Catholics began the most “spiritually charged week” of the year, the Holy Week, without the blessing palms and with empty churches amid the enhanced community quarantine implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“Kakaiba talaga ang Semana Santa para sa atin. At ngayong taon ay lalong kakaiba ito," said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, administrator of the Manila Archdiocese.
“We will not be able to do the usual Holy Week activities that we are so familiar with,” he said in his homily during the live stream of a Mass he celebrated from the Manila Cathedral on Sunday morning.
He enumerated the traditional activities expected this week: the blessing of palm fronds on Palm Sunday, the Senakulo, the Pabasa ng Pasyon, the Visita Iglesia, the Way of the Cross in our streets, the flagellations in some areas, the procession of the Santo Entierro, the solemn Celebration of the Light on Easter Vigil, the beautiful Easter celebrations, and the Salubong.
“And daming mami-miss natin. This does not mean though that there is no Holy Week. Patuloy pa rin and Semana Santa,” the bishop underscored.
This year will be different but the entire Catholic Church will continue the commemoration, he said.
“In the Philippines and in many parts of the world, yes, we will miss the externalities,” Pabillo said, adding that “this is a chance to reflect on what we are doing.”
He said people may have been too busy in the past to understand the meaning behind the rituals and tradition.
“Now that we cannot do the externalities, we can delve deeper into the meaning of what we are celebrating,” he explained.
For those who prepared palm fronds and are concerned that these are not blessed by priests, Bishop Pabillo assured that the palms are indeed considered blessed.
“Na-bless. ‘Yan nga ating panalangin kanina, at ang ating pagbasa ng banal na ebanghelyo,” he said.
“Ang blessing ay hindi lang binibigay ng tubig. Binibigay din ‘yan ng panalangin at ng salita ng Diyos,” he added.
The week spent in prayer, sacrifice and corporal works of mercy is a reflection on the passion, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Let us not mind so much that we are in the fourth week of the lockdown,” the prelate said.
“Let us not complain, but use this silence and inactivity of the lockdown this Holy Week to reflect and to pray. Hanapin natin ang kahulugan ng ating pananampalataya at hindi ang panglabas na gawain ng mga ito," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed Luzon under enhanced community quarantine on March 17 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
Filipino Catholics stayed home on Palm Sunday, attending Mass online and waiting for the parish priest to bless their palm fronds.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines earlier urged the public to stay home during Palm Sunday and just follow church activities online or on television due to the threat from the COVID-19.
Priests will go around the streets of their parishes during Palm Sunday to bless palm fronds of the faithful in front of their homes, the CBCP said.
CBCP spokesperson Fr. Jerome Secillano said Filipinos may hold their palm branches while the priest passes by and recites the prayer of blessing of palms.
Sunday, April 5, 2020, is the first time since World War II that there would be no public celebration of Palm Sunday, the day commemorating the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem before His crucifixion. —KG, GMA News