Catholic Church

CBCP asks Catholics to attend Sunday Mass physically amid ‘weakened’ pandemic

Robbin M. Dagle

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CBCP asks Catholics to attend Sunday Mass physically amid ‘weakened’ pandemic

Hundreds of catholics attend the "Solidarity Mass for the Moral Choice" at the National Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help in Paranaque City on April 6, 2022. Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula lead the celebration while Caloocan Bishop and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Pablo Virgilio David as the homilist. Angie de Silva/Rappler

‘We strongly encourage our faithful to return to the Sunday Eucharist with a purified heart, renewed amazement, and increased desire to meet the Lord,’ says CBCP president and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David

MANILA, Philippines – Citing the relaxation of COVID-19 health protocols in the country, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) encouraged the faithful to return to the pews physically for Sunday Mass.

“With gratitude to God, the pandemic has weakened, and our official health experts have placed the country into more relaxed health protocols. This has made our people move freely and return to their normal life and business with ease, but still following some basic health protocols,” CBCP president and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David wrote in a circular to the country’s bishops released on Friday, October 14.

David said, these circumstances “permit and oblige us to return to the normality of Christian life, which has the Church building as its home of the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist.”

To assure Catholics that going to church is safe, David added that “health protocols are still to be implemented” in churches and other venues for liturgical celebrations.

Given this, he said that there was a need to “evaluate and study” the frequency of livestreamed Masses, which has sustained Catholics spiritually during the height of the lockdown.

Quoting the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the circular noted that while the broadcast and live-streaming of masses “perform a valued service to the sick and those who are unable to go to church,” virtual services do not replace personal participation, and even “risk distancing…from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God who gave himself to us not in a virtual way.”

Sundays are considered “days of obligation” for Catholics, as it “is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  “(T)he faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor,” the Catechism stated.

This form of dispensation was issued by the Philippines bishops at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic amid the government’s mobility restrictions. restrictions. In a circular issued on March 13, 2020, the CBCP emphasized that bishops can “exercise their prerogative to dispense the faithful from the Sunday and the Holy Days of Obligation,” and encouraged the celebration of the Mass through broadcast and online media.

This shift online touched off greater visibility of parishes and priests on social media. For about two years, popular Filipino Catholic celebrations such as the Feast of the Black Nazarene, Holy Week, and the Misa de Gallo all went digital and were reachable via social media.

As pandemic restrictions constantly changed amid the emergence of new variants, some church leaders complained about how religious services were not considered “essential services” that were given more leeway by the government. By June 2022, however, the government’s coronavirus task force had lifted all restrictions on indoor and outdoor activities in areas under Alert Level 1. –

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