MANILA - The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has made adjustments to the traditional celebration of the Aguinaldo Masses, Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi, even encouraging local government units to hold the nine-day novena Masses outside churches to accommodate more people while still observing social distancing.
The CBCP guidelines, signed by CBCP president and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, said the adjustments to the traditional practice of novena Masses from December 16 to 24 is only during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Kami po sa simbahan ay nagpapatupad din ng health protocols at wala po tayong nilalabag d'yan kaya po napakahalaga din ang ugnayan ng simbahan pati rin ng barangay, ng PNP para mapanatili natin yung kaayusan at pagtupad ng mga tao sa health protocols,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, Executive Secretary of CBCP’s Committee on Public Affairs.
In an interview on TeleRadyo on Wednesday, Secillano said Masses in the evening can start as early as 6 p.m. and the last Aguinaldo masses, Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi can be at 6 a.m.
“Meron po tayong December 25 na misa. Pwede naman po 'yang madagdagan dahil 'yan po naman talaga 'yung Pasko ng Kapanganakan. 'Yun pong mga tao usually dumadagsa naman po 'yan kaya sigurado po yung mga Simbahan mas magdadagdag pa parang Sunday schedule po tawag namin dyan,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited the number of mass-goers because of the strict protocol on social distancing in compliance with the guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force against the spread of the virus.
The CBCP guidelines also stated that the Bishop of the place in consultation with pastors of parishes and the local government units could schedule more Simbang Gabi Masses in different venues to accommodate more people.
“Sa Simbahan 30 percent lang ang ina-accommodate na mass goers kaya pwede sa gymnasium 'yan,” said Secillano.
Secillano said the Bishop, Parish Priest will be the ones who will coordinate with the LGUs for the possible holding of Simbang Gabi in bigger venues outside churches.
The Church still encourages live streaming of liturgical celebrations for those who are still unable to attend Mass physically.
Meanwhile, Secillano said churches could install more television screens outside for people who cannot be accommodate inside to hear Masses.
“Pero kahit nasa labas ng simbahan inaasahan pa rin natin na merong physical distancing, may suot na mask at face shield,” he said.