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PASTORAL INSTRUCTION: MOVING FORWARD
My dear people of God in the Archdiocese,
We, in the NCR, are now placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) but we continue to appeal to the government to consider religious activities as essential services to our people. There is no scientific basis at all to limit religious activities to only 10 persons during the GCQ without considering the different sizes and capacities of our church buildings. While we make the appeal, we also need to be ready to put the necessary safeguards that our archdiocesan guidelines have spelled out to us a month ago. These guidelines have been seen and reviewed by the Department of Health (DOH) with minimal comments. I include in this instruction a checklist of all the materials that should be in place.
But more than the materials needed, we should already be preparing our people for public religious activities through our online communications with them. All of us, including the people, need to adjust and should have consideration not only for what we want, but also for the health and protection of others. I hope our online retreat last week has helped in setting the right perspective to accept changes. I reiterate that all of us should be concerned that we do not spread the virus during our services. This is part of our stewardship of the gift of health – our health and the health of those around us. I would stress the following:
- Those who are not yet allowed to go out (20 years old and below, and 60 years old and above) should stay at home and use instead the ongoing online religious services. The parishes will see to it that they can receive Holy Communion which will be distributed to them in designated places or outside their homes.
- Those who serve in the church, including the priests, should be honest enough that if they do not feel well, they should refrain from their service, get themselves tested, and stay home for self-quarantine until the test results come out. Our services are meant to do good to others and not to cause harm.
- Now is the time for all to help one another, listen to each other and not insist on our own ideas only. Pope Francis is asking us to be a synodal church. This means a church that is characterized by collaboration and openness to each other so that we can decide together and walk with each other in this new situation. For the priests, this can mean greater consultation and listening to the ideas of the faithful; and for the church goers and lay leaders this can mean active participation in planning, and not just be passive implementors.
- Our first concern now is how to open up our church services in a safe way. But little by little each parish and each church organization have to undergo planning on how to do their activities and programs in this new situation, considering the pastoral priorities that St. John Paul showed us in our retreat. They should also consider the new needs of the people now in the pandemic and afterwards that the Church should address.
- Let each parish create a ministry of health to extend services to the elderly and the sick in the parish. They will identify the parishioners who want to receive Holy Communion outside the Church. This ministry may also be assigned to screen churchgoers by the use of thermal scanners and to attend to those who may later on be found to have high temperatures and other illness. Later on, this ministry will also be in charge of promoting a healthy lifestyle in the parish so that the people would develop immunity to diseases.
- An archdiocesan guideline is given to help people, priests and lay faithful alike, on whether or not he or she is to be tested for Covid 19. However, the decision to be tested or not, and what test to use, rests on each individual. We shall also follow the government guidelines on this matter.
The research arm of the Archdiocese has come out with a manual that gathered together in one volume all the instructions and guidelines that came out since the start of the lockdown up to yesterday, the Solemnity of the Pentecost. It is meant to be a reference point because many of the things written there are still useful for us.
God is alive! We are now called to this new situation, where also God’s Spirit is blowing. Let us discern and follow the Spirit’s lead.
Yours truly in Christ,
+ BRODERICK S. PABILLO
1 June 2020