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Philippine bishops go digital for 'Day of the Dead'

Virus fears spur website for prayers and Masses in place of cemetery gatherings on All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day

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Philippine bishops go digital for 'Day of the Dead'

Filipinos flock to cemeteries in this file photo to visit the tombs of their departed loved ones on All Souls' Day. (Photo: Vincent Go)

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Philippine bishops launched a website on Oct. 13 as part of social distancing efforts to mark All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the new website, called Undas (All Souls’ Day), is accepting prayer requests and Mass intentions as cemeteries in the Philippines have been closed due to coronavirus lockdowns.

Millions of Filipinos normally troop to cemeteries on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 1-2 to remember departed loved ones.

“It is important to keep our Catholic tradition to pray and to celebrate Mass for our dearly departed,” the CBCP said in a statement.

The bishops also said priests would celebrate requiem Masses online.

“There will be live Masses that will be streamed from different places [provinces],” CBCP media director Monsignor Pedro Quitorio said.

He said churchgoers may participate in their homes by praying the novena or setting up an altar for the dead.

“They can even light a candle online or inside their home for their dearly departed. This year is really different because of the pandemic. The bishops cannot compromise public safety by allowing the public to gather in cemeteries,” Monsignor Quitorio added.

Government and church authorities last month announced the cemetery ban from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 to curb mass coronavirus infections.

Monsignor Quitorio explained that the web portal was originally intended for seafarers.

“The [online] portal for the dead was one of the spiritual works of mercy of the Philippine bishops for overseas Filipino workers who wished priests to include their loved ones in their Masses. Because of distance and work, they could not be with their dearly departed, so at least they were assured that we prayed for them,” he told UCA News.

This year the Undas website will also offer audio and video reflections from families who have lost family members due to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Manila Archdiocese is encouraging churchgoers to attend Masses instead of going to cemeteries.

Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that Catholics must remember the dead by attending Masses in their parishes.

“On Nov. 1 and 2, all [churchgoers] are encouraged to go to church and be at Mass for our beloved dead. The Holy Eucharist is the best prayer that we can offer,” Bishop Pabillo said in a statement.

“May the Lord bless the dead and the living during this difficult time.” 

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