MANILA — Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Garin said priests are not allowed to give Sacrament (for the Sick) to a patient afflicted by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS CoV) unless precautionary measures are in place and there was no direct exposure to the infected person.
“Because priests’ ministering of the sick requires them to face and make direct contact with the patient, they are strictly prohibited from doing it for the meantime, to avoid contamination and possibly infecting parishioners,” she said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news website.
The DOH chief made the statement on the allegations that a Catholic priest was reportedly requested to administer the Sacrament of the Sick to the nurse afflicted by the MERS CoV virus before she was transferred from a Pacita Hospital to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
But, it was not confirmed whether the visit took place.
She explained that MERS CoV is not an airborne disease, hence it cannot be passed to a healthy person unless he or she has direct contact with the patient through coughing sneezing, or physical contact with the carrier’s saliva.
Garin added that the best way to prevent the disease is to avoid direct contact, to wash hands properly before eating and to be conscious of personal hygiene.
Meanwhile, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said that it is the decision of the priest of whether or not to give sacrament a person who is infected by the deadly virus.
“Sa aking experience ay nasabihan ng tayo self- preservation. Syempre titingnan mo ang kalagayan mo at katayuan mo pero sinasabi ko sa aming diocese na ito ay ating tungkulin na maging sinuman, anu paman, malala, kahit ano sakit ay puntahan,” he said.
(In my experience, I was already told about self-preservation. Of course you’re going to consider your condition and state, but I’m telling our diocese that this is our responsibility–whoever your are, whether your illness is severe or not. We should go and see you.)
Santos said, “Ang gawin mo na lang ay magtakip ng panyo sa iyong bibig pero hindi mo dapat iwasan (You just have to cover your mouth with a handkerchief, but it doesn’t mean you’ll avoid the [sick person] altogether).”
The chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-ECMIP) said it was the duty of priests to give sacrament to those who need it, even if the person is afflicted by the deadly virus.
“Kapag sinabihan ka magbigay sakramento kahit kanino pa man palagay ko uunahin natin ang tao at dun natin maipapakita na ang pagiging tunay na pari,” he added.
(When you are told to give the sacrament–whoever it is [that needs it]–I think we will prioritize the person and that’s how we’ll show what being a true priest is.)
Santos said that they asked other priests to be cautious by covering their mouth, wear gloves, to always have alcohol, among others.
The Catholic prelate added that they are also counting on their faith in the Lord.
“Sa amin naman, meron kami parang langis ni San Roque na tanggap namin na ito ay nakakagaling milagroso at alam naman namin na kapag ginawa namin ‘yun para sa Diyos sya na ang bahala sa amin. Diyos ang gagawa ng paraan para tayo ay hindi mahawa,” he said.
(For us, we the the oil of San Roque and we claim that it carries the miracle of healing and we know that if we do it for the Lord, He will take care of us. God will make a way so we won’t get infected.)