AdChoiceTV News — The Catholic Church has assured the government that it would comply with the ban on mass gatherings and would not hold events during the Holy Week, Malacañang said Wednesday.
The Duterte administration has approved the enforcement of mobility restrictions in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal from March 22 to April 4 to arrest the surge in COVID-19 infections. The restrictions, which were approved days before the Holy Week, include a ban on mass gatherings, including religious events.
Despite the ban, Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo issued a pastoral instruction last Tuesday stating that religious worship would continue in his archdiocese but only up to 10% of churches would be filled up.
Speaking to Teleradyo Wednesday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has assured Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra that the Church would follow the safety measures set by the government.
“There is no problem because the Catholic Church has spoken through the CBCP,” Roque said.
“Yesterday (March 23), I got a text (message) from Secretary Meynard Guevarra because he was assigned to coordinate with religious groups. He said there is no problem anymore and it has been clarified that the Catholic Church would follow the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) resolution,” he added.
Roque noted that only one bishop has announced a plan to hold religious services at 10% of churches’ capacity. Because of the assurance, churches would no longer hold masses during the Holy Week, he added.
“This has been clarified after a discussion within the organization of the Catholic Church,” the Palace spokesman said.
During a press briefing last Tuesday, Roque expressed hope that Pabillo would not encourage disregard for the pandemic measures set by the IATF. He had argued that defiance of the prohibition against mass gatherings is not covered by the separation of Church and state.
“What is covered (by the separation) is the freedom to believe and the freedom not to endorse a religion. But in the exercise of police powers, we can order the churches closed. We hope we won’t reach that point, bishop Pabillo,” Roque said.
Reporting by Albert Rovic Tan