MANILA -- The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued guidelines for liturgical celebrations under the "new normal" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement posted on its website, CBCP reminded believers to act "with prudence, patience and loving and charitable mindset" as they "approach this next phase in the context of the pandemic."
"There will no doubt be challenges and frustrations... But we believe that following these guidelines is a reasonable sacrifice. For the interest of the common good, and ultimately to best serve our own community, we want to contribute to solve this crisis and soon be freed from the threat of the pandemic," it said.
CBCP proposed that the elderly, the sick, and young children should be dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass and instead have them watch televised or livestreamed versions of the Holy Eucharist.
Those who will go to Mass in church should wear face masks, with markers to be placed on benches and pews to indicate where they could go and sit.
Still in line with physical distancing measures, parishioners are not allowed to hold hands during the singing or praying of the Our Father, and during the Sign of Peace segment of the Mass.
Churches are asked to assign specific entrances and exits, as well as add thermal scanners, foot baths, and hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of the virus.
Guidelines were also issued for priests, lay ministers, lectors, choir members, and others who take part and assist in eucharistic celebrations. All of them, for instance, are required to wash and sanitize their hands before and during each Mass.
They are also expected to wear masks, save for the priest celebrant: "Instead, he should remain more than 1 meter from the congregation during the Mass."
CBCP said the number of lectors, altar servers, and choir members should also be reduced to comply with physical distancing rules, while ushers and collectors must be retrained in ensuring parishioners will follow the new guidelines.
To reduce physical contact, the offertory procession and preparation of the gifts should be omitted, CBCP said. As for the Holy Communion, it should be distributed only on one hand, with markers to be placed on the floor to indicate proper spacing between persons in line.
Aside from eucharistic celebrations, CBCP also issued rules for baptisms, weddings, and funerals.