Catholic Churches prepare for May 31 resumption of masses sans community singing

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DAVAO CITY –— The Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Davao are preparing to resume Church service and Holy Masses on May 31, but this time no more community singing, said Monsigñor Paul A. Cuison.

Churchgoers must strictly follow the guidelines and health protocol.

Cuison, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese and personal liaison of Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles in an interview with Newsline Tuesdays said “We are preparing based on the guidelines which the civil authority has issued, I am coordinating with Mayor Sara (Duterte-Carpio) in our preparation.”

Based on amended omnibus guidelines released by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) released last May 22, 2020, churches and other places of worship can now operate but they must follow the strict guidelines.

Under No. 3. of the guidelines, it states “50% OPERATIONAL CAPACITY OR WORK-FROM-HOME OR OTHER ALTERNATIVE WORK ARRANGEMENTS”.

Under A. Section 4 (6) c states, “Pastors, priests, rabbi, imams, and other religious ministers insofar as providing home religious services to households. Provided that proper protocols shall be observed, such as social distancing, wearing of face masks, and the like.”

The city government of Davao in a statement posted on its Facebook page on May 25 states, “Churches and other places of worship must ensure strict observance of social distancing. Floors and seats for those who hear masses and attend prayer meetings and other religious activities must be marked 2 meters apart from each other.”

Cuison said he is coordinating with the parish priest in Davao Churches to follow the protocol “The fifty percent capacity for a big church is too big in attendance, so I suggested that we abide by the two-meter distance but we prefer to even have a smaller number of churchgoers to protect everyone.”

Cuison who is also the Parish Priest of St. Francis de Asisi in Maa, Diversion road said during normal times the church accommodates 800 to 900 faithful, “This time is half and even lesser .”

The following is the adopted church guidelines and recommendations which is in line with the Catholic Bishop Conference in New Normal Condition issued on May 16, 2020:

The social distancing requirement during communion.-photo courtesy: City Government of Davao

Strictly observing necessary hygiene protocols, such as the social distancing, wearing of face masks and the sustained fight against coronavirus-19 pandemic;

Those who are responsible for preparing and organizing our liturgy in
different parishes and chapels in the Archdiocese are asked to consider
the following:

  • Sunday Masses and Anticipated Masses and Daily Masses will be shortened keeping the celebration short and simple; having no full choir assisting the liturgy but only having cantor to lead the assemble to sign very common hymns, This means keeping to the minimum the singing in/of some parts of the Mass;
  • More masses to be scheduled and also more time for the proper entrance and exit of churchgoers;
  • Face Masks: all churchgoers must wear face masks; including n
    liturgical ministers but readers may take off their
    masks only when they do the actual reading. Lay Communion
    Ministers must continue to wear face masks in distributing Holy
    Communion;
  • The hygiene protocol of proper and regular Hand Sanitizing
    of all liturgical ministers, especially by the EMHCs, even during
    the liturgical celebration must be observed;
  • The attendance of the elderly, those who are sickly, and
    children at Masses are discouraged;
  • Markers on Pews: Put markers (possibly using masking tapes) on
    the benches/pews where the faithful could go and occupy while
    inside our churches. Each one of these markers may have a
    control number and should be at least 2 meters apart.
  • Offertory and Preparation of the Gifts. The Offertory
    Procession (bringing up the gifts) should be omitted;
  • A deacon (if present) or a server may bring the missal, chalice,
    paten/ciborium, and cruets of wine and water to the altar while
    the priest remains at the chair. (Or, the priest could do these;
  • After the deacon or server moves away, the priest could
    come to the altar and arrange the items on the altar;
  • The lavabo should be done by the priest alone, without assistance,
    at the credence table near the altar;
  • Special provision should be made for the collection: baskets
    should not be passed from person to person. Long-handled
    baskets could be used so that ushers can maintain social distancing
    from the people, while doing the collection;
  • Holy Communion: Social distancing must be observed during Holy
    Communion. receiving the Holy Communion by hand;
  • Kiss of Peace and the Our Father: No more holding hands during Our Father, no more “beso-beso”, handshakes and Kiss of Peace.
  • The practice of children and some adults to ask for the priest’s special blessing before and after the Mass must be
    avoided;
  • Footbath and hand sanitizers are to be set up in all entrances of the
    church; Ushers and Usherettes will have to be trained to hand sanitize
    the people before they enter the church and during the Holy Communion, and when they exit the church;
  • Music Ministry. The number of choir members who will sing
    during the celebrations needs to be reduced in order to easily
    observe social distancing. It may even be advisable to have only a
    cantor who will lead the assembly in the singing;
  • Holy Water Fonts at the doors/entrances of Churches must
    not be used at this time, it should be empty;
  • The live streaming of masses is encouraged.

Cuison said the Catholic church leadership is fully supporting the civil authority and the city government of Davao in its policies relative to the containment of coronavirus.-Editha Z. Caduaya

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