One, if not the most unwelcome, though silently, restrictions under the governments COVID-19.
Pandemic response protocols is the order for every institution and the Filipinos in general, not to hold activities that are expected to converge a huge number of people in one particular place.
The most affected by this is the Church, which holds religious rites on a regular basis. As the most dominant religion in the Philippines, it is the Catholic Church that has agonized so much with its failure to hold masses with the faithful in attendance. The priests though continue to hold masses every day.
But the faithful are relegated to viewing the rites on live television and/or listening to radio broadcasts. Of course, masses and other forms of religious services are known traditional gatherings of people done with regularity ranging from daily to weekly.
In the case of daily masses of the Catholic Church, practices during the celebration include the dipping of fingers in the holy water stocked in receptacles right at the church door area, the hand holding among mass goers during the prayer of Our Father, the hand shaking and hugging by some of the mass goers during that portion of the peace offering, and the kissing of the priests hand after the celebrant gets down from the altar when the mass is ended.
But there are some avid devotees to certain saints who make it their ritual to visit statues of the
center of their devotion that are encased in glass displayed in certain areas inside the church. Some of the statues though stand opened for every churchgoer to pay homage to. Devotees converge and touch the encasement and wipe the glass with their handkerchiefs that they also use to wipe on some parts of their body immediately after. We also personally have witnessed many of the devotees kissing the glass casement.
After the order banning activities that gather huge crowd of people, the Catholic Church did not
hesitate to comply. Churches all over the country and the world were closed even as some church services were allowed under strict guidance from the government-established response policies.
But like most people, Church authorities now feel the negative impact of the Church closure brought about by the Enhanced Community Quarantine now nearing two months. The Catholic Church leaders speaking through the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, has started overtly manifesting its desire to re-open the Church and the holding of masses with the faithful in attendance.
The CBCP has already laid down their own rules for the mass goers to follow based on the policies embodied in the government-issued protocols. The Catholic Church through CBCP spokesman Fr. Jerome Seciliano, said it is doing away with many of the usual ritual practices during pre-CoViD 19 masses.
The Bishops Conference spokesman said further that social distancing, wearing of face mask, reduced mass assistants, one or two-person singers, shortened communion rites, no holy water in receptacles, temperature taking before entering the church, and closing the church when designated seats are full will be imposed. Late church goers have to listen to the mass outside.
All these innovations in the holding of masses, according to the CBCP, are part of the Church continuing support to government efforts to curb the virus infection, and to ensure that the much awaited Gods Time of healing will come much sooner.
Personally, we believe the Catholic Church could never be wrong in its move to have the holding of the holy masses resumed even as its leaders show obeisance to the government-laid protocols. Yes, it would be most unfortunate if in the Churchs desire to open Gods house to the faithful and not making precautionary measures could easily negate the positive effects that may have been brought about by noticeable gains the government has attained in its gargantuan battle against the unseen enemy.
Yes we agree that doing away such practices among us people who believe in God Almighty, and whose belief is manifested in our adherence to the ways laid down by the religion we belong, could be a difficult option. After all, the foundations of the practices were etched in stone and, through the years had evolved into such solid traditions. Thus, all these have become part of our daily lives.
But then, what are our Church leaders for? They are there to lead the Church; the faithful. They may not be able to immediately change long standing traditions. But for certain they can stop, even if temporarily, certain practices if the end objective of such a move is for the good of the Church and Christs believers.
Without followers there is no Church; without believers there is no religion. And even if there are followers but they are likely afflicted with CoViD 2019, or are highly vulnerable to the illness, then the Church may also be destabilized and could be infirmed if its leaders remain fence sitters and negligent in helping prevent the contagion.
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