By Rommel F. Lopez

A Roman Catholic bishop advised Filipinos to stay calm, observe cleanliness and pray for protection in the midst of the 2019 novel coronavirus scare (2019-nCoV).

Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said that Filipinos should face the threat of the 2019-nCoV by a combination of cleanliness and faith.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Live clean and take notice of DOH’s directives vs the virus and pray,” he said in an interview with

Earlier, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines issued a circular on what Catholics in the Philippines need to do during Mass while the country is battling the deadly virus which has already infected thousands and claimed the lives of hundreds around the world, mostly in China where the virus originated.

The CBCP’s circular, signed by its executive secretary Fr. Mervin Mejia, prohibits certain actions of the faithful during the Mass like holding hands while singing the Our Father and kissing during the exchange of the sign of peace.

The circular also calls for the praying of the Oratio Imperata, or an obligatory prayer against the 2019-nCoV in all masses in the country after the Holy Communion, “kneeling down” beginning Sunday, February 2.

“In praying we invite ourselves with all our brothers and sisters suffering with the disease brought by this virus, bring up to God our longing for them to be restored to full health and humbly pray that we may be spared from infection of this virus,” CBCP Secretary-General Fr. Marvin Mejia said in the circular.

The circular also called on all parishes to observe the following:

  • Practice the communion in hand to help prevent further fear from people who are reasonably cautious of the matter.
  • Change holy water regularly.
  • Install protective cloths on the grills of confessionals.
  • Discourage holding of hands during “Our Father” and shaking of hands during the Sign of Peace.

Bagaforo said even with the CBCP directive he decided not to come out with a pastoral directive for the Diocese of Kidapawan which he heads since most Catholics in the diocese receive communion by hand already.  “We don’t see any problem with shaking hands during the sign of peace, and people asking for our blessing thru traditional mano,” he said.

He stressed though that the pastoral directive of the CBCP is an “advisory and recommendatory”.

“It is recommendatory because it is not in the realm of Faith and Morals. It is the Bishops who decide what is good for pastoral and disciplinary matters. In this area, the CBCP has no executive powers,” he explains.

While some dioceses decided to distribute Holy Communion only in the hand, Bagaforo said he will not issue a similar directive in the Diocese of Kidapawan to prevent Catholics who prefer to receive the host directly on the tongue.

He added that communion in the tongue is “never prohibited” and that giving communion by the hand “is encouraged for pastoral reasons.”

Bagaforo said he supports the call of the health department to have a good personal hygiene by regularly washing their hands and observing other health safety measures.