April 14, 2022
MANILA — You may visit as many churches as you want this Holy Week, but avoid touching and kissing religious images for your own safety and that of others.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire has reminded Catholics to keep their hands — and lips — off sacred images when visiting churches and other places of worship to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.
For good measure, they must also keep their well-fitted face masks on when attending Masses, joining processions or reading a novena, Vergeire said.
After reopening to full capacity under alert level 1, Catholic churches expect big crowds to turn up for the liturgical services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday in celebration of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
This year, the Catholic Church has also allowed “Visita Iglesia,” or the tour of seven churches, as well as the procession of religious images or crosses, this time on “motorized vehicles,” not “carrozas”— traditions that were disrupted by strict quarantine restrictions in the past two years.
On April 1, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, more known as Quiapo Church, finally resumed the traditional “pahalik” of the Black Nazarene. But devotees are allowed only to touch and not literally kiss the sacred icon.
“We know that this is an integral part of the devotion to the Nazareno as formed by history and tradition, and we merely respond to this call to resume since COVID cases have already declined and we are allowed to resume these activities,” Fr. Earl Valdez, parochial vicar of Quiapo Church, told the Inquirer.
As part of safety measures, hands are disinfected before touching the image and the area of pahalik is also disinfected every three to four hours. The crowd is enjoined to maintain physical distancing at all times.
COVID-19 infections have continued to dip, with the Department of Health logging 1,906 new cases last week, 29 percent lower than the previous week’s 2,679 cases. But health authorities are not lowering their guard because of the emergence of subvariants in other countries.