What the ‘new normal’ will be like for Filipino Catholics

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 19) — The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new era even for the Catholic Church, which has come up with ways to celebrate liturgy while preventing the spread of the disease.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has released a new set of guidelines outlining what the ‘new normal’ will be like for the Filipino faithful.

Under the guidelines, the CBCP recommended parishes to maximize the potential of social media and continue to livestream or televise masses in order to promote social distancing. It also urged the elderly and the sick, who are more at risk of contracting the virus, as well as the children to stay home and follow the liturgical celebration virtually instead.

“It is advisable that they [the elderly and the sick] be dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass during this time when the vaccine is not yet available and the threat of the virus is still widespread,” the CBCP said.

Priests and lay ministers who take part in the celebrations, with the exception of the priest celebrant, are also asked to wear face masks when they are not speaking or leading the prayer. All the faithful in attendance are likewise expected to abide by the measure.

Social distancing must strictly be observed by everyone, including among choir members which the CBCP noted should be reduced. It may even be advisable to have only a cantor who will lead the assembly in the singing, the CBCP added. Markers on the benches or pews inside churches must also be put in place to indicate where the people could sit.

Under the new normal setting, the offertory procession must be omitted, according to the CBCP.

It added that for the collection of money, baskets should not be passed from person to person. It suggested designating boxes or collection points where people can place their contributions instead.

Holy Communion will still be distributed only by hand, the CBCP clarified, but both priests and lay ministers need to wear face masks and sanitize their hands before and after the distribution.

There will also be no holding of hands during the singing or praying of the “Our Father," as well as physical contact during the Sign of Peace.

To further reduce the risk of viral transmission, CBCP encouraged to position station ushers at entrances of the church to help “direct traffic” and ensure that the people are still keeping a meter distance away from each other, as well as to check body temperature of attendees who enter the place of worship.

Additionally, foot baths and hand sanitizers must also be made available at the entrances. The CBCP also stressed that regular general disinfection must be done for the entire church.

Other religious rites and celebrations

For baptisms, only immediate family members and one or a pair of godparents will be allowed to attend. Cotton must also be used to apply the holy oils on the one baptized, and this cotton should be burned after the celebration, the CBCP said.

Funerals will likewise be restricted to the immediate family.

The CBCP also decided to forego mass confirmations this year, adding that “those who are to be baptized as adults or who are getting married can be confirmed by the parish priest as church discipline dictates.”

As for wedding celebrations, they have to be simpler than usual, according to the CBCP.

“We have to forego all of the secondary elements of the normal wedding ceremonies, e.g., the wedding entourage (abays). Only the bride and the groom, the parents of the couple, and one set of sponsors are to be present in the ceremony,” it said.

Priests are also advised against using the confessionals in church when performing the sacrament of confession.

“Although confessions may be heard in the parish office, 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,” the CBCP explained.