In the time of social distancing and diligent disinfection efforts amidst the coronavirus pandemic, religious institutions have been adapting age-old traditions to the new normal. Church services all over the world now feature measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as doing away with hand holding during prayer and going with elbow bumps instead of hugs. One priest in the United States became an internet sensation when photos of him spritzing holy water out of a toy gun from a safe distance went viral. Amid all these changes, there are now rumours going around about Philippine Catholic churches replacing holy water with “holy alcohol.”
The Archdiocese of Pampanga was quick to call this “fake news” in a Facebook post on Monday, June 8. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines even wrote about the statement. In it, the Archdiocese of Pampanga clarified that they were not using “holy alcohol” in place of holy water.
“There is no sacramental holy alcohol, that we should make the sign of the cross when we rub it to ourselves,” the statement says. “Moreover, it should not be sprinkled on the faithful. There is no substitute to holy water.”
Apparently these rumours started to spread after churches around the country removed holy water from their fonts to avoid contamination and started placing alcohol near entrances. But, as the Archdiocese has pointed out, these sanitisers are not the least bit holy.
The Archdiocese also spoke out against promotions of “holy facemasks,” “holy sanitizers,” and “holy PPEs,” which it called “an irreverent marketing strategy or gimmick.”
Churches have been closed since the Philippines went on lockdown in mid-March. Despite the government easing restrictions in May, many places of worship are still not holding services. Those that did reopen are taking precautions, such as limiting the number of visitors at any given time.
This has been a huge change to Filipinos of all faiths, including about 80 million Catholics. As of writing, the coronavirus has infected over 22,400 people in the Philippines and killed more than 1,000.