Philippine church leaders move to fight deadly virus

Catholic bishops issue recommendations to be observed while in church to stave of coronavirus infection
Philippine church leaders move to fight deadly virus

Chinese tourists in Manila wear face masks amid the coronavirus scare on Jan. 29. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)

Catholic leaders in the Philippines have issued an obligatory prayer, or oratio imperata, against the spread of the dreaded novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, in addition to a set of health guidelines to be observed while in church.

In a circular released on Jan. 29, the bishops urged parishes to pray the oratio in "all weekday and Sunday Masses, after Holy Communion, kneeling down."

The recitation of the prayer will start on Feb. 2.

The circular also noted that it is the "pastoral duty" of bishops to remind Catholics "to heed health recommendations of medical experts" to prevent the spread of the disease.

The bishops called on parishes to observe the following:

- Practice the Communion in hand.
- Change holy water regularly.
- Hang protective cloth across the grills of confessionals.
- Discourage the holding of hands during the prayer of the "Our Father" and the shaking of hands during the exchange of the "Sign of Peace."

"As the world watches the spread of 2019-N CoV with anxiety and vigilance, we turn to our Loving Father in heaven for protection and guidance," said Father Marvin Mejia, secretary-general of the bishops' conference.

"In praying we invite ourselves with all our brothers and sisters suffering with the disease brought by this virus, bring up to God our longing for them to be restored to full health and humbly pray that we may be spared from infection of this virus." 

The circular comes amid fears about the virus, which has affected over 6,000 people in China and other countries.

The Philippines' Health Department said it has yet to confirm a case of the virus in the Philippines. Health authorities are, however, closely monitoring 27 people who have shown signs of respiratory illness, one of the criteria used to screen people who might have the disease.

So far, 23 of the 27 people are still isolated in hospitals across the country. Four of the 27 have already been discharged.

The Health Department said one of the 27 people has died, although it was confirmed that the dead patient had "various symptoms" and tested positive for HIV.

Here is the full text of the Philippine bishops' prayer:

God our Father,
We come to you in our need
To ask your protection against the 2019 N-Corona Virus,
That has claimed lives
And has affected many.

We pray for your grace
For the people tasked with studying the nature and cause
Of this virus and its disease
And of stemming the tide of its transmission.
Guide the hands and minds of medical experts
That they may minister to the sick
With competence and compassion,
And of those governments and private agencies
That must find cure and solution to this epidemic.

We pray for those afflicted
May they be restored to health soon.

Grant us the grace
To work for the good of all
And to help those in need.

Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever. Amen.

Mary Help of all Christians, pray for us.
St. Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
St. Rock, pray for us.
St. Lorenzo Ruiz, pray for us.
St. Pedro Calungsod, pray for us.

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