A priest stands at the closed entrance to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank City of Bethlehem on March 8 after the city was placed under lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo: Musa al Shaer/AFP)
A senior church official in the Philippines has called on Filipino Catholics to think again about going on overseas pilgrimages as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread around the world.
All pilgrimages should be postponed until the virus, which had infected nearly 119,000 people and killed 4,284 as of March 10, has been contained, according to Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga.
“First, personal safety is the utmost priority and, for the common good, the gathering of huge groups should be avoided,” the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website quoted Bishop Santos as saying.
“What we have to do is pray more, be more cautious with our personal hygiene and always follow the medical directives of our government officials.”
The government is also calling on Filipinos to avoid making trips to the Holy Land and other overseas pilgrimage sites for the time being.
The call from the prelate and the foreign ministry also follows a directive from the Palestinian authority placing restrictions on all tourists wanting to go to the West Bank, where the Biblical cities of Bethlehem and Jericho are located.
The Israeli government has also restricted all travel to Bethlehem. The moves come as Israel and Palestinian authorities confirmed new Covid-19 cases in Israel and the West Bank earlier this week.
There were at least 25 reported cases in Israel and 16 in the West Bank as of March 10.
Meanwhile, The Lenten recollection with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle for the Filipino community in Rome has been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.
The March 15 gathering has been postponed “indefinitely,” said Father Greg Gaston, rector of the Pontificio Collegio Filippino, which organizes the event
He said the decision was made in consultation with the Italian government, which has placed the whole country under lockdown to try and contain the spread of Covid-19 after 631 deaths and more than 10,000 infections in Italy.
The Vatican confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 6.
“Please accept our sincerest regrets for any inconvenience this might have caused, and our gratitude for your interest in the recollection and your prayers,” the CBCP website quoted Father Gaston as saying.