Church to conform with IATF ban on public masses

Catholic officials in the National Capital Region and in the four provinces near Metro Manila will hold masses but without public participation inside churches in compliance with the protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DEVOTEES. Catholic faithfuls offer prayers to the images at the closed doors of St. Peter Parish: Shrine of Leaders along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Thursday (March 25, 2021). The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has suspended mass gatherings, including religious activities, in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal from March 22 to April 4 to curb the surge in coronavirus cases. Joey O. Razon

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano, in an interview with Manila Standard, said only those officiating the mass allowed inside.

“We can hold mass, that much is clear, for as long as we adhere to the limits set by the IATF on the number of people inside the church. There will be no public participation. We will hold mass and livestream it on Facebook,” Secillano added.

The Cabinet members of the IATF held a meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the recommendations of its technical working group that held a dialogue Wednesday evening with CBCP representatives.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who earlier met with Church leaders Tuesday, both declined to comment on the outcome of the meeting, saying an official announcement will be issued today.

The IATF earlier prohibited all religious gatherings with the implementation of the general community quarantine bubble in Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and Rizal until April 4, Easter Sunday.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, however, insisted that allowing a maximum attendance of 10-percent capacity does not constitute mass gathering.

Secillano declined to comment on the IATF meeting “because the CBCP was not involved in that meeting” but said the Archdiocese of Manila “will not defy” the limitations set by the government.

“Bishop Pabillo already said he is not defying the IATF,” Secillano added.

The Archdiocese of Manila covers the cities of Manila, Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, and San Juan, all within the Metro Manila quarantine bubble.

In an earlier interview, Secillano said the ban is inconsistent as baptisms, funeral Masses, and weddings are still allowed with attendance limited to only 10 persons.

“[I]t’s quite unreasonable because if you look at the policy, you allow 10 persons for baptisms, weddings, [and] funeral masses. But when it comes to masses, why is there totally none?” he said.

“There should be a rational approach to formulate a strategy. However, at the rate things are going, it appears irrational. There seems to be too many loopholes [and] inconsistencies,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis has appointed Capiz Cardinal Jose Advincula as the new Manila archbishop.

Advincula succeeded Cardinal Luis Tagle, who was named as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in December 2019.

In February last year, Pabillo was appointed as apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila.

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