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UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
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Philippines

Philippine bishops ban elderly from returning to church

Seniors asked to remain at home once churches reopen until Covid-19 is contained

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Philippine bishops ban elderly from returning to church

Elderly Filipinos are being told to stay away from churches when they reopen in the Philippines until the coronavirus outbreak has been contained. (Photo: Douglas Magno/AFP)

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Catholic bishops in the Philippines have issued pastoral letters telling elderly parishioners to make sacrifices by staying at home when churches reopen after June 15.

The letters were issued after the government announced on June 10 that President Rodrigo Duterte may soon allow religious gatherings subject to social distancing rules.

“My dear elderly parish volunteers, even as we appreciate your willingness and good intention to serve, please make this sacrifice not to serve in liturgical services until this pandemic is over,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Manila’s apostolic administrator.

Bishop Pabillo said the move was temporary due to the “hidden enemy” that continued to linger in public places such as churches.

“The time will surely come when you [the elderly] may again be able to come and serve, which we hope and pray will be soon,” said the pastoral letter.

Bishop Pabillo also appealed for young volunteers to serve on behalf of elderly ministers to help give communion to the sick in their homes.

“We sorely need younger volunteers. I would appeal to our elderly parish volunteers that if you truly love your parish, you will recruit one or two young volunteers to take your place in the church,” said the prelate.

Bishop Pabillo encouraged youths to join the health and sanitization ministry in charge of disinfecting altar vessels and church premises, according to new liturgical guidelines issued by the bishops’ conference.

Meanwhile, Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga reminded churchgoers of quarantine rules, also saying senior citizens [60 years old and above] should remain at home during the pandemic.

“To stay at home is to make us safe from being contaminated or contaminating someone else. Coronavirus is our enemy that we cannot see. It thrives and hides in the crowd,” said Bishop Santos in his pastoral letter.

Bishop Santos told elderly churchgoers to stay at home even if government restrictions were lifted in provinces outside Metro Manila. He cited the continuous rise of Covid-19 and a lack of mass testing in Philippine medical facilities.

“God understands our situation and accepts our predicaments. He sympathizes with us. He always does something for our own good and safety. With God’s mercy, he excuses us from attending Sunday Masses,” he said in his pastoral letter.

Bishop Santos also asked for patience as many may insist on attending Mass and other liturgical celebrations despite quarantine restrictions.

“Patience is your [the elderly] most lived virtue. Now, with this stay at home, your patience is being asked from you,” said the prelate.

As of June 14, the Philippines had recorded 25,930 Covid-19 cases with 1,088 deaths. Eighty-three percent of the fatalities were people aged 60 and above, according to government figures.

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