Albay bishop suspends mass wedding, events

By Rhaydz B. Barcia


The Diocese of Legazpi has ordered the suspension of mass confirmation and wedding ceremonies starting Oct. 1, 2021 to May 15, 2022 to prevent the escalation of Covid-19 in Bicol specifically in Albay province and discourage candidates from using the sacraments for their political interests.


The cancellation of mass wedding and confirmation celebrations coincided with the first day of filing of certificates of candidacy for national and local candidates and will last until after the May 2022 presidential and local elections in the country.


Legazpi Bishop Joel “Bong” Z. Baylon issued Diocesan Circular No. 22, Series of 2021, providing the guidelines on the celebrations of the sacraments in the Diocese of Legazpi for the period mentioned.


“The celebration of the mass confirmations in all the parishes is temporarily suspended from October 1, 2021 until May 15, 2022. The decision was the result of two considerations: the safety of the confirmands especially now that we have delta variant cases in the province and to help the lay faithful understand the true value and meaning of this sacrament, that is, receiving the Holy Spirit as God’s Gift, instead of availing of the sacrament simply because of the ‘gifts” from politician sponsors,” Baylon said.


“I would also like to remind that pastors are authorized to confirm only those preparing for weddings and those who are receiving adult baptism. Only the Bishop and those designated by him (Vicars General and Vicars Forane) are allowed to preside over mass confirmation,” Bishop Baylon said.


The prelate said that since the start of the pandemic, the diocese has been supportive to the government and health authorities’ programs to prevent the spread of coronavirus to protect the public.


“Since the start of the pandemic, our diocese has been supportive to the efforts of the government and health authorities in making ways to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 virus and protect the life of the people. As the local church in Legazpi, we continue to think of ways to ensure the safety especially of our lay faithful,” he said.


Baylon met the board of consultors and the diocesan Covid-19 committees to finalize the guidelines regarding the celebrations of the sacraments.


As to mass wedding celebration, the prelate said that: “While we usually encourage unmarried couples who are living together already for several years to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, I am temporarily suspending the celebration of mass weddings from October 1, 2021 until May 15, 2022. Again, this is to avoid mass gatherings that may lead to the transmission of the virus.”


“This is also to discourage politicians who may possibly use these occasions for their political interests,” the prelate said.


As to anointing of the sick and the dying, Baylon said that priests have the sacred calling to attend to the sick and the dying and so even amidst the pandemic they have continued to anoint them.


“But some of our priests got infected with Covid-19 and others had to undergo quarantine due to their exposure to some patients who were later on found to be Covid-19 positive,” Baylon said.


“And so, to protect both the minister and the sick from possible exposure to the virus, I am permitting the priests in the meantime not to anoint the sick but instead offer this simple prayer for the sick without being physically present either at home or at the hospital,” he said.


“I reiterate our diocesan policy that wake masses are not allowed during this pandemic. The claim that we lose our faithful to non-Catholic groups coming to the wake is not reason enough to justify a priest celebrating the wake masses because we allow funeral masses. Besides, a priest may visit the wake anytime to offer a private prayer or a “response,” nothing else,” the prelate said.


“Vigil done by youth groups or any lay groups should also be strongly discouraged, reminding them that doing so may put themselves and others vulnerable to the virus. May our Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, Ina kan Bikolandia,(Mother of Bicolandia) protect us. In the peace that binds us all,” Baylon said.


Five provinces in Bicol namely Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, and Masbate are now classified under Alert Level 4 following the rising cases of Covid-19 specifically the highly transmissible Delta variant.