By Leslie Ann Aquino and Christina Hermoso
To put an end to the practice of charging fees for sacraments and other church services, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos has ordered the removal of fees for funeral masses and blessings in his diocese which will be fully implemented on April 21.
The prelate said the move was necessary to console with the grieving persons of the faithful departed.
“Financial obligations from the perspective of the Church are not of prime importance and must not be a burden to them,” he said in a CBCP News post.
Santos said no fees for masses must be required by priests even for those in funeral parlors and memorial chapels.
“We should not oblige them either for the arancel but we can be open for their free will to give or donate to the Church,” he said.
The arancel system in the Church refers to the practice of giving fixed donations or stipends to priests for specific church services, like sacraments and sacramentals.
The Balanga prelate revealed that they will also start removing arancel on baptism, weddings, confirmation and Masses in the coming years.
“We will make an auditing of the parishes, which of them are ready and how to prepare barangay parishes,” he said.
“But as we will celebrate our 50th year in 2025, it is our dream for our people that there would be no arancel system for sacraments in our diocese,” Santos added.
Aside from Balanga, other dioceses are also preparing for the gradual removal of the arancel system.
In the Archdiocese of Manila, some parishes have already started “to calibrate their finances” with the target of ending the arancel system by 2021, the fifth centenary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.
“This hopefully can be a gauge of the faithful of their change of paradigm in supporting the Church rather than thinking of ‘buying the sacraments’ from the Church,” Fr. Roy Bellen of the Manila archdiocese’s communications office said.
In 2015, Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also scrapped the system of charging fixed rates for sacraments and sacramentals in the archdiocese.
The archdiocese also stopped its parishes from charging fix rates for issuing canonical certificates. He instead, opted for ‘pananabangan’ to take its place.
“The Church will not get poorer with ‘pananabangan’ (stewardship) or voluntary donation. The Church will become more credible, more prophetic and more Christ like with ‘pananabangan.’ The arancel system is both a painful scourge on the long suffering people and a shameful stain in the vestments of the Church’s ministers. The arancel imprints an invisible and foul price tag on our priestly stole. It has been tolerated but in the beginning it was not so,” said Villegas, then the CBCP president, in a pastoral letter.
The abolition of the arancel, Villegas said, forms part of the “adventure of a new Church” and a deviation from the old system of Church sustenance. The archdiocese also stopped its parishes from charging fix rates for issuing canonical certificates starting 2016.