MANILA, Philippines – A prominent Catholic bishop contradicted a viral social media post claiming it is “invalid” for Catholics to watch replays of Masses during the coronavirus pandemic, as it is a “ridiculous” issue to raise in these “abnormal times.”
A viral post attributed to 3 Catholic priests claimed that “the blessing of the Mass is only at the moment when it was livestreamed so it is only for those joining the livestream and not the replay.” The social media post added that “according to the Vatican, joining Mass on TV or online must be live.”
These claims caught the attention of many Catholics, including lay leader and veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to clarify the issue about replays.
In a text message to Rappler, Macalintal said that the issue placed Catholics “in a quandary if they could still attend replay online Masses.”
“Replays are better than no Mass at all. What is important is the intentions in our hearts. There is nothing in the canon law that prohibits replay online Masses,” Macalintal said.
Addressing the issue, CBCP vice president Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David told Rappler that this question of validity is “ridiculous.” He said that Pope Francis himself, in the first place, has “dispensed” Catholics from the obligation to attend Sunday Masses due to COVID-19.
This means that when priests celebrate Mass in private, the blessing “is already extended to all Catholics through the sheer desire to participate in it spiritually.” He explained that while nothing can replace physical Masses, God is merciful, and Jesus Christ “can transcend time and space” especially for those who desire his blessings.
“I myself was not able to watch the Urbi et Orbi Blessing of Pope Francis in real time because of the time gap between Rome and the Philippines. Am I to believe that God did not extend his blessing to me through Pope Francis when I watched the replay the following day?” David said on Sunday, May 24.
Church prefers live Masses but…
Father Genaro Diwa, an expert on church rituals, said that while the Catholic Church prefers the live viewing of online Masses, watching replays is also one of the “genuine sources of spiritual nourishment” in these difficult times.
In an email to Rappler on Sunday, Diwa clarified that he was making these comments in his private capacity, not as church official.
Diwa is executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy of the CBCP. A leading authority on Catholic rituals, Diwa holds a doctorate in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical Institute of Saint Anselm in Rome.
Diwa said: “The Church prefers the live showing of this celebration of the Mass. She discourages the pre-recording of a Sunday Mass on a weekday. Therefore the Sunday celebration needs to be celebrated on a Sunday. But the delayed showing of the Sunday Mass is a different question. One cannot belittle the spiritual good it can offer to those who cannot watch the live showing of the Mass.”
He noted that there are places in the Philippines, for example, where internet service “is very unreliable,” which means many can only watch the replays of the Mass.
“This is a great help to grow in prayer and desire for the Holy Eucharist. It’s not a question of ‘blessing’ but of participating in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ vs. watching a recording of it some other time. Both are genuine sources of spiritual nourishments in this difficult time,” Diwa explained. – with reports from Nikko Dizon/Rappler.com
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