The reported “localized transmission” of the novel coronavirus in the Philippine capital, has started to affect churches.
The Manila Archdiocese has urged parishes to prepare for the “economic effects” of the spread of the virus on church operations.
“We need to save at this time of impending crisis,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, in a pastoral letter.
“Let us make our church institutions resilient,” he said, adding that “at this time, let expenses be made only in what is essential in order to save for any eventualities.”
The prelate urged parishes to “suspend purchases on capital expenditures” and make church programs “frugal.”
“What we can save, let us put in a Disaster Resiliency Fund,” he said. “In this way, in case we have no collections, we may sustain the salaries of our employees and maintain our religious institutions.”
The bishop also called on the faithful who are sick or have flu-like symptoms, and who are coughing, to seek medical attention and stay home.
“We need to take precautionary measures in the spirit of charity for all,” said Bishop Pabillo as he called on everyone “to intensify our prayers to ask for Divine protection and intervention.”
He said the faithful can watch Masses online.
For churches, the bishop ordered the use of disinfectants on pews, benches, door knobs, and microphone covers.
He also urged the installation of barriers so that people do not touch or kiss statues and images.
“Open windows and doors after Mass and shut off the air conditioning in order for the air, heat, and sunlight to circulate,” said Bishop Pabillo.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, meanwhile, said the decision whether to cancel or not public Masses depends of the bishops of the respective dioceses.
He said the Catholic bishops’ conference can only recommend but the final decision would be up to the bishops.
In his diocese, Bishop Santos said he will not order the cancellation of Masses. “We will continue with the tradition,” he said.
The bishop, however, assured that necessary precautions are being provided, like sanitizers, the use of face masks during confessions, and receiving communion by hand, among others.
The prelate also reminded the faithful to always wash their hands and observe proper hygiene. “Make use of handkerchiefs when sneezing, or coughing,” he said.
He also urged those planning to go to the Holy Land this Lenten season for pilgrimage to postpone their trip and prioritize their personal safety.
“Some sacred places are closed to pilgrims while a limited number of pilgrims are allowed to other places,” he said.
Bishop Santos said what the faithful should do at this time is to pray more.
The Philippines has declared a health emergency amid growing fears that the dreaded virus has been spreading in the capital Manila undetected.
At least 24 cases of the novel coronavirus in the country have been confirmed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
He has ordered the suspension of classes in the capital from March 10 14.
Before Duterte’s announcement, the number of patients doubled from 10 to 20 on the same day as the Department of Health received results of tests positive for the deadly disease.
Health officials said the sudden spike in cases was a result of the newly-declared localized transmission.
On March 10, Philippine health officials announced that they are verifying reports that a second foreign national has died in the country due to COVID-19.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said he received unverified information that an American patient with pre-existing medical conditions had succumbed to the respiratory disease before dawn.
The Philippines has so far confirmed 24 cases of the disease, including one fatality: a Chinese national from Wuhan in central China, where the virus was first reported late last year.