By Roy Lagarde

More dioceses in the Philippines have shut down public Masses for several weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country, according to CBCP News.

In Metro Manila, the bishops have agreed to suspend public Masses and other parish activities for a month.

The bishops of Manila, Cubao, Kalookan, Pasig, Novaliches, and Parañaue met on Friday night to have a unified response to the pandemic.

“The bishops in the National Capital Region have decided that we follow what the government is saying about community quarantine up to April 14,” Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Manila’s apostolic administrator, said.

The prelate made the announcement during an online Mass from the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Makati City.

“That means, for a month, we will be in this situation,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Manila and the Parañaque diocese earlier announced a one-week suspension of Masses, from March 15 to 21.

The cases of COVID-19 have jumped from 64 to 111 after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 47 new patients with the disease on Saturday.

The DOH also confirmed that two more patients with the viral disease have died, taking the number of fatalities in the country to eight.

Public Masses and other church gatherings have also been cancelled indefinitely in the Archdiocese of Davao and in the dioceses of San Pablo, Legazpi, and Bacolod.

In the Diocese of Balanga, Bishop Ruperto Santos suspended the church services in areas “very much affected by confirmed person positive with the coronavirus.

These areas, he said, include the parishes of Orani, Tapulao, and Balanga.

The Archdiocese of Caceres has also implemented precautionary measures to safeguard the faithful against the further transmission of the virus.

“Therefore, we suspend public Masses in the churches of the archdiocese starting in the afternoon of March 14, 2020, until the morning of March 20,” Archbishop Rolando Tirona of Caceres said.

“Nevertheless, priests will offer masses in the absence of the congregation for the intentions of the people,” he said.

Public Masses are also suspended in the Diocese of Urdaneta from March 16 to 23 “unless the situation dictates otherwise”, said Bishop Jacinto Jose.

Bishop Jose also said that parishioners are also dispensed from their Sunday obligation on March 29.

Bishop Roberto Mallari also instructed the cancellation of Masses and prayer services in the Diocese of San Jose on Sunday, March 15.

“The said cancellation is subject to evaluation in the coming days,” the diocese said.

In Bulacan province, Bishop Dennis Villarojo of Malolos diocese has announced that the faithful are no longer obligated to go to Mass on March 15 and 22 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Churches in the said dioceses, however, will remain open to the public for private prayer. They also decided that their daily Mass will be broadcast live on social media.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has encouraged the dioceses to make Masses available on radio, television and the internet.

“We should encourage the faithful to avail themselves of these and pray together in their homes as a family or in their small Christian communities (BECs),” said Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, CBCP President.

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