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COVID-19 Empties Churches, But Holy Week Rites Continue Online

COVID-19 Empties Churches, But Holy Week Rites Continue Online
A mother and her young son visit the Three Crosses of Paete in Laguna on Holy Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The Catholic Church has discouraged the faithful from congregating in religious places to avoid the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019. Photo by Walter Bollozos, The Philippine STAR

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may have emptied churches, but Roman Catholics – who compose the majority of Filipinos – are still observing the Holy Week rites online.

The faithful get to be part of masses, prayers, novenas, processions, vigils, and other ceremonies livestreamed through Facebook and other social media platforms.

For this year’s Visita Iglesia, the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines collated the page links and schedules:

  • Maundy Thursday:
  • Good Friday:
  • Black Saturday:
  • Easter Sunday:

Visita Iglesia entails the visitation of seven or 14 churches, done usually on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as part of the flock’s sacred vows.

“The choice of seven or 14 as the number of churches to visit was described by many devotees as a reference to the Seven Last Words of Jesus or the Seven Holy Wounds of Jesus. Some choose to visit 14 churches to match the 14 Stations of the Cross, and a few try to cover even more churches. Many believe that their prayers will be granted after the stations are complete,” an article on the website Catholics and Cultures read.

Some believe that this is a way to atone for their sins, among other religious practices.

Since the faithful cannot personally visit the churches, priests will take them on a virtual tour to enable them to observe the practice of Visita Iglesia, which may be done via

The prominent churches of Luzon that can be toured through the screen include the following:

  • Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica, Manila;
  • Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, Manila;
  • San Agustin Church, Manila;
  • Sanctuario de Sto. Cristo, San Juan City;
  • National Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Parañaque City;
  • Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion Parish, Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur;
  • Epiphany of the Lord Parish, Lingayen, Pangasinan;
  • San Fabian Church, Dagupan City, Pangasinan;
  • Barasoain Church, Malolos City, Bulacan;
  • San Ildefonso Parish, Guiguinto, Bulacan;
  • Parish Church of St. Lawrence – Deacon and Martyr, Balagtas, Bulacan;
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pagsanjan, Laguna.

Catholic leaders have recommended that those who would attend masses online recite the following prayer during communion time:

 Act of Spiritual Communion

 My Jesus,

 I believe that You

 are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.

 I love You above all things,

 and I desire to receive You into my soul.

 Since I cannot at this moment

 receive You sacramentally,

 come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.


 For the tradition of Pabasa – or the uninterrupted chanting of the Passion of Jesus Christ, to remind the faithful to repent for their sins and reflect on the life of the Savior – audio files have been uploaded on

 Audio files were also uploaded on for the observance of the tradition aptly dubbed “The New Way of the Cross,” since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) discourages going from neighbor to neighbor, whose houses normally host the Stations of the Cross.

 A podcast of the Way of the Cross and the Holy Rosary are also available at

 Even online retreat can be done through The faithful may also request prayers of thanksgiving and for the repose of the soul, as well as petitions, through

 Filipinos may also join papal events live from the Vatican City through

 According to CBCP News, the “Visita Iglesia Online” portal was originally intended to help Filipinos in non-Catholic countries, seafarers, and sick and homebound people keep their faith alive.

 Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, CBCP media director Msgr. Pedro Quitorio said: “Today, when everybody is in quarantine and all liturgy in physical churches are closed to people, Visita Iglesia continues to be a portal for online retreats, catechesis, and liturgical celebrations.”

 In light of the ECQ, the CBCP followed the Vatican’s instructions to “avoid concelebrations since our celebrations must also show our sincere efforts at avoiding the gathering of people.”

 In its circular, the CBCP said the presider of the celebrations should be cautious “not to give an opportunity for our faithful to congregate outside their homes.”

 “In such a scenario, it will be very difficult to implement the ‘social distancing’ measure. Moreover, such a scenario will be in contradiction to the lockdown and “stay at home” measures now enforced in many places,” the CBCP added.

 The Vatican instructed the bishops to “see to it that there is a special intention for the sick, the dead, for those who feel lost or dismayed” on Good Friday.

 The CBCP said the special intention “would include those who are presently sick of COVID-19, those who have died because of this disease, as well as our doctors, nurses and other medical staff, health care workers, the frontliners in the food services and relief operations, those keeping peace and order, civil servants, and the poorest among our families who are greatly affected by this crisis.”