Pandemic recasts Church’s Fiesta Señor schedule, prompts cancellation of Masses in basilica
CEBU CITY—Masses that used to be open to the public at a church named after the icon of the Child Jesus, or Sto. Nino, had been cancelled to prevent coronavirus transmission which was the biggest risk of crowds gathering inside the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino here.
The Augustinian order, which supervises the basilica, cancelled all Masses for the 456th Fiesta Senor celebrations that had been scheduled Jan. 12 to 17.
In a statement released on Monday (Jan. 11), Fr. Pacifico Nohara Jr., OSA, prior and rector of the centuries-old basilica, appealed for understanding from devotees and encouraged them to take part in the remaining Masses for the novena and Feast of Santo Nino online through the basilica’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
“It has been our desire to celebrate the novena days and the Fiesta Señor 2021 with the people despite the raging coronavirus pandemic that afflicts us,” said Nohara.
“At present, it has been a tough challenge for the basilica administrators with the government and private agencies to manage the flock of devotees and pilgrims at the basilica in our simplified celebration of the novena and the upcoming feast,” he said.
Nohara said “greater action” was needed to protect devotees from SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“As this change in our celebration may bring sadness to many of us, but the situation has called us to rise above the situation and to choose this course of action for the common good and benefit of all,” said Nohara.
“We ask for your great understanding and hoping that, with our hearts and minds attuned to God’s mercy to deliver us from the scourge of the pandemic, we can celebrate the entirety of the Fiesta Señor in God’s perfect time,” he said.
Nohara said the biggest goal of the Church was to bring all Christians to salvation, not only of the soul, but also of the body which included health and wellbeing.
Starting on Tuesday (Jan. 12) novena Masses for Santo Nino will be held in a private chapel inside the basilica where only priests and a few private volunteers would be accommodated.
The basilica, he said, will remain open for people who want to venerate the image of the Child Jesus who was given as a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s queen, Hara Humamay, exactly 500 years ago. The icon has since been venerated by millions and believed to possess miraculous powers.
Nohara, at an online press conference late on Monday (Jan. 11), said five pilgrim images of the Santo Niño will be brought to five churches throughout Cebu island–Bantayan Island, Danao City, Balamban, Ronda, Boljoon–so people from the provinces can venerate the image as requested by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
The Sinulog, one of the country’s largest and grandest festivals, was recently canceled for the first time in its 41-year history for fear that it might trigger yet another surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the city.
As of Saturday (Jan. 9), Cebu City has 11,081 COVID-19 cases with 10,058 recoveries and 693 deaths.
Last June 16, Cebu City was placed under enhanced community quarantine, the strictest form of lockdown, due to a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases and its difficulty in providing critical health care to the sick.
Iook about two month before the city’s quarantine status was downgraded to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most relaxed form of community quarantine.
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