Manila Catholic bishop asks authorities to allow more people to attend religious services

Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila has appealed to authorities to allow more people to attend religious services amid the more relaxed community quarantine in the national capital.

“If [authorities] allow business enterprises to have a bigger capacity, they should also give the same to the church,” said Bishop Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, on Aug. 20.

Despite the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the national capital back to a more relaxed “general community quarantine” this week.

Under the measure, all industries are allowed to reopen, restaurants will be allowed to resume dine-in operations, while gatherings, including religious activities, will be limited to up to 10 people.

In July, when a “general community quarantine” was implemented, religious gatherings were allowed up to 10 percent of a venue’s capacity.

“The problem is they change their decision every time,” said Bishop Pabillo in a radio interview. “We have to adjust again.”

He said, however, that it does not seem right that restaurants are allowed up to 30 percent of their capacity while churches are only allowed ten percent.

“Churches are much bigger that restaurants. It does not sound logical,” said Bishop Pabillo. He said parishioners wear masks and face shields when they are in church.

The Manila prelate, however, said church leaders will abide by the guidelines set by the government.

Health personnel attend to patients in a tent outside a hospital in the Philippine capital. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on the entire healthcare system of the country. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

The Diocese of Cubao, also in the national capital, announced that parishes may resume their religious activities although the decision is still up to the discretion of parish priests.

“I leave it to the discretion of the parish priest because in some areas they have some COVID-19 cases,” said Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao.

He said they will “always follow” all the protocols of the government when it comes to implementing quarantine measures.

The diocese temporarily suspended public liturgical services as a response to the call of medical frontliners for a “time out” amid the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

The Diocese of Antipolo on Aug. 18 also announced the reopening of their churches.

The diocese assured the public that it will be adopting a “cautious approach” in resuming the celebrations of Holy Mass and other church activities.

Earlier this week, the Catholic Ateneo de Manila University released the result of a study that claims nearly three million Filipinos or 2.6 percent of the Philippines’ estimated population of 106 million may have been infected with COVID-19 from April to June but are undetected.

The study released on Aug. 18 by the university’s Department of Economics and authored by Jan Frederick Cruz found that “roughly 98 percent of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines have gone undetected during the second quarter of 2020.”

Meanwhile, experts from the University of the Philippines have earlier warned that cases in the country may reach 230,000 by the end of August if the government eases quarantine measures.

As of Aug. 19, the Philippines Department of Health confirmed 4,650 new COVID-19 infections and 111 more deaths.

In a bulletin, the department said total confirmed cases have risen to 173,774, the highest in Southeast Asia, while deaths have increased to 2,795.

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