Malaybalay bishop to faithful: Limit to 50 attendance in church events

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 15 March) – Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan has instructed all priests, consecrated persons and lay people of the diocese to limit to 50 the number of participants in church-initiated gatherings in support to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the dreaded novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a directive distributed along with Circular No. 20-10 of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Romulo Valles on Friday, Cabantan said these events include Sakristan Festival, parish Lenten recollections and Bible Apostolate seminars.

San Isidro Cathedral in Malaybalay City.. File photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

“The parish priest may allow some gatherings but the participants must not exceed 50, as prescribed by the local government of Bukidnon,” the directive written in the vernacular said.

“The parish Lenten recollection can be done in the family, BEC (Basic Ecclesial Community), or in small groups. The priest or lay workers in the parish are tasked to issue guidelines on the recollection to avoid a huge gathering,” it said.

Cabantan also announced the indefinite postponement of the culmination of the diocese’s golden jubilee celebration and the 50thDiocesan Pastoral Assembly scheduled on April 27 to 29 while the COVID-19 threat remains.

He asked churchgoers to follow the CBCP’s recommendations on what and what not to do during masses.

The CBCP has advised churchgoers to use the hands not the mouth in receiving the host during communion, avoid holding hands when praying the Our Father, and to not embrace non-family members when giving the “kiss of peace,” among others.

Cabantan urged those who are ill to refrain from attending mass and undergo a 14-day home quarantine as advised by the Department of Health to avoid causing fears and suspicions among other churchgoers.

He said those who could not attend mass may hear it through the radio, television or online means.

For the Holy Week, the bishop said there will be no procession during Palm Sunday, April 5. The blessing of palms will be done inside churches.

He canceled the holding of the Siete Palabras (Seven Last Words) inside churches on Good Friday, April 10. He said it will be aired instead by the church-run radio station dxDB.

The procession that traditionally follows the Seven Last Words and the procession following the encounter of the Virgin Mary and the risen Christ on Easter Sunday, April 12, have also been canceled.

A mass will still be held on Easter Sunday but all churchgoers should go home right after the celebration, Cabantan said.

He added that from March to May, fiestas in honor of patron saints must no longer hold processions, sports events and other activities that would draw crowds.

In the Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish, which covers 15 subdivisions and some interior villages of Malaybalay, Fr. Jose Sumastre said he has scheduled “anticipated masses” to avoid a huge congregation during regular Sunday masses.

Sumastre said he will hold clustered masses in the public spaces of designated subdivisions during Saturdays.(H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)