Catholics wear masks as a preventative measure against the coronavirus in a Manila church. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
The Philippine Church is warning Catholics against profiteers looking to get rich during the coronavirus pandemic by selling “holy” gimmicks that supposedly offer better protection against infection.
The liturgical commission of Pampanga Archdiocese in the northern Philippines on June 8 condemned social media posts selling “holy” sanitizers and face masks.
Several posts claimed the Church had substituted holy water with alcohol or sanitizers at church entrances and used them in blessing religious items such as rosaries and other sacred objects.
Another post claimed that “holy face masks” were the most efficient way to combat Covid-19 as they “purify” the air that enters into a person’s nostrils or mouth.
“There is no such thing as sacramental sanitizer [or alcohol], that we should make the sign of the cross when we rub it on ourselves. Moreover, it should not be sprinkled on the faithful. There is no substitute for holy water,” the archdiocese said in a statement.
In March, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines stopped the use of holy water at church entrances and celebrations to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“There shall be no holy water in fonts at the entrance of churches as this could be a vehicle for infection,” said a directive of the bishops' conference.
On Palm Sunday, bishops had advised that there would be no need for holy water to bless palms due to possible virus contamination. Clean water is blessed only for purposes of celebrating baptisms, according to their liturgical guidelines.
Churchgoers were also advised to maintain social distancing and to wear masks once the government allows religious celebrations in the Philippines.
“Blessed water is the matter of baptism. Using other materials — element or liquid — makes baptisms invalid. I hope people earn clean money by not deceiving their fellow countrymen with these gimmicks,” said Father Aurea Pati-an, chairman of the Commission on Liturgy of Iligan Diocese in Mindanao.
The priest also said there are no such things as holy face masks, holy face shields or holy goggles.
“All these are irreverent and insensitive marketing strategies that take advantage of those who are desperate for protection during this pandemic,” Father Pati-an told UCA News.
Legaspi Auxiliary Bishop Lucilo B. Quiambao has appealed to people not to take advantage of the anxieties of others during the pandemic as many may fall for ludicrous offers out of desperation.
“Let us not make our situation more difficult. Let us draw strength from each other instead of taking advantage of our brothers and sisters’ ignorance or desperation,” Bishop Quaimbao told UCA News.
Filipinos are known for buying amulets and charms for good luck and for their protective functions. Many of these amulets or charms are being sold in churches such as the Shrine of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila.
“Let us not mix science and superstition. The Church has followed the advice of our health experts and our [bishops’] liturgical guidelines are based on scientific findings,” added the prelate.