The Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa (AVPP) will be adopting the guidelines issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) based on Inter-Agency Task Force Guidelines (IATF) for the holding of religious gatherings, as Palawan shifts to a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status starting June 1.
Father Eugene Elivera of AVPP said Thursday that the local apostolic vicariate is now holding small meetings with church priests in northern and southern parts of the province to finalize the guidelines within this week.
“We are thankful na nag-increase na yong number ng magiging attendance sa religious gathering kasi doon sa GCQ ay limited to 10. Ngayon naman sa modified ay magiging 50 percent na. Unti-unti ay nabubuksan na o nagiging normal na o new normal kaya we welcome the announcement of the IATF,” Elivera said.
Elivera said the CBCP released its initial recommendations on May 1. It states that physical distancing will be enforced in churches including the basic safety measures such as the required use of face masks and installation of footbaths at church entrances.
The episcopal conference also suggested that churchgoers will continue to receive communion through hand and there will be no holding hands when reciting the ‘Our Father’ during mass.
Church officials have discouraged priests from wearing face masks or gloves during the celebration of the Eucharist and advised them that they should remain more than a meter from the congregation during the mass.
The guidelines also stated the reduction of choir members who will sing during the mass in order to keep physical distancing.
“Ang sa CBCP ay general recommendation tapos kaya nagmi-meeting kami ay i-adopt natin sa locality natin, majority naman ay accepted natin yong recommendation coming from the CBCP which is national. Malalaman natin this week kung ano yong mga guidelines pero more or less ay parehas ‘yan,” he said.
“Marami sa atin na alam na kailangan natin ng prayers pero meron din talagang natatakot o kinakabahan pero we have to strike the balance, hindi yong kaagad-agad pero hindi rin agad ‘yong wala na. We have to strike the balance at the same time, talaga naman na dito sa Palawan ‘yong simbahan natin ay closely coordinated with our local authorities,” he said.
According to IATF guidelines, mass gatherings including religious gatherings will be allowed, provided that the venue or seating capacity will be reduced in half, or at 50 percent.
Even wedding at christening ceremonies will have restrictions, said Elivera. Only essential individuals will be allowed inside the church especially in wedding ceremonies.
“Pati yong mga kasal at binyag ay may restrictions na rin. Malalaman natin yan this week pero mukhang ganon din. Yong abay ay dini-discourage, yong taong essential lang. Ano ba yong essential sa kasal syempre yong magkasintahan pero syempre depende pa rin yon sa 50 percent attendance, 50 percent capacity,” he said.
Elivera said that quarantine controls had affected the church’s financial capability to to pay for its utilities and employees’ salaries. However, he said that it is one of the things they include in their adjustment plans.
“Totoo yan kasi ang finances ng simbahan ay nagmumula sa religious gathering na merong collection. More than two months na, nag-iisip-isip na rin ng paraan na adjustment, kasama yan doon kasi we have to pay for our bills, for our employees, kasama yon sa adjustments pinag-iisipan. Tanggapin natin ‘yon na ito talaga yong sitwasyon so we have to adjust,” he said.