Manila, Apr 13 (EFE).- After two years of harsh restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Philippines finalized preparations Wednesday for the return of mass processions and liturgical rituals in Asia’s most Catholic country, though some restrictions will apply during this Holy Week.
On Good Thursday and Friday, Filipinos will once again enjoy the “Visita Iglesia,” a tour of seven churches canceled or reduced in 2020 and 2021 to virtual online visits.
In Manila, the most traditional tour is to the seven main ecclesiastical seats in the old colonial walled city of Intramuros, which includes the Manila Cathedral and various churches and chapels.
The Episcopal Conference of the Philippines issued in a statement the guidelines to be followed by local parishes, seeking a return of liturgies to normal, but still in line with social distancing protocols.
After two years of cancellations, Filipinos will be able to enjoy masses celebrated in local parishes, with certain capacity limitations, whose priests must impose social distance measures to comply with the protocols still in force.
As an example, in the processions that include the carrying of liturgical elements, called “karosas” or “andas” in Tagalog, the use of motorized vehicles is recommended to transport the crosses or religious images.
During Ash Wednesday, it is again authorized to mark penitents with a cross on their foreheads, but each parish must ensure that social distancing is observed.
Among the most striking liturgies that will not be celebrated this year is the Holy Thursday procession of San Fernando de Pampanga, about 80 kilometers from Manila, which includes the flagellation of penitents after hours of walking. Another one is that of Good Friday, in which the passion of Christ is emulated carrying the cross on which he was later crucified.
These rituals emerged in the 1950s in the province of Pampanga and, although they do not have the approval of the Catholic hierarchy, have become the most known for the Philippine Holy Week and attract thousands of tourists every year.
With more than 90 million faithful, the Philippines is the country with the most Catholics in Asia – more than 80 percent of its population – and the third in the world, only behind Brazil and Mexico.
The suspension of rites and processions due to Covid-19 was something unusual in the Philippines since World War II, something that did not even happen during the years that dictator Ferdinand Marcos ruled under martial law. EFE