LIMASAWA, Southern Leyte (PIA) -- The representative of Pope Francis in the country conveyed his impression over the declining trend of COVID-19 cases saying that after two years of Eucharistic fasting, people are rushing back to life with face-to-face attendance in the Holy Mass.

“Hopefully it is ending,” Most Rev. Charles John Brown said, referring to the pandemic, in his homily on Thursday, March 31, during the commemoration of the first Easter Sunday Mass, 501 years ago in this island, where the apostolic nuncio was the main celebrant.

It was different when one is attending Mass using the online technology in the cellphone or computer, because he or she cannot receive the Eucharist at the moment of communion unlike in the actual, physical presence, the archbishop pointed out.

Pilgrims still wore facemasks, a mandatory outfit for churchgoers attending Mass on Sundays, but it was more relaxed this time in coming to the island compared to last year during the 500th grand celebration.

Archbishop Brown was also the expected main celebrant last year, but restrictions in movement due to a surge in COVID-19 cases prevented him from coming.

Alert Level 1

He made it this time and, as he was speaking, the National Inter-agency Task Force (NIATF) further lowered the alert classification in the island where he celebrated the anniversary Mass, boosting his expressed hope for the pandemic to slow down more.

Alert level classification of eight (8) local government units in the province were downgraded from Level 2 to Level 1, the lowest thus far, namely, Limasawa, Anahawan, Maasin City, Hinundayan, Libagon, Macrohon, Padre Burgos, and Pintuyan.

This will be from April 1 to April 15, covering the Holy Week which, to most trip-seeking local and foreign tourists, is an opportune time to travel with least restrictions.

End of 500 YOC

The ceremony on Thursday capped the yearlong, church-based observance on 500 years of Christianity, when the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan set foot on the very site, and ordered the celebration of the Mass by their companion priest, Fr. Pedro de Valderrama, the day being an Easter Sunday.

Bishop Prescioso Cantillas of the Diocese of Maasin and nearly a hundred diocesan priests joined the catholic sacrament attended by a few provincial officials led by Gov. Damian Mercado and municipal officials headed by Mayor Melchor Petracorta.

DPWH Secretary Roger Mercado and his wife, Luz, and sister Emily also attended the celebration.

New Priests

A day before, March 30, 12 deacons were ordained priest, a history-setting event of so many ordained individuals to priesthood in a single day at the place claimed to be the dawning site of Christianity in the country.

“What better way to come to the conclusion of celebrating 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines than with this beautiful ordination of these 12 men to the priesthood on this island the first mass was offered,” Archbishop Brown, the presiding minister, said.

“God has chosen you, but you need to choose God every day by being men in prayer,” he further exhorted.

Near the end of his homily on Thursday, Archbishop Brown commanded the 12 new priests as well as all the other priests present of the real task they need to deliver.

“Priests are made to bring supernatural life to people,” he exclaimed. (LDL/MMP/PIA8-Southern Leyte)