Catholic prelate urges IATF to junk limit on number of churchgoers, consider masses 'essential services'

By Leslie Aquino

Since churches have resorted to saying masses online during the community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Catholic prelate said this has deprived the faithful from physically receiving Holy Communion.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo (CBCP NEWS / ROY LAGARDE) Bishop Broderick Pabillo (CBCP NEWS / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

"Yes, we have these online masses but these are not the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. It is the same as watching a birthday party or Christmas party online. It's not the same as being in the party itself," Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said during a Mass at the Sta Cruz Church in Manila for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

"In these online masses we are deprived of Holy Communion," Pabillo added.

He said people make do with this temporary arrangement of online mass because of the extraordinary situation, but it is not the mass itself.

"Participating in this online mass yes, helps us spiritually. You hear the words of God. It helps you to pray. You become part of a worshipping community, but deep down we know it's not the mass," Pabillo said.

He stressed online masses are not the same as the real Eucharist.

The Manila prelate said "virtual" is not enough as people want the real thing.

"Our celebration with God and our relationship with him is something that is real, actual, and cannot be reduced to virtual," said Pabillo.

He added that the faithful all long to go back to participate in the mass in the church because the Eucharist is important to them.

Pabillo appealed anew to the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to consider religious services as essential services.

"There is a need to speak out because for us the Eucharist is important. The Eucharist is important to us, we fight for what is important," he said

Bishop Pabillo said religious activities should not necessarily be considered as mass gatherings as they have safeguards to control the people who come to masses and religious activities.

"So it's not fair for them to limit our attendance in the general community quarantine (GCQ) to only 10 persons irrespective of the sizes of our churches," Pabillo said.

Metro Manila is currently under GCQ and it is expected to end June 15.