The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued guidelines for liturgical celebrations in anticipation of the return of church ceremonies in light of the ‘new normal’ due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“We offer you then some guidelines in view of the possibility, in the gradual return to the new normal that we will be allowed to celebrate the Sacraments with the people in attendance, especially the Holy Eucharist,” the CBCP said on Saturday.
“The main content of these guidelines was drawn up by Fr. Genaro Diwa, Executive Secretary of our CBCP Episcopal Commission on Liturgy,” it added.
CBCP scrapped all of the secondary elements of the normal wedding ceremonies such as the entourage of “abays.” Only the bride and the groom, their parents, and a set of sponsors are allowed in the rites.
Aside from this, confessions should be done outdoors as CBCP advised not to use the confessionals inside the church.
“It is preferable that they be heard outdoors, where there is better circulation of air and additional space for safe distance between the confessor and the penitent,” it said.
During baptisms, only immediate family members and one or a pair of godparents are allowed to attend the ceremony, the CBCP said.
CBCP also discouraged the holding of hands while singing and praying the “Our Father” as well as the shaking of hands during the Sign of Peace, which were also prohibited in a January 29 circular.
To observe social distancing, markers will be set up on the benches and pews to indicate where the faithful could go and sit inside the church.
For the Holy Communion, the CBCP maintained to distribute the bread only on the hand. Priests and lay ministers administering the ceremony are instructed to sanitize their hands before and after the distribution.
The number of choir members who will sing during the celebrations need to be reduced to observe social distancing. CBCP advised only a cantor who will lead the assembly in the singing.
All of the church visitors as well as those who will lead and assist the ceremonies are advised to wear face masks and observe social distancing.
Only the priest celebrant is allowed not to wear masks or gloves during the celebration of the mass. However, he should keep a distance of more than a meter from the congregation.
Priests and lay ministers who take part during ceremonies should wash and sanitize their hands properly before and after each celebration, the CBCP said.
Citing the advice of the Inter-Agency Task Force, CBCP urged the elderly, the sick, and children to stay home and not to attend masses.
“Every parish needs to take extra precaution that our elderly and the sick will not be exposed to occasions for the infection of the virus,” it said.
Livestreamed and televised broadcast of masses will continue as churches maximize its use of social media in the new normal.
The details of the new guidelines of the CBCP have been posted at the CBCP website.—AOL, GMA News