CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 05 April) — There was no huge crowd of palm-waving parishioners at the St. Augustine Matropolitan Cathedral here on Sunday morning.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and a handful of priests from the Cagayan de Oro Archdiocese celebrated Palm Sunday Mass sans the big crowd of devout parishioners at the start of the Holy Week Celebration.
Instead Ledesma celebrated Palm Sunday mass in front of TV cameras and mobile phones placed at the front row of the cathedral’s empty pews to record live, for the thousands or parishioners in their homes who were earlier urged to prepare their own palm fronds while watching the mass on television or on Facebook.
Some 20 priests also attended the mass, seated on the pews at the back portion of the cathedral, observing social distancing of about three meters apart.
Outside the church, some 50 parishioners who dared leave their homes to attend mass despite the announcements, stood outside the cathedral, wearing face masks, watching the mass through the grills of the locked main entrance.
Father Der John Faborada, head of the archdiocese Social Action Center said the Archdiocese decided not to celebrate masses and the rest of the Church’s rites after the cases of COVID-19 mounted.
“We have to make a lot of sacrifices so that we can prevent the spread of the virus,” Faborada said.
For Palm Sunday, Faborada said they encouraged parishioners to hear the Mass in the safety of their homes with palm fronds on their side.
He said parishioners should consider their fronds already blessed despite the absence of a sprinkling of holy water.
Other parishes in Cagayan de Oro had priests riding on top of pick-up vehicles sprinkling holy water around the community.
In Barangay Patag, barangay tanods (village guards) went to individual houses to get the palm fronds for delivery to their parish church where a priest blessed them. The tanods later brought back the blessed palm fronds to their owners.
“Laborious but it is safer,” a resident said.
Like the Catholic Church, Muslims, too, have made compromises on their religious rites.
Aleem Saad Amate, president of the United Imams of the Philippines, said Muslims have learned to compromise with the new protocols set by the World Health Organization on those who died of infectious diseases.
Amate said the family of PH 40, the first recorded confirmed case and first COVID-19 death in Mindanao had agreed not to follow strict Islamic traditions during his burial on March 13. The patient died at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center.
He said the family did not agree to a cremation which is what the World Health Organization and Department of Health recommend.
Amate said instead, the family allowed health officials to place the remains of PH 40 in a body bag before it was buried.
“Cremation is considered haram (forbidden) by Muslims but placing the body in a body bag was a compromise,” Amate said.
He said the family was lucky that doctors at the hospital understood and respected their Islamic burial traditions.
Amate said the agreement and conditions became the template on how to bury Muslims who died of COVID-19. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)