THE Archdiocese of Cebu ordered on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, the opening of churches in towns and cities that are currently under the general community quarantine (GCQ) status amid the coronavirus disease pandemic.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma made the decision two months after he suspended all public Masses and other religious gatherings due to the public health crisis brought about by the virus, which originated from Wuhan, a city in China.
However, the prelate said Masses and other forms of public worship are still not allowed.
In his Circular No. 12/20 issued on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Palma ordered church officials assigned in GCQ areas to prepare their churches for the possible return of Masses.
Parishioners will be allowed to go inside the churches to pray but strict social distancing must be observed by them, said the prelate.
Church officials must also ensure that the parishioners will not touch religious images.
Palma also disclosed that the Archdiocesan Commission on Worship is coming up with a “final comprehensive protocol” on the celebration of religious services in the parishes. It is set to be implemented on June 1 in GCQ areas.
Excluding the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay, all the towns and component cities in Cebu Province are currently under GCQ.
Palma said if Masses will resume next month, the church attendance will be limited to avoid overcrowding. Pews must be marked to indicate where the churchgoers can sit. A maximum of three persons will be allowed to sit on a pew.
“The Missae cum populo (Mass with a congregation) does not mean that we will be back to the same crowd or number of people usually attending our Holy Masses. Physical distancing will be strictly implemented,” he said in his order.
Palma further said they will send to parishes copies of the checklist from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' (CBCP) guidelines on the preparation of religious services during the GCQ period.
The CBCP requires parishes to observe changes in general health protocol; changes in their churches' physical arrangement, on the parish structures and surroundings, and on the items used during masses; changes on the use of confessional boxes and parish baptism; and the continuous livestreaming of masses.
Palma has ordered the Vicars Forane or the heads of the various vicariates of the Archdiocese of Cebu to monitor the progress and compliance of the checklist. (JKV)