Palm Sunday starts off Holy Week

A Catholic devotee carries an image of Jesus crucified on the cross, after it was blessed during Saturday mass at the Quiapo church in Manila, on the eve of Palm Sunday, 09 April 2022. The mostly Roman Catholic nation will observe Holy Week this year, starting Palm Sunday, April 10, until Easter Sunday, April 17. (PHOTO: MIKE ALQUINTO)

FOR the first time since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the holding of in-person Lenten activities will be allowed in all Catholic churches in the Philippines, beginning Palm Sunday.

Expecting huge crowds, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on the faithful to follow health protocols, stressing Covid-19 remains a serious threat.

“Even though the pandemic has subsided, let us not let our guard down. Let us continue following the health protocols so that we can finally defeat this pandemic,” CBCP President Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said in a radio interview.

The Department of Health (DoH) has earlier appealed to churches to reconsider the holding of some Holy Week traditions such as “pahalik” or kissing of icons, since it is a potential Covid-19 spreader.

“We must continue wearing face masks and observe physical distance as a way to care for one another,” the Caloocan bishop added.

The CBCP Episcopal Commission on Liturgy said its updated guidelines on the celebration of Lent will abide by the stringent policy of the government on social distancing and the use of face masks.

These will be in effect during the Paschal Triduum, the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday, reaching its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closing with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.

Churches will be sanitized every after liturgical celebrations and attendees will be provided with isopropyl alcohol for hand sanitation.

Diocesan administrators were required to coordinate with local government and barangay (village) officials in the event religious processions were allowed.

Procession will only be allowed on roads or streets wide enough to allow social distancing under the supervision of marshals.

The CBCP discouraged the use of “carroza” or “andas” (float) carried by people because this will result in close physical contact.

“It is safer to put the images on a motor vehicle instead of those carried by people. We take great care not to give an opportunity for our faithful to congregate outside their homes. These suggestions should be omitted where strict lockdown is enforced,” the CBCP said in a statement.

Participants in the “pabasa” or the reading of the Passion of Jesus Christ were also required to comply with health protocols.

The CBCP said it will release the schedule of livestreaming of Lenten celebrations as soon as it is available.

“Please be reminded that these need to be live telematic broadcasting not recorded,” said the CBCP.

To mitigate the chance of Covid transmission, the CBCP suggested modifications on the holding of Lenten rites including Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, proclamation of the Passion Narrative and the Washing of the Feet.

“All these instructions on the liturgical celebrations of the Church during this time of world crisis should help us find the balance between the worthy celebrations of the Paschal Triduum, the heart of our Christian faith and life, and the call of our health and civil authorities to help stem the rapid transmission of the virus,” the CBCP said.

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