CBCP sets guidelines for ‘Simbang Gabi’ amid COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus pandemic may have upended the day-to-day lives of Filipinos, but it cannot not dampen the Filipinos’ Christmas spirit.
In line with the public health protocols being implemented to stem the spread of the virus, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) released the guidelines under November 27 Circular No. 20-82 on the celebration of Aguinaldo masses, or the “Misa de Gallo.”
This means that the Simbang Gabi or pre-dawn masses, which signals the start of the traditional Filipino Christmas season, will still enforce social distancing, wearing of face masks, and the ban on mass gatherings.
While tradition has kept these masses from December 16 to 24 to be held as early as 4 a.m., this year’s Simbang Gabi masses may start as early as 6 p.m. from the night before (anticipated mass), while the last mass would be at 6 a.m.
According to the CBCP, bishops, in consultation with the pastors of the parishes and in coordination with the local government unit, could schedule more Simbang Gabi masses in different venues which can be large enough to accommodate more people and still observe social distancing.
The CBCP also encouraged the live streaming of the liturgical celebrations for those who would not be able to attend the masses physically.
The bishop of the place also needs to decide if it is helpful whether the “anticipation” of the following day during evening Simbang Gabi Masses will be allowed.
On Christmas Eve, the Vigil Mass of Christmas may be celebrated from 6 p.m. and the last Mass of Dec. 24 will take the liturgy of the Midnight Mass of Christmas, CBCP President Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles said.
He added that the dawn Mass of Christmas may also be celebrated early morning of Dec. 25.
Since kissing or touching of images is still prohibited, Valles said families were encouraged to bring their family image of the infant Jesus during the Christmas Masses.
Valles said it is “important not to lose sight of the basic components of the celebration, namely the Word of God and Holy Communion.”
He hopes that the faithful will see the “heart and essence” of the yuletide season.
“The celebration of Christmas may be different this year. We will not have the same frenzy and stressful preparations that we had before the pandemic. But we pray and help our faithful to see the heart and the essence of the season in the simple, sober, silent but strong and loving truth of the God who comes to us in Jesus’ incarnation,” Valles said in the circular.