By Leslie Ann Aquino
The COVID-19 pandemic may have financially affected some churches, but a Catholic priest said this is not the reason why they continue to appeal to the Inter-Agency Task Force to Manage Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) not to limit the number of people attending religious services under the General Community Quarantine.
Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Public Affairs Committee, said they continue to appeal to the government as people are clamoring for public celebration of masses especially during this time of health crisis.
“They need it now more than ever,” he said in an interview.
“There is no doubt in our mind that prayers and liturgy are paramount in the lives of the people specially in this time of crisis,” added Secillano.
The priest said it is “unfair” to even think that the church is only after the people’s money when the fact is, it is constantly busy providing for the needy.
“In this time of pandemic, our focus is on how to help people survive and not to receive collections or donations,” Secillano said.
For his part, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo reiterated that while there are online masses, relationship with God is actual and not virtual.
“It is not so much the financial consideration because we get contributions online,” he said.
“It is to serve the poor and because the church cannot just be virtual,” added Pabillo.
To note, churches have to resort to online masses during the community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pabillo said on Sunday that online masses are not the same as the real Eucharist adding that it also deprived the faithful from physically receiving Holy Communion.
“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 added that people make do with this temporary arrangement of online mass because of the extraordinary situation, but it is not the mass itself.
The Manila prelate said “virtual” is not enough as people want the real thing.
Bishop Pabillo said religious activities should not necessarily be considered as mass gathering as they have safeguards to control the people who come to masses and religious activities.
The IATF-EID earlier allowed churches in modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) areas to hold services at 50 percent capacity.
But it kept the 10-people limit on religious gatherings in GCQ areas like Metro Manila due to large number of coronavirus cases.