He said the decision was taken to “protect the secrecy and sincerity of confession” and because the sacrament requires a personal dialogue between the priest and the penitent.
But, said Bishop Pabillo, teleconferencing apps and the telephone can be used to offer spiritual counsel or blessings.
Priests are encouraged to use these media to help guide a person through an act of perfect contrition.
He said perfect contrition occurs when a person “expresses faith in and love of God above all things and resolves to make a sacramental Confession as soon as possible. All his/her sins, even mortal sins, are forgiven.”
“An act of perfect contrition always has been a part of our Catholic tradition,” said Bishop Pabillo. “God is always present to us, even when the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not possible.”
The Archdiocese of Manila on Wednesday released a protocol for religious services, including confessions.
The guidelines were issued to help parishes prepare for the time when public Masses and ceremonies will be allowed.
Social-distancing measures adopted by the government to stem the spread of Covid-19 have put a halt to all religious services.
The Archdiocese’s protocol requires that both priests and penitents wear facemasks.
They also foresee that the small confessional boxes often used in parishes will need to be “reconfigured” to allow social-distancing. If this proves impossible, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be held outside the confessional box, maintaining a distance of one meter between the penitent and the confessor.
Parishes in Manila Archdiocese will also be able to organize group confessions if the need is too great. These consist of a penitential service and general absolution.
All the protocol measures require Catholics to observe proper social-distancing guidelines.