Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: October 14, 2021 08:27 AM GMT
People light candles and pray for their relatives at a cemetery during the annual observance of All Saints' Day in Manila on Nov 1, 2019. The cemeteries were closed to visitors last year and will be again this year. (Photo: AFP)
A Philippine diocese has decided to close all its cemeteries on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day for the second consecutive year due to rising Covid-19 cases.
Legaspi Diocese in southern Luzon announced the decision a week after it was announced that Manila Archdiocese would close its cemeteries.
Millions of Filipinos visit the graves of their loved ones during the annual celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day from Nov. 1-2 to show respect to departed family members and friends.
Activities usually begin a week earlier when families clean and paint graves for their visit. Families also pray novenas and bring food to the cemetery as part of a tradition honoring the dead.
Bishop Joel Baylon of Legaspi told Radyo Veritas on Oct. 13 that the decision to cancel events for a second year was made after consultations with health officials and clergymen in his diocese.
“The decision … was difficult because many parishioners like to visit the graves of their loved ones. But we need to balance our faith with the reality this pandemic brings,” Bishop Baylon said.
Since Covid-19 case numbers in our province are still alarming, I deemed it prudent to implement the closure of all the Catholic cemeteries
The diocese said it has asked local authorities to post policemen at cemetery gates from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3.
Last year cemeteries and columbaries in the entire country were declared off limits for the two special days by the national government.
This year Bishop Baylon said he took the unilateral decision to close cemeteries in his jurisdiction.
“Since Covid-19 case numbers in our province are still alarming, I deemed it prudent to implement the closure of all the Catholic cemeteries in the diocese from Oct. 30 until Nov. 3, except of course for burials,” he said.
As of Oct. 13, there were 44,097 active Covid cases in the Bicol region where Legaspi Diocese is located. The death toll stood at 693 deaths, according to the latest government figures.
Despite stricter containment measures imposed by authorities, the virus has continued to spread.
Bishop Baylon also urged Catholics not to visit cemeteries at all if possible to avoid mass transmission of the virus.
“We will have online Masses for our dearly departed. We will also broadcast these Masses via our radio and local TV networks. So, let’s use technology for the moment because we should not take the virus lightly,” he said.
Manila Archdiocese said the decision to close Catholic cemeteries in the capital came from city mayor Isko Moreno, who is also a candidate in next year’s presidential election.
Moreno ordered the Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 closure of all cemeteries in Manila, including Muslim ones, on Oct. 6.
“There is a compelling need to avoid an influx of people in memorial parks, cemeteries and columbaries immediately before, during and immediately after All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day celebrations,” the order read.
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