A high-ranking member of Manila’s Catholic Church has appealed to the government to allow the resumption of masses in areas that have been put under the general community quarantine (GCQ).
Father Broderick Pabillo, the auxiliary bishop of Manila, told ABS-CBN’s online radio show Teleradyo that religious activities should be considered as “essential services” that deserve to resume during GCQ.
While technically still a lockdown, a GCQ will allow some businesses to reopen. It’s a looser form of the enhanced community quarantine, where only frontliners such as grocery store workers and healthcare professionals are allowed to work.
“These are needed to strengthen our mental, psychological, spiritual resilience in these times,” Pabillo said in English and Filipino. “That’s why the church should be reopened for these services.”
Pabillo couldn’t hide his bewilderment that the government’s anti-COVID-19 task force will allow the opening of recreational establishments during a GCQ, but plan to forbid religious activities.
“What I find saddening about their guidelines, restaurants will be opened, salons will be opened…but the church will not be opened. They considered a church to be in the same category as theaters or concert [venues] but those aren’t giving the same type of services provided by churches. It’s still possible to offer religious services with physical distancing. We are appealing [to the government] because people are asking for it; they are keen to resume their relationship with God,” the bishop added.
Should they be allowed to offer religious services, the organization would open churches at half-capacity to ensure physical distancing. Hand sanitizers will also be placed in the church and people will be required to wear face masks.
“The churches will open at half capacity but there will be more masses during the week. We will continue to offer online masses so that the elderly, those who are afraid of going out, they can go online. But those who can go out, they can go to church. We will have more masses,” he said.
“During weddings, only one godmother and one godfather will be allowed inside. Bridesmaids and best men will not be allowed. Weddings should be simple, and only [a few] witnesses [are allowed],” he added.
Malacañang Palace initially said that religious activities will be allowed during the GCQ, but the plan was shelved after some local governments protested. The coronavirus is transmitted easily during crowded religious activities held in churches and mosques, as shown by what happened in South Korea’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus and the Greenhills Masjid in San Juan, Metro Manila.
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