The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro in the southern Philippines will shut down six churches after several priests were found infected of the coronavirus disease.
Archbishop Jose Cabantan of Cagayan de Oro said the churches will be closed to religious activities and other events starting Wednesday, April 28.
The archbishop said the churches will remain closed for ten days while its premises will be disinfected.
“It was unexpected, never thought-of, never wished-for, and in fact prayed against,” said Archbishop Cabantan. “Unfortunately a number of our priests have fallen victim,” he said.
In a “motu proprio” letter, Archbishop Cabantan asked the faithful for understanding for the “painful” decision that he made.
“This is our way of showing that we are one with the people, the government and every other person or entity concerned with the overcoming of the spread of the virus of COVID-19,” he said.
The prelate also appealed for prayers for the recovery of those infected with the virus and that “no other priest may suffer the same fate” so they will continue serving their ministry.
“I also humbly sincerely thank you for praying for me while I was in quarantine with those living in my residence, and ask you to continue praying for me,” he said.
Father Der John Faborada, head of the archdiocese’s Social Action Center, said six priests were infected, including Monsignor Perseus Cabunoc, parish priest of the Jesus Nazareno parish church in Barangay Lapasan, where the image of the “Calleron,” or the Black Nazarene, is enshrined.
Archbishop Cabantan also ordered the closure of the Jesus Nazareno parish church in Lapasan and the San Isidro Labrador church in Cagayan de Oro City.
Also ordered closed are the Our Lady of Candelaria parish church in Tagoloan town; the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Bobontugan; the Immaculada Concepcion parish church in Jasaan town; and the Church of San Cruz in Laguindingan town, all in Misamis Oriental province.
Archbishop Cabantan said he reached the decision after consulting with the archdiocese’s Health Crisis Committee.
Father Faborada said priests and church members who were in close contact with the infected members of the clergy have already gone on self-quarantine, including Archbishop Cabantan.
The priest said the prelate have already finished a 14-day self-quarantine and was found negative of the virus after being tested.
Father Faborada said they are still waiting for the results of the test of three priests who have close contact with the infected priests.