Father Ronald Roberto celebrates Mass in a Manila street on the back of a pickup truck. (Photo courtesy of Father Roberto)
A parish priest in the Philippines is getting around strict Covid-19 social distancing regulations in capital Manila by celebrating Mass in the streets on the back of a pickup truck.
Father Ronald Roberto, parish priest of Holy Family Parish in Quezon City, has been celebrating Masses on street corners in Roxas district since May 26.
The initiative called “Truck ni Kura” (a parish priest’s truck) involves using a pickup with an improvised altar and sound system for community Masses in Father Roberto’s parish.
He launched the initiative as a result of calls by people wanting to celebrate the Eucharist.
“I saw how they longed for the Eucharist, for Jesus, during my relief work. Sacramental participation is a necessity for us Catholics,” Father Roberto told UCA News.
The Philippine government has recently relaxed quarantine restrictions, allowing no more than 50 percent of employees at private companies to return to work, but has maintained a ban on large religious gatherings in churches. The rules restrict attendees inside churches to between five and 10 people.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila has criticized this policy, saying it does not answer the people’s need for hope during the pandemic.
“There is great uncertainty about the future due to Covid-19. They [the people] need the assurance of a benign higher power. This is given by religion, more so in the Philippines, where people are very religious,” Pabillo said in a statement.
Father Roberto believed the pickup truck idea helps resolve this problem. “The Church takes careful consideration of her faithful. With all the difficulties and fear, we have resorted to bringing the Eucharist to the community without compromising their safety,” he said.
He said announcements on social media are made giving the location and time of his Masses. Residents are also advised to wear masks and observe physical distancing to comply with quarantine protocols.
Local officials are notified to assure them that government quarantine laws are being observed, he added.
Father Roberto said his Mass kits, which include the chalice and ciborium, are disinfected regularly and the hands of Massgoers are washed before they receive communion.
He said what he is doing is part of his priesthood and renewing a Filipino family custom of celebrating Mass together.
“Here, we see the integration of the Ecclesia and the domestic church in each Filipino home,” Father Roberto told UCA News.