Legazpi diocese limits church activities amid surge in COVID-19 cases

LIGAO CITY – Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi Diocese has sent a letter to clergy, religious and parishioners outlining guidelines on church activities in relation to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the province.

In its Diocesan Circular No. 2, Series of 2022, issued Wednesday in accordance with national protocols of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and recommendations of the Council of Counselors and the Diocesan COVID-19 Committee, all parishes in the province of Albay must follow the 30% capacity of the church and must also observe a minimum of church activities.

He said children under 12 are not yet allowed inside the church.

“Therefore, there will be no First Communion celebration for the time being,” he said.

Revival Masses in homes and funeral homes are also not permitted. Priests, instead, can administer a blessing or a short prayer for the dead, Baylon said.

There will be no mass confirmations or weddings before May 15.

He said masses in malls and offices are permitted if the venue is an open space or the event is outdoors.

The Saturday Eucharist of the neo-catechumenal communities is also discouraged in the meantime.

He said regular confession and anointing of the sick and dying cannot be done in person, but as an alternative, priests and relatives of the sick can pray the prayer for the sick.

Other youth activities and in-person gatherings in huge crowds are strongly discouraged to prevent possible spread and infection of the virus.

“Let’s strictly observe and remind our parishioners of health protocols such as wearing face masks at all times (including weddings and funerals), temperature screening before church entry, hand sanitizing and physical distancing,” Baylon said.

He also asks the faithful to continue to fervently pray the Oratio Imperata against COVID-19.

As of January 18, Albay has recorded a total of 7,255 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in 2020. The province has also recorded 6,009 recoveries and 428 deaths.

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Charles K. Eckert