In time of COVID-19, Mindanao diocese exalts absentee flock

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 19 March) – Local Catholic leaders here Thursday heaped praises on the faithful who shunned going to churches as they announced the cancellation of Holy Week activities to avoid the spread of the dreaded 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Marbel Bishop Cerilo Casicas issued another pastoral guideline beseeching the flock to stay at home to contain COVID-19 from spreading in the diocesan territory straddling the entire provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani and parts of Sultan Kudarat and the cities of General Santos and Koronadal.

“It is only at this time of pandemic that your absence in churches is worthy of praise,” the prelate said.

Bishop Cerilo “Allan” Casicas holds the crucifix during his ordination at the Christ the King Cathedral in Koronadal City on July 11, 2018. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Casicas stressed that all daily public masses were suspended beginning Thursday, March 19 until April 14, 2020.

He told the flock to hear masses through radio, television or the internet as the diocese will continue to hold spiritual and liturgical services while the health emergency is being fought.

In his first pastoral guideline on COVID-19 issued last Saturday, Casicas allowed priests to continue celebrating masses and urged those who will attend to observe social distancing.

Cancelled activities during the Holy Week include the Palm Sunday, Tinieblas, the Apostoles, Siete Palabras, Via Crucis, Veneration of the Cross, Visita Iglesia, Salubong (early morning of Easter Sunday), the blessing of seeds, articles and images at Easter vigil and the Kumpisalan ng Bayan, the new pastoral guidelines said.

The priests in the diocese will continue to minister the Sacrament of the Sick, Casicas said.

He encouraged those who have scheduled their marriage or baptism from March 19 to April 14, 2020 to postpone the events to a later date, but if not they are enjoined to limit their guests and to observe social distancing.

There will be no funeral masses but priests will continue to bless the deceased in their homes, with attendees limited also to immediate family members.

“Our priests will offer mass for the repose of the soul of the deceased in the absence of the congregation,” Casicas said.

During the remaining Fridays of lent (March 20,27 and April 3 including Good Friday (Paril 10), Casicas urged the faithful to spend them in prayer and fasting.

During these days, the priests will spend time in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, with special prayers for the medical workers, police, military and government officials.

“In these time of difficulties, may we not be tempted to seek our own survival and self-interest and become blind of the needs of others and the common good,” Casicas said.

Fr. Angel Buenavides, Vicar General and spokesperson of the Diocese of Marbel, said that all churches in the diocese’s 28 parishes will continue to open to those who want to pray.

“Let us all pray for the immediate resolution of this crisis,” the priest said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)