Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: March 23, 2021 01:08 PM GMT
A city employee (R) disinfects a street while food vendors stand by at an informal settlers area in Manila on March 16, 2021, as the number of new daily cases of Covid-19 coronavirus has surged to the highest level in seven months. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
Parishes in the Philippine capital Manila have been forced to cancel Holy week celebrations after health authorities prohibited religious gatherings due to a spike in Covid-19 infections.
“All mass gatherings including religious gatherings shall be prohibited while the holding of weddings, baptisms, and funeral services shall be limited,” a government directive issued on March 20 said.
As a result, churches will be in lockdown from March 22 to April 4, local Church officials said.
The directive means Holy Week celebrations that culminate on April 4 will have to be canceled.
Novaliches Diocese in Quezon City was the first to announce the cancellation of Masses in a letter signed by its bishop.
“There is a strong need, even major imperative for our parish churches to go into lockdown. This is for us to help arrest the worsening Covid-19 pandemic,” Bishop Roberto Gaa said in the letter.
The Philippines recorded the highest Covid infection rates since the pandemic began in 2020 in recent days.
“On March 20, 7,990 new cases, the highest so far were recorded, while 7,757 new cases were recorded on March 21, according to the Health Department.
Novaliches Diocese said it needed to implement measures to curb the continuous infection among churchgoers.
“I believe that if nothing drastic is done and things are left as they are now, the worsening situation could spread to other places both within and beyond our diocese,” Bishop Gaa said.
Cubao Diocese in Quezon City also issued a similar announcement cancelling public Masses and other liturgical celebrations.
“Cubao Diocese has decided to declare a lockdown of its parish churches for the period of March 22 to April, 2021. This is to encourage the faithful to stay home and keep them safe,” said Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco in his letter on March 21.
He said closing church doors was necessary in order to keep churchgoers safe.
“Closing our places of worship at the highest point of our liturgical year is heartbreaking. But we must also open our eyes to a situation that puts the faithful at risk,” Bishop Ongtioco added.
“Numbers are surging and scientific data show that unless drastic interventions are done, these numbers will not decline anytime soon,” Bishop Ongtioco added.
Manila Archdiocese Kalookan Diocese have announced they would livestream their Masses including during Holy Week.
Bishop Jesse Mercado of Paranaque urged his flock to engage in “prayerful lockdown.”
“I am encouraging you to pray to the best of your ability for the resolution of this crisis. Let us always remember that where two or three are gathered in his name, Christ is there in their midst,” said Bishop Mercado on March 21.
This is the second-time Filipino churchgoers will spend the Holy Week in their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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