Manila bishop pushes back vs IATF restrictions on religious activities

Manila bishop pushes back vs IATF restrictions on religious activities

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila. ERIC PAUL GUANLAO/RCAM

May 17, 2020

Manila, Philippines

Manila Apostolic Administrator Broderick Pabillo on Sunday led the charge against government restrictions on religious services, saying that limiting Mass attendees to five or 10 people even under relaxed quarantine rules was unreasonable and even “laughable.”

The Catholic Church had been largely compliant with restrictions imposed by the Interagency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Infectious Diseases since the lockdown, cancelling public Masses and Holy Week activities and switching to online platforms.

In a Facebook post, Pabillo questioned the IATF’s basis for limiting Mass-goers to five during the modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and 10 during the general community quarantine (GCQ), pointing out that there were no such limits for offices and business establishments.

“It is just another way of saying that you do not have religious activities,” he said.

“Where did they get these numbers? Why is it that they do not give the absolute numbers of persons who can enter a store, or work in the office, or in the factory? Do they say that only 10 persons should be in an office, or that 20 persons work in a factory, or that only 5 persons can enter a store at a time? This would be preposterous!”

Pabillo also pointed out that a “one-size-fits-all” directive was “laughable” if applied to big churches like the Baclaran church or Manila Cathedral.

“Why not give instead the instruction that there be one meter or two-meter distance between persons in a church?” he said.

Pabillo said there was no consultation with the religious sector prior to Malacañan Palace’s release of the omnibus guidelines on quarantine restrictions on Saturday.

“This is a problem with the government. They make arbitrary decisions without proper consultation with the sectors involved. So they come out with unreasonable directives!” the prelate said.

Pabillo earlier sent a proposal on social distancing guidelines for church activities to the Department of Health.

The proposals included holding Masses on weekdays to spread the number of attendees, hour-long gaps between Masses, foot baths at entrances, and prohibitions against touching and kissing images.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque on Saturday said home religious services were allowed under the modified ECQ prevailing over Metro Manila, Laguna and several central Luzon provinces.

“Puwede na rin pong magbigay ng home religious services. Pansinin ninyo po, ‘home religious services,’ ang mga pastor, mga pari, mga imam, mga rabbi at iba pang religious ministers provided mayroon pong proper health protocols gaya ng pagsuot ng mask at saka social distancing, temperature check at iba pa po,” he said in a briefing broadcast on state television.