In the Philippines, the Catholic hierarchy is urging the government to revise downward restrictive measures affecting churches due to the Covid-19 epidemic. They are worried about the organization of Holy Week, particularly followed 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.
“Churches are not coronavirus spreaders because the management of services and protocols is good,” Bishop Pabillo said in his homily, during the Mass celebrated at Manila Cathedral 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 spike in the virus in Manila after the [Christmas] holidays and the Black Nazarene feast. It shows that churches, with the implementation of strict health protocols, are not super spreaders of the virus,” Bishop Pabillo said.
Because in the archipelago, they do not do things by halves: “in May last year, the bishops’ conference released liturgical guidelines to help contain the virus, such as the installation of foot baths outside churches and physical distancing.”
The government, for its part, limited the number of participants to 30% of the capacity of churches, but exceptions were made for Christmas and the feast of the Black Nazarene.
This is why Bishop Pabillo, supported by other prelates, are urging the government to relax the gauge set so far.
“The faithful say they want seating capacity to be increased to 50 percent. I hope health officials will increase the number of people allowed in churches, especially now that Holy Week is approaching. If the protocols of the bishops are working, perhaps more people can be allowed to attend Masses,” Ranelle Montelibano from Manila told UCA News.
“Filipinos need spiritual nourishment to overcome the fatigue and ill-effects brought by the pandemic,” Montelibano added.
This advice deserves to be heard in a secularized Europe, where bishops sometimes pre-empt governments to close churches, as is the case in Portugal.