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Filipino bishop wants clerics near top of vaccination list

Priests 'at high risk of catching, spreading coronavirus when administering sacraments'

Filipino bishop wants clerics near top of vaccination list

Health workers holds a sign calling for free and safe Covid-19 vaccines during a protest outside the Lung Center of the Philippines in Manila on March 1. (Photo: Maria Tan/AFP)

A bishop has urged the Philippine government to prioritize clergymen and church workers in its Covid vaccination program to prevent the spread of the virus at religious gatherings.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, a diocese in Bataan province, north of Manila, said the government must not profit from the vaccine but must safeguard the poor.

“In our diocese, we are working with the provincial government for the procurement of vaccines at a lower cost for our priests, parents and church workers. Priests are exposed to Covid-19 contamination every time they administer a sacrament like Mass. They have to be vaccinated,” Bishop Santos told Radio Veritas.

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He said his diocese has allocated a budget to procure the vaccine from the government. He said other dioceses in the Philippines should do the same.

“Respectfully considering their consent and decision, we will provide free vaccinations to our priests, their parents and our diocesan and parochial personnel,” Bishop Santos added.

Most bishops have publicly supported the vaccination program. Several said they are willing to be vaccinated in public to allay fears.

“We know that the Holy Father and Pope Benedict XVI have been vaccinated. That’s a wonderful example. If it helps if people see me publicly vaccinated, why not?” bishops’ conference president Archbishop Romulo Valles said in January.

Bishop Santos’ comments come just as it was reported that two of Cebu’s prelates had been infected with the coronavirus.

Cebu Archdiocese announced on March 1 that Archbishop Jose Palma and Auxiliary Bishop Antonio Rañola were discharged from hospital after recovering. It said Archbishop Palma tested positive on Feb. 19, while Bishop Ranola tested positive the following day

Churchgoers said Bishop Santos’ call made sense.

“Priests celebrating Mass are always at risk. It is proper that they receive the vaccine so that they will not be spreaders in their parish,” Manila churchgoer Aldrin Castro told UCA News.

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