Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma during the 100-day countdown of the launching of the 500-year of Christianity (500YOC) in the Philippines. (Sammy Navaja)

The Archdiocese of Cebu has boosted its online presence in preparation for the year-long celebration of the 500th year of Christianity (500YOC) in the Philippines, to prevent a spike in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in Cebu City.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the pandemic led the church to “extend” its mission and presence online.

“This is an opportunity to venture to new grounds where we can spread the faith where we can do mission and that is the digital sphere — the internet and the different social media platforms,” he said.

Palma said Pope St. John Paul II predicted 15 years ago the “potential of new technologies” to enable sharing information and facilitate interactive communication.

The four major social media platforms and websites of the archdiocese will serve as a virtual hub for updates and initiatives for the quincentennial celebration, he said.

“Let us encounter Christ in these new technologies and let us share Christ as we journey through the virtual streets and alleys of the digital word,” Palma said.

Fr. Mar Balili, secretary general of the Archdiocese’s 500YOC celebration, said all major activities of the official launching on April 14, 2021 will be streamed live on various social media platforms and through media partners.

Organizers have also prepared contingency plans once cases of Covid-19 increase in Cebu City before the 500YOC launch on April 14, 2021.

“We are open to any possibilities depending on the recommendations from IATF. We are very obedient to the government especially that we are looking after the health of the people,” Balili said.

Balili said that before the launch, there would be triduum celebrations in Cebu. This includes the baptism of 100 children, the blessing of jubilee crosses in all parishes, and cultural shows.

Archbishop Charles John Brown, the new apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, will lead the Mass and renewal of baptism, reminiscent of the first baptism in Cebu City.

Palma said he was only able to invite the suffragan bishops of Tagbilaran, Talibon, Maasin, and Dumaguete to the launch.

The archdiocese is urging the public to visit archdioceseofcebu.ph and 500YoCCebu.ph. Ryan Sorote