Filipino Bishops Call for Limiting Restrictions on Offices

March 08, 2021
Interior of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila

In the Philippines, the Catholic hierarchy is urging the government to revise downward measures of restrictions affecting churches due to the Covid-19 epidemic by allowing more worshipers to attend church services. They are concerned about the organization of Holy Week, which is especially attended by Catholics in the archipelago.

According to the Apostolic Administrator of Manila, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the protocols put in place by the ecclesiastical hierarchy are “effective” in preventing the spread of the virus.

“The churches are not propagators of the coronavirus because the management of the protocols is good,” declared Msgr. Pabillo in his homily during the Mass celebrated at the cathedral of Manila, on February 8, 2021.

And the apostolic administrator of the largest Filipino diocese cites the Christmas celebrations and the feast of the Black Nazarene last January as exemplary in this regard.

“There was no peak of the virus in Manila after the [Christmas] holidays and following the feast of the Black Nazarene. This proves that the churches, thanks to the implementation of strict health protocols, are not sources of the virus,” emphasized Bishop Pabillo.

Because in the archipelago, they do not do things by halves: in May of last year, the country’s bishops’ conference published its guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus, such as installing foot baths outside churches ...

The government, for its part, has limited the number of participants in a church to 30% of the capacity, but exceptions have been made for Christmas and the feast of the Black Nazarene.

This is why Bishop Pabillo, supported by other prelates, urges the government to relax the existing gauge.

“The faithful want the reception capacity to be increased to 50%, I hope that health officials will increase the ceiling of the gauge set in churches, especially as Holy Week approaches. If the bishops’ protocols work, maybe more people can be allowed to attend masses,” Ranelle Montelibano, a Catholic from Manila, told Ucanews.

“Filipinos need spiritual food to overcome fatigue and the adverse effects of the pandemic,” she adds. This advice deserves to be heard in a secularized Europe, where bishops sometimes get ahead of governments in closing churches, as is the case in Portugal.

It must be remembered that the current Philippine president is quite strongly opposed to the episcopate, which may explain why the demand remains confined to a level more natural than supernatural.