Updated: October 31, 2016 07:36 AM GMT
Wearing of scary Halloween costume is being discouraged by Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines. (Photo by Mike Taboy)
Church leaders in the Philippines have warned Catholics to be wary of bogus priests offering their services for money during the observance of All Souls' Day.
Catholic priests don't go around cemeteries peddling their services, said Father Jerome Secillano of the public affairs office of the bishops' conference.
"If somebody who is dressed like a priest and acts like a priest offers to bless the grave of your departed ones and asks for a fee, you should be wary," said Father Secillano.
"We pray and bless the grave but we don’t ask for payment. We are not paid for that," said the priest.
"If somebody asks for money, you should immediately doubt. It’s a red alert that he is a fake," he added.
While All Souls' Day falls on Nov. 2 based on the Church's liturgical calendar, Filipino Catholics traditionally observe the Day of the Dead on Nov. 1, All Saints' Day.
This year, millions of people flocked to the provinces and cemeteries as early as Oct. 29 to visit the tombs of their dear departed.
The presidential palace urged the public to observe a clean, orderly, crime-free break.
"As we remember our departed loved ones, we ask everyone to observe the solemnity of the occasion," said presidential spokesman Martin Andanar.
In Manila, some 10,000 police personnel have already been deployed to secure cemeteries, bus terminals, airports and seaports, churches and places of worship.
Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action secretariat of the bishops’ conference, urged Catholics to be "extra careful" during the four-day holiday.
"While praying for the souls of our dead, let us also pray for our safety," said Father Gariguez. "It is also imperative for us, the living, to take care of ourselves and our loved ones," he added.
He said the occasion is an opportunity to reunite with the family.
Church leaders in the Philippines are warning against fake priests who try to bless tombs of the dead in exchange for money on All Souls' Day. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)
Father Roy Bellen of Manila Archdiocese, meanwhile, lamented the growing "commercialization" of the observance of All Souls' Day.
The priest admitted that the church has a difficult time fighting consumerism because Halloween "has become an industry."
"Still, we hope to explain these things to the faithful. We teach them about the value of prayer," he said.
It is common practice among Filipinos to bring candles, flowers, and even food as offerings on the tombs of loved.
"People offer food and drinks and put them on top of the tombs as if the dead can still eat," said Father Jayar Babor of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
The church leaders also voiced their criticism of the practice of wearing scary costumes during Halloween, which the priests said is not part of Filipino culture.
"The dead are not supposed to be remembered that way. They are to be remembered with love," said Father Babor.
"The dead are not meant to be scary but they are meant to be prayed for. The church is sad that we have a wrong understanding on this," said Father Bellen.
This year, Manila Archdiocese will hold a "March of Saints" where children dress as saints in a procession.
Father Bellen said the event will highlight the lives and virtues of Catholic saints, and is aimed at stemming Halloween practices.
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