Bishops move to end fees for church services

Bishops move to end fees for church services

By Roy Lagarde

March 12, 2019

Manila, Philippines

More Catholic bishops are taking steps to eliminate fees for sacraments and other services.

The latest to follow suit is Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga who ordered the removal of fees for funeral masses and blessings in his diocese.

The move was an initial step by the bishop to end the practice of charging fees for church services.

In a circular issued today, he said the move was necessary to console with the grieving persons of the faithful departed.

“Financial obligations from the perspective of the Church are not of prime importance and must not be a burden to them,” Santos wrote.

He also ordered that no fees for masses must be required by priests even for those in funeral parlors and memorial chapels.

“We should not obliged them either for the arancel, but we can be open for their free will to give or donate for the Church,” Santos said.

The arancel system in the Church refers to the practice of giving stipends to priests for specific church services.

The bishop said the new statute must be fully implemented by April 21, Easter Sunday.

Sacraments, sacramentals

In 2015, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan scrapped the system of charging fixed rates for sacraments and sacramentals in the archdiocese.

Instead, he wanted the “Pananabangan” or spirit of stewardship to function, which means that parishes will just accept whatever it is that parishioners can offer.

A year later, the archdiocese also stopped its parishes from charging fix rates for issuing canonical certificates.

Bishop Santos said their next plan is to start removing arancel on baptism, weddings, confirmation and Masses in the few years to come.

“We will make auditing of the parishes, which of them are ready and how to prepare barangay parishes,” he said.

“But as we will celebrate our 50th year in 2025, it is our dream to our people that there would be no arancel system for sacraments in our diocese,” Santos added.

Gradual implementation

In other dioceses, guidelines are also being set up for the uniform and gradual removal of the arancel system.

Bishops take everything into consideration because their parishes have varying realities.

In Manila, the country’s largest archdiocese, some parishes have already started “to calibrate their finances” towards the removal of arancel.

Fr. Roy Bellen of the Manila archdiocese’s communications office said the target is to end the arancel system by 2021, the fifth centenary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.

“This hopefully can be a gauge of the faithful of their change of paradigm in support the Church rather than thinking of ‘buying the sacraments’ from the Church,” he said.

Saying that sacraments are gifts from God, Pope Francis has repeatedly urged churches to give services freely.