Manila archdiocese decries lack of consultation over ban on religious gatherings

Manila archdiocese decries lack of consultation over ban on religious gatherings

Bishop Broderick Pabillo celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of St. Michael in Manila on Feb. 11, 2021. PHOTO COURTESY OF MARICAR SANTOS/RCAM-AOC

By CBCP News

March 24, 2021

Manila, Philippines

Manila’s Roman Catholic Church has decried the lack of consultation over the government’s decision to shut down public Masses, especially during the Holy Week.

In a note released Wednesday, Bishop Broderick Pabillo said “misunderstandings” may have been avoided if government instructions are clear.

Pabillo urged the government regulatory bodies to consult the sectors concerned when making policies about them.

“I lament the fact that the religious sectors are not represented, nor even consulted, when they make policies affecting our life of worship,” he said.

The national Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Monday prohibited “mass gatherings”, including worship services until April 4, Easter Sunday.

The holding of weddings, baptisms, and funeral services, on the other hand, shall be limited to 10 persons.

The restrictions for Metro Manila and its adjacent provinces came as the country reported record-breaking Covid-19 cases in recent days.

Mass gathering

The archdiocese on Tuesday issued guidelines for Holy Week celebrations, allowing religious worship in parish churches at 10 percent capacity and strictly observing the health protocols.

But Malacañang said that it is “contrary” to the IATF policy, as he cautioned that churches will be forcibly closed if they insisted on holding services.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque warned that if churches insist with their opening, “in the exercise of police powers, we can order the churches closed”.

The archdiocese said it is demanding clarification from the government on “what constitutes mass gathering”.

“We come to this limit of 10% of our church’s physical capacity because we feel that this number does not constitute a mass gathering,” he said.

‘Principle of subsidiarity’

While instructions are given, the bishop clarified that, in the “principle of subsidiarity,” decisions are still done by the parishes.

“The parish priests, in consultation with their lay leaders, will decide whether they will have their religious activities, with the people, but not beyond the 10% capacity of their churches, or do them in other forms, depending on their local conditions,” he said.

The archdiocese consists of parishes in the cities of Manila, Makati, San Juan, Mandaluyong and Pasay.

“Our priests are well-oriented that the supreme law in the church is ‘salus animarum’, the salvation of the people,” Pabillo said. “I am confident that their decisions are animated by this principle.”

Right to worship

The pastoral instruction also asserts their right to worship “especially in this important time of the year” while still observing the health protocols.

According to Pabillo, Holy Week is not just any ordinary time for the Christian believers.

“It is a time during which we feel more specially God’s love for us so we are drawn these days to thank and worship him more intensely,” he said.

“We assert our right to worship and the state should respect this and not unnecessarily hamper it,” he added. “Religious activities are essential services for the wellbeing of people.”

The guidelines also encouraged parishioners to make use of online platforms in their participation of the religious activities.

“This shows that the great majority of the faithful are encouraged to join through the digital facilities,” he said.

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