Gov’t bans mass religious gatherings anew in Metro Manila, 4 provinces

Gov’t bans mass religious gatherings anew in Metro Manila, 4 provinces

Catholics attend Mass with their face masks and face shields on at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Quezon City on Feb. 11, 2021. PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC PAUL GUANLAO/CUBAO MEDIA

By CBCP News

March 21, 2021

Manila, Philippines

The Philippine government has again banned mass religious gatherings in Metro Manila and nearby provinces amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that mass gatherings are prohibited including public worship services.

“Mass gatherings including religious gatherings are prohibited,” Roque said in a televised press briefing Sunday afternoon.

While weddings, baptisms and funerals are still permitted, he said that attendance will be limited to 10 persons only.

Aside from Metro Manila, the general community quarantine (GCQ) restrictions cover the provinces of Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, and Bulacan.

The measures will take effect from March 22 until April 4, a period that includes Holy Week, to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease.

This is the second year in a row that in-person Holy Week services will be cancelled due to the health crisis.

Even before the government’s announcement, at least three dioceses — Novaliches, Cubao and Pasig — have voluntarily suspended public Masses for two weeks to encourage people to stay at home and keep them safe.

Both bishops Roberto Gaa and Honesto Ongtioco sent letters to the Catholic community, explaining the decision and offering encouragement during these challenging times.

“I know how hard this decision might be for many of us Catholics as our churches are places where our people go seek and find refuge, and coming as this is at this holiest time of the year,” Gaa said.

“I believe that if nothing drastic is done and things are left as they are now, the worsening situation could spill further onto other places,” he said.

Gaa also urged parish offices to cut down their workforce to half “and even restrict the movements of their personnel to church buildings and grounds only”.

For his part, Ongtioco said that “voluntarily closing our places of worship at the highest point of liturgical year is heartbreaking.”

“But we also open our eyes to a situation that puts many of our faithful at risk,” he said.

“This is the season of great love. For me, loving our neighbors at this time means keeping them safe. Be comforted that only our church doors will be shut,” Ongtioco added.

The affected dioceses encouraged the faithful to participate in live-streamed Masses especially during the Holy Week.

The Philippines on Sunday recorded 7,757 new Covid-19 cases, the third straight day with over 7,000 cases.

As of March 21, there are 73,072 active cases in the country.

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