A police officer speaks to a motorist at a checkpoint during a new round of Covid-19 lockdown measures in Manila on Aug. 4. More Philippine dioceses are closing church doors in response to a spike in cases. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)
More dioceses in the Philippines have issued statements canceling religious gatherings in churches due to rising Covid-19 cases and the need for government authorities to reassess the country’s pandemic response.
They joined Cubao Diocese, which called off Masses and public gatherings on Aug. 2.
President Rodrigo Duterte reimposed strict quarantine protocols on July 31 in Manila and other provinces after coronavirus infections spiked to more than 100,000.
Health workers had also called for a time-out and breather due to an overwhelming number of Covid patients that have left no more hospital beds available in Manila health facilities.
The dioceses joining Cubao in closing church doors included Manila Archdiocese and the dioceses of Kalookan, Paranaque, Novaliches, Pasig, Antipolo, Imus, Malolos and San Pablo.
Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo said his decision to cancel religious gatherings was in response to the medical community’s call for a time-out and for the government to reflect on its pandemic policies.
“We share the compassion of medical frontliners, for the many sick people being brought to our hospitals. We have witnessed their dedicated service to those who come to them. Many among them are tired and even discouraged by their heavy responsibilities. So, we support their appeal for a time-out,” the bishop said in his pastoral letter.
“It seems that the current responses are not working because cases are still rising after four and a half months of quarantine.”
In Paranaque Diocese, Bishop Jesse Mercado also asked churchgoers to pray and to support doctors and nurses who “tirelessly” take care of Covid patients.
“Let us intensify our support for our beloved frontliners, especially our prayers for their strength and good health, as well as protection of their families against Covid-19,” said Bishop Mercado in a statement.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said that Catholics need not come to church in order to halt the further spread of the coronavirus.
“It has gotten worse. Just this past week, Covid-19 positive cases have doubled. Because of this, we are, once again, closing the doors of the church,” he said in a statement.
Bishop Santos also said that Masses would be livestreamed from Aug 4-18.
“We are all struggling and burdened. We have become apprehensive as we are all at risk and in danger of contamination,” he said.
Bishop Roberto Gaa of Novaliches said the fight against the coronavirus is “everyone’s responsibility” that involved the participation of all.
“First, we should take care of ourselves. Let us not pass this responsibility to others. And if we do that, we also take care of our family and all the people we meet,” Bishop Gaa told reporters.
He also urged churchgoers to follow government-issued health protocols and avoid unnecessary trips outside of homes.
“If we do our part, we are also helping our [medical] frontliners,” the bishop added.