The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the church will celebrate Mass during the Holy Week, but they will not encourage people to attend so as not to violate the Inter-Agency Task Force’s ban on religious gatherings in the NCR Plus bubble, which will be in effect until April 4.
The statement came after Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo’s pastoral instruction that the archdiocese—which covers Manila, Pasay City, Makati City, Mandaluyong City and San Juan City—will continue religious worship within the churches’ 10% capacity starting today, leading to the observance of Holy Week.
In an interview with ANC on Wednesday, CBCP public affairs committee executive secretary Jerome Secillano said Bishop Pabillo’s stand was not in defiance of the rules set by the government, and the bishop’s statement was just “an expression of a religious right.”
“Nakikita niya na it’s Holy Week and people may be needing spiritual activities, spiritual sustenance kaya ang tao ay welcome sa simbahan pero hindi ini-encourage na pumunta kayo ng simbahan,” he said.
“In fact, kung talagang kailangan ng tao na pumunta sa simbahan, si Bishop (Pabillo) na ang nagbigay ng limit. Hindi natin puwedeng papasukin sa simbahan yung sumobra sa 10% because we have to be very careful, there is a risk of transmission of coronavirus that’s why we cannot do that,” said Secillano, who also noted that the CBCP is aware of the IATF rules and do not have plans to defy them.
“We don’t want to get the ire of the government, we respect the government.”
But Secillano maintains that the Catholic church will be celebrating Masses for the Holy Week, but it won’t encourage people to go in the churches. “However, kapag may taong kumatok, hindi naman namin puwedeng sabihin sa kanila na hindi kayo puwedeng pumasok.”
He added, “There is a possibility na puwede silang i-allow. Maybe people can stay outside in order for them to attend the Mass para hindi kami lumabag sa IATF protocols.”
Secillano also said that the ban on religious gatherings was “unreasonable.” He cited the IATF rules that allow 10 persons for baptism, weddings and funeral Masses, and questioned how come there was none for the regular Masses.
“There should be a rational approach to formulate a strategy. However, at the rate things are going, mukha yatang irrational ang dating nito, ang daming parang loopholes, ang daming parang inconsistencies,” he said.
On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a radio interview that the IATF considered allowing churches to open at 10% capacity, however, it eventually decided against it as those people who will not make the 10% cut will wait and congregate outside the church for the next Mass.
“Kapag 10% ka nga sa loob pero sa labas naman kumpul-kumpulan sila, eh ‘di pareho rin ang suma-total,” said Roque, who hopes the public would understand IATF’s decision given that the country logs more than 8,000 new COVID-19 cases per day.
On Tuesday, Malacañang warned that it would shut down churches that would defy the ban on religious gatherings (and other mass gatherings) that was set by the IATF in Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal until April 4 to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
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