by parishioners to their parish.
The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in a Jan. 12 note, directs priest to say the formula, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”, or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”, once to all the present devotees rather than to each person.
The note also provides that the priest should cleanse his hands, put on a face mask, and distribute ashes to those who come to him, if appropriate, go to those who are standing in their places.*PNA