A Philippine policeman inspects identification of jeepney passengers at a checkpoint bordering Cavite province and suburban Las Pinas in Manila on March 15 as the government steps up efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Police began closing off access to the sprawling and densely populated capital on March 15 by imposing a quarantine. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
Manila dioceses today livestreamed Sunday Masses via the internet and radio for nearly 13 million Catholics after the lockdown of the Philippine capital. The Archdiocese of Manila had previously released a statement canceling public Masses from March 14-20 amid growing fears about the spread of the coronavirus. Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), reminded Catholics in a statement dated March 14 to keep their faith in “a time of crisis.” “This is a time of difficulty but also a time for growing in true discipleship as we strive to follow the Lord in selfless love and service of others,” Archbishop Valles said. Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, the CBCP’s vice-president, used his Sunday homily to recount the story of a couple in China. The husband, he said, showed genuine love for his wife by taking care of her patiently every day. This was a test of “true love amidst crisis showing that love conquers all.”
Bishop David said that although it is difficult to celebrate Mass without the faithful, it is a way “to keep each other safe, yet still present for one another.” On March 12, the Philippine government ordered Metro Manila to undergo a “community quarantine,” forcing the public to stay in their homes. The government today implemented the lockdown prohibiting travel to and from Metro Manila by land, sea and air until April 12. Thousands fled to the provinces to avoid the quarantine only to find that some areas had already been infected by Covid-19. Those arriving from the capital were strongly advised to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent further spread of the virus. The government has ordered the closure of schools and banned large gatherings in Metro Manila, while foreigners are barred from going to areas where the virus is spreading. Military and police have been drafted in to ensure the lockdown is enforced. Former Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, now prefect of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, was due to celebrate Mass at 3pm Philippines time today from the Pontificio Collegio Filipino in Rome. The Filipino cardinal also planned to lead a Lenten Recollection live from Rome.
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