Manila Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo.
By Tracy cabrera
MANILA — Despite a directive from Malacañang to all sectors, including the Church, to follow health safety protocols, particularly against mass gatherings, the Archdiocese of Manila announced that it would still open its churches for worship at a limited capacity during Holy Week.
The decision was contrary to the government’s protocols aimed at controlling the surge in Covid-19 infections that reached a record single-day high of 8,019 last Monday, March 22, 2021.
However, in a pastoral instruction for Holy Week, Manila Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo said there would be “no religious activity outside of our churches such as senakulo, pabasa, processions, motorcades, and visita iglesia.”
The bishop decried the government’s ban of religious gatherings amid the surge of Covid-19 cases while allowing spas, gyms, and restaurants to operate.
He said the inter-agency task force on the country’s pandemic response violated religious freedom and the principle of separation of Church and State by imposing restrictions without even consulting the Church.
“We have religious freedom, and they cannot restrict our religious activities. We have followed the protocols and guidelines which were manifested during the Feast of the Nazareno and the Simbang Gabi, when many people went to the Church, and nothing bad happened to us,” he stressed.
Pabillo also reiterated that the Catholic Church followed the guidelines on minimum health protocols, as churches were allowed to operate at a bigger capacity under general community quarantine.
“We will continue with our activities. It may be limited because of physical distancing. Our online activities will push through, and we encourage the faithful who want to join us physically to be aware of our limits inside the church,” he noted.
“But within our churches starting March 24, we will have our religious worship within 10 percent of our maximum church capacity,” the prelate added.
A pastoral instruction was uploaded on Facebook by the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Communications and advised: “Let the worshippers are spread apart within our churches, using the health protocols that we have been so consistently implementing.”
Pabillo assured the public that although most of the faithful won’t be able to physically go to church, many of the activities would be streamed online.
Instructions on how each celebration of the Holy Week will be done will also be issued by the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission “in a few days,” he added.
According to Pabillo’s pastoral instructions, the Consecration of the Holy Chrism and Blessing of the Oil of the Sick in the Manila Cathedral will proceed on Holy Wednesday, with the simple Chrism Mass to be attended only by a few priests and few faithful.
Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Cebu has reminded churches in the province and its devotees to strictly follow minimum health standards in celebrating the Holy Week.
During the Chrism Mass and Renewal of Commitment to Priestly Service, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma reminded churchgoers about the guidelines the Archdiocese has released in line with the upcoming Holy Week.
“All over the province, there will be no ‘visita iglesia’ and there will be no processions, too, or opportunities to gather together. We will be having just a simple and basic celebration of the Holy Week and Easter Sunday,” Palma said in Cebuano.
The bishop reiterated in particular instructions not to hold crowd-gathering events even as he asked the public to understand the situation and considering that Covid-19 cases are still rising.
While the faithful are allowed to attend events inside parish churches, the church sustained several policies implemented in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
Vigils on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, prayer meetings, pasyon or pabasa inside chapels or homes, crowd-drawing devotional processions such as Via Crucis on Fridays of Lent and within the days of the Holy Week, pasos either on Holy Tuesday or Holy Wednesday, visita iglesia on Holy Thursday, Santo Entierro and La Soledad processions on Good Friday, Sugat at dawn of Easter Sunday is still prohibited. (AI|MTVN)