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Philippines

Philippine prelate bids to save Christmas dawn Masses

Manila apostolic administrator calls for easing of curfew to allow people to attend traditional Masses

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila

Updated: October 21, 2020 09:02 AM GMT
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Philippine prelate bids to save Christmas dawn Masses

Manila apostolic administrator, Bishop Broderick Pabillo wants an adjustment to an anti-Covid-19 curfew in manila to allow Catholics to attend pre-dawn Masses in the run-up to Christmas. (Photo: UCA News)  

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A Catholic bishop has called on authorities in the Philippine capital Manila to adjust curfew hours to allow churchgoers to attend simbang gabi or dawn masses from Dec. 16 until Dec. 24.

Manila apostolic administrator, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, told Radio Veritas he has written to Manila’s chief executive, Isko Moreno Domagoso to end the curfew at 3:30 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. to allow churchgoers to leave their homes to attend the masses.

Simbang gabi is a Filipino term for “night Mass” which is composed of a nine-day series of Masses celebrated before Christmas.

The masses are traditionally held between 3:00 to 5:00 every morning between Dec. 16 and Dec. 24. The last Mass on Christmas Eve is called Misa de Gallo or the “rooster’s Mass”, which refers to the cock crowing at dawn.

Bishop Pabillo said Filipino traditions must be observed especially if they bring hope and inspiration to churchgoers.

“Traditions like these [simbang gabi] have a long history and are deeply embedded in our Filipino culture. They are not merely practices but an expression of love and faith of the Filipino people. Something that we direly need of during this pandemic,” he said.

Government authorities have allowed thirty percent seating capacity in Manila churches while a uniform curfew has been imposed as part of quarantine protocols.

Bishop Pabillo has said that while it was important to curb the spread of the virus through science, a spiritual dimension was also important.

“We are not mere scientific beings. We are also spiritual beings and it is faith that sustains us during this pandemic. Without our faith, we can easily break and lose hope, without it, we can easily surrender and say ‘everything is over’,” he said.

The Filipino prelate said he was happy that churches had held Masses in the evening to accommodate the needs of Catholics with different work schedules.

“We are just waiting for the response of the [local authorirties], especially about the curfew. If masses could be adjusted in the evenings, why can’t we do it early in the morning provided physical distancing measures are followed,” Bishop Pabillo said.

Manila churchgoers were backing Bishop Pabillo’s efforts

“We also need to nourish our spirits as well as our bodies. During this pandemic, we hear so much about deaths and depression. Going to church and celebrating Mass will help ease our problems,” one parishioner, Teresa Javier, told UCA News.

Government officials themselves need the spiritual nourishment that Bishop Pabillo was referring to in order to serve the people “better” and make the common good a priority, she said.

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