The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued guidelines for the safe observance of 'Simbang Gabi' or Misa de Gallo as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.
The guidelines, issued by CBCP President and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles through a memorandum circular are only applicable during the pandemic.
"It is our great desire to help our faithful find spiritual nourishment, which they so desire and need, from the liturgical celebrations of the church during this season in this time of the pandemic," Valles said.
Below are the guidelines issued by the CBCP for the safe observance of Simbang Gabi:
1. To properly implement physical distancing measures, Simbang Gabi Masses can start as early as 6 p.m. while for the morning, the last Mass can be at 6 a.m.
2. Bishops, in consultation with parish priests and in coordination with local government units, can schedule more Masses in different venues large enough to accommodate more people while still observing physical distancing.
3. Bishops, in consultation with the Commission on Liturgy and the priests of the diocese, need to decide if it is helpful as a pastoral accommodation during this time of the pandemic, the “anticipation” of the following day during evening Simbang Gabi Masses will be allowed, with the exception of the “anticipation” of Monday during the evening Masses of Sunday.
4. On Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), the Vigil Mass of Christmas may be celebrated from 6 p.m. The last Mass of Dec. 24 would take the liturgy of the Midnight Mass of Christmas. The dawn Mass of Christmas may also be celebrated early morning of Dec. 25.
5. Families are encouraged to bring their own image of the infant Jesus during the Christmas Masses. Kissing or touching of religious images remains prohibited during the pandemic.
Livestreaming of Simbang Gabi Masses is still encouraged, the CBCP said.
The Department of Health meanwhile reminded the Catholic faithful to observe minimum health standards should they choose to physically attend Simbang Gabi Masses, highlighting that such activities pose higher risks of contracting COVID-19 than staying at home for online Masses.
Traditionally, Filipinos flock to Churches for nine consecutive days to attend dawn masses in preparation for Christmas.
"The spiritual benefits drawn from this practice has helped our faithful prepare themselves spiritually for the festivities of Christmas and combat the strong spirit of commercialism of the season," the CBCP said.
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