NO ONE can enter any church on Sunday, June 7, 2020, unless he or she wears a mask.
Churchgoers can also expect a very short homily—a five-minute-long pulpit time for priests. This will shorten the Mass to under one hour, its usual length.
These will happen on June 7—the date of the first Sunday Masses in all parishes in Cebu Province, which is under the general community quarantine (GCQ) status.
Last Tuesday, June 2, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) 17-F allowing public Masses in the province as long as the parishes observe health protocol and reduce the attendance to only 50 percent.
The Archdiocese of Cebu on May 20 ordered the opening of churches in towns and component cities when Cebu Province transitioned to GCQ.
On May 26, Garcia issued Executive Order 17-A allowing, but not encouraging, religious gatherings in Cebu Province limited to 10 persons.
Church officials welcomed the governor’s EO; they assured her that they will always be observing health protocol to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in parishes.
Fr. Japeth Geonzon, vice chair of the Archdiocese of Cebu’s Commission on Worship, said not a single parishioner will be allowed to hear Mass inside the church if he is not wearing a mask.
Cebu Province shifted to GCQ from enhanced community quarantine last May 16. Four days later, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma ordered the opening of churches in towns and cities that are under GCQ. However, the prelate did not allow Masses and other forms of public worship.
The governor’s EO 17-F delighted Msgr. Ruben Labajo, one of the two vicar generals of the Archdiocese of Cebu. He said Catholics can now receive communion.
Miriam Cabahug, a 52-year-old secretary of San Narciso Parish in Consolacion town, said she is glad she can attend a Mass in person. Hearing the gospel, she said, during live-streamed Masses often gave her an uneasy feeling.
In the months of April and May, churches closed doors; by doing so, it saw a “shortage of offerings,” which “caused a drastic drop in church collections,” reported cbcpnews.net, the news website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
The archdioceses and dioceses have cancelled public Masses since mid-March when community transmission of the virus that causes Covid-19 was confirmed by health authorities.
In Cebu, churches can expect an increase in offerings in the coming days.
Other safety measures
The other measures that will be implemented to ensure a churchgoer’s well-being include some changes in the communion rite.
Geonzon said communicants will be required to follow certain precautions before receiving the host from priests and lay ministers. This includes directing the churchgoers who already received the host to exit to the other side of the church to avoid contact with other mass-goers.
The churches are also required to check the temperature of mass-goers with the use of thermal scanners, place foot baths at entrances and provide alcohol for regular use.
Geonzon also urged mass-goers to be patient as all parts of the churches will be disinfected 30 minutes before Masses. To implement this health protocol, parishes are required to organize their own sanitation and health ministry. (REV & ANV / JKV with a repor from WBS)