THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has called for a day of prayer and fasting to end the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the CBCP exhorted the faithful to keep their faith firm during this “time of crisis.”
CBCP president Archbishop Romulo Valles particularly called for prayers for those who are infected with the COVID-19 and those who have died.
“This is a time of difficulty but also a time for growing in true discipleship as we strive to follow the Lord in selfless love and service of others. May He open our hearts to help those in need and move us to genuine compassion for our brothers and sisters who suffer,” he said.
The CBCP also recommended the cancellation or postponement of recollection, pilgrimages, conferences, processions and other mass gatherings.
Valles said church authorities are morally obliged to cooperate and support all the precautionary measures recommended by the government for the people’s safety.
While several dioceses have suspended public Masses, he said churches should be “kept open” for people who need to pray.
“We also encourage the bishops, religious and the clergy to spend time in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for the safety of our flock and the healing of the sick. We continue to minister to the sick by offering them the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick but following the necessary precautions proposed by the DOH,” the prelate said.
The CBCP head also asked the country’s parishes for the daily ringing of church bells at 12 noon and 8 p.m. and pray the Oratio Imperata.
The archbishop also called on the faithful to face the crisis in the spirit of charity, especially for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
“Let us encourage our faithful to be open to the vulnerable, especially the poor, and share our resources with them,” he said.
Meanwhile, more dioceses in the Philippines have stopped public Masses for several weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
In Metro Manila, the bishops have agreed to suspend public Masses and other parish activities for a month.
The bishops of Manila, Cubao, Caloocan, Pasig, Novaliches, and Parañaque met to have a unified response to the pandemic.
“The bishops in the National Capital Region have decided that we follow what the government is saying about community quarantine up to April 14. That means, for a month, we will be in this situation,” Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Manila’s apostolic administrator, said.
The prelate made the announcement during an online Mass from the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Makati City.
The Archdiocese of Manila and the Parañaque diocese earlier announced a one-week suspension of Masses, from March 15 to 21.
Public Masses and other church gatherings have also been cancelled indefinitely in the Archdiocese of Davao and in the dioceses of San Pablo, Legazpi, Bacolod, Dumaguete and Boac.
In the Diocese of Balanga, Bishop Ruperto Santos suspended the church services in areas “very much affected by confirmed person positive with the coronavirus”.
These areas, he said, include the parishes of Orani, Tapulao, and Balanga.
The Archdiocese of Caceres has also implemented precautionary measures to safeguard the faithful against the further transmission of the virus.
Public Masses are also suspended in the Diocese of Urdaneta from March 16 to 23 “unless the situation dictates otherwise,” said Bishop Jacinto Jose.
He added that parishioners are also dispensed from their Sunday obligation on March 29.
Bishop Roberto Mallari also instructed the cancellation of Masses and prayer services in the Diocese of San Jose on Sunday, March 15.
In Bulacan province, Bishop Dennis Villarojo of Malolos diocese has announced that the faithful are no longer obligated to go to Mass on March 15 and 22 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The CBCP has encouraged the dioceses to make Masses available on radio, television and the internet.
“We should encourage the faithful to avail themselves of these and pray together in their homes as a family or in their small Christian communities (BECs),” Valles said.