By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Church of the Philippines is taking action during Lent to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 or coronavirus in the country where 3 have been infected and on has died.
In a liturgical guideline, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) suggested that for Ash Wednesday, ashes be sprinkled on the crown of the head instead of marking the forehead with a cross, to avoid body contact.
The 40-day Lenten period starts with Ash Wednesday, which this year falls next week, February 26.
CBCP president, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, said that the imposition of ashes on the head “signify our repentance from sin, which has marred the grace of Baptism”.
“This is not an innovation but in accord with the ancient practice of the Church,” Archbishop Valles explained.
On Good Friday, during the celebration of the Passion of the Lord, the CBCP “strongly” recommended that churchgoers “refrain” from kissing or touching the cross for veneration.
“Instead, the faithful are requested to genuflect or make a profound bow as they venerate the cross,” Valles said.
The new guideline is the second one released by the CBCP amid the COVID-19 threat.
Last month, the CBCP suggested that the communion in the hand “be practised ordinarily” and discouraged the faithful from holding hands when they pray “Our Father” during the Mass.
The bishops also issued an “oratio imperata” (obligatory prayer) against the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 75,000 people worldwide in more than 24 countries, mostly in China, where about 2,100 deaths have been reported.
As the Philippines begins the Lenten season, the CBCP head reminded the faithful of the constant call for renewal “in our Christian life by self-control, charity and prayer.”
“Our charity is also expressed in our concern for the well-being of our brothers and sisters, thus our utmost care and efforts towards the prevention of the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Asian Churches adopt measures
Other Asian Churches have also taken measures against the spread of the virus.
The Church in Hong Kong has issued a general dispensation from Mass obligation for the faithful. It announced the suspension of public Masses on Sundays and weekdays from 15 to 28 February and cancelled the Ash Wednesday liturgy.
The Archdiocese of Singapore has indefinitely suspended public Masses until further notice, encouraging the faithful, instead, to fulfil their obligation by following the Mass on radio and YouTube.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) on February 6 postponed the annual celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes that was scheduled February 7-16. It said the dates of the popular celebration which has been held in Nyaunglebin in Yangon Archdiocese since 1902, would be announced later.
In South Korea, the dioceses of Seoul, Incheon, Jeonju, Suwon and Uijeongbu have put restrictions on liturgy and gatherings as they joined state efforts to check the virus that has infected 51 and caused 1 death in the country.
The dioceses have instructed the faithful to take special care to prevent the spread of the virus during Sunday Masses and other such gatherings where people gather in large numbers. (Source: CBCPNEWS)