Current Covid-19 regulations in the Philippines only allow churches to operate at 30 percent of their capacity for Masses and other services. (Photo: UCA News)
A Philippine bishop has urged the government to relax anti-Covid-19 measures by allowing more people to attend church services, especially during upcoming Holy Week celebrations.
According to Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the Catholic Church’s “effective” protocols are helping prevent the spread of the virus.
“Churches are not coronavirus spreaders because the management of services [and protocols] is good,” Bishop Pabillo said in a homily at a Manila Cathedral Mass on Feb. 8.
Bishop Pabillo cited Christmas celebrations and the feast of the Black Nazarene in January as examples where control measures were implemented to allow hundreds of churchgoers to worship in and around particular churches.
“There was no spike in the virus in Manila after the [Christmas] holidays and the Black Nazarene feast. It shows that churches, with the implementation of strict health protocols, are not super spreaders of the virus,” Bishop Pabillo said.
In May last year, the bishops’ conference released liturgical guidelines to help contain the virus, such as the installation of foot baths outside churches and physical distancing.
The government has limited the number of attendees in a church to not more than 30 percent of seating capacity, but exceptions were made regarding Christmas and the Black Nazerene feast.
Bishop Pabillo urged the government to increase the allowed seating capacity for all churches.
Other prelates supported the call.
“Many were apprehensive about large gatherings for religious activities for Christmas and feast days. But thanks be to God, all were proven wrong,” Tarlac Diocese said in a social media post.
The diocese also thanked churchgoers for observing “strict” health protocols inside churches and making them a success.
“What is important is to carry on solidifying our efforts to end the pandemic through unity and self-discipline,” it said.
Churchgoers say they want seating capacity to be increased to 50 percent.
“I hope health officials will increase the number of people allowed in churches, especially now that Holy Week is approaching. If the protocols of the bishops are working, perhaps more people can be allowed to attend Masses,” Ranelle Montelibano from Manila told UCA News.
Filipinos need spiritual nourishment to overcome the fatigue and ill-effects brought by the pandemic, Montelibano added.