Simbang Gabi isn’t cancelled, but it’s also complicated; CBCP explains why.

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Image: CBCP News

This is your timely reminder that we’re only six weeks away from the end of the year, and about a month away from the start of the annual Simbang Gabi. 2020, with all its ups and depressing downs, has certainly made us wait hard for the chilly early mornings as we hear church, the hot and delicious bibingka and puto bumbong, and of course, the family bonding sessions that came with the holiday spirits.

We were excited, that is until the pandemic happened. This year, as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines or the CBCP has shared, we’re set to have a different Simbang Gabi with different rules.

Here’s how the nine-day procession will adjust to the “new normal”:

More masses with fewer people

The first problem anyone would have regarding Simbang Gabi masses is maintaining an apt physical distance. 

At the moment, churches are allowed to hold masses at a limited 30% seating capacity. Thus, a logical solution that the CBCP officials offered is for churches to conduct more masses. That only means that either masses could extend up until the morning, or they could start even earlier in the day.

Curfew-compliant schedules

That brings the CBCP to their next problem: they would also have to hurdle over in-effect rules regarding midnight curfew.

Last October, Metro Manila mayors agreed to shorten the curfew period from 10 PM to 5 AM, to 12 AM to 4 PM. As lenient as this looks, this still doesn’t cover the usual period in which Simbang Gabi masses are held, which usually start as early as 3 AM. 

Regarding this, the CBCP has yet to devise a plan to adjust mass schedules, only that they aim to remain compliant by starting and ending masses punctually. 

Simbang Gabi goes digital

It’s either those things, or they hold masses online, which, according to CBCP, has fared well among the Catholic faithfuls. Sunday masses and pray-overs have been streamed live over at Facebook and YouTube since as early as social media rose; the church did it last year too, so why should it differ for Simbang Gabi masses?

Understandably, this comes with the caveat that Catholic devotees take the time to wholeheartedly listen to the words being preached and really participate. Any of these alternatives wouldn’t be any better if they only catered to attendees who only want to fulfill tradition.

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