Greenhills mall Masses suspended

- Nikko Dizon -
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales has ordered an indefinite suspension of Masses at the Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan amid a brewing controversy over the construction of a Muslim mosque in the area.

"To be fair, I stopped the holding of Masses in Virra Mall. I did that if only to satisfy all sides, although the area is completely, 99 percent Catholic," Rosales told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) at the Manila Hotel yesterday.

Rosales advised the faithful to attend Masses in nearby churches in the meantime, such as the Santuario de San Jose, Mary the Queen and Pinaglabanan church. The EDSA Shrine is also a short distance away from the Greenhills shopping complex.

Rosales admitted that by suspending the holding of Catholic services at the shopping complex, the controversy has already turned into a religious issue.

Nevertheless, Rosales expressed sadness that the construction for a place of worship has created a storm in the upscale and relatively quiet community. He said he does not oppose having a mosque in the area.

He noted that in Parañaque City, there is one right across the Baclaran Church.

He expressed hope that, in the same vein, Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait would practice the same religious tolerance and allow Filipino Catholics there to have their own place of worship.

Greenhills residents have opposed the construction plans of the Ortigas & Co. Ltd. Partnership for a mosque - dubbed the Islamic Prayer Center - in the North Greenhills Shopping Center, saying the shopping center’s management failed to consult them on the project.

In his column over the past several days, STAR publisher Max V. Soliven said the residents and merchants of Greenhills have expressed apprehension over plans to set up a mosque in the Greenhills shopping center because they fear that this will give lawless elements who also happen to be Muslim a "base of operations" within the community.

Leaders of the Federation of Greenhills Associations of San Juan and 30 condominium buildings in the area have met to plan drastic action — possibly strong legal action — against Ortigas & Co. Ltd. Partnership president Rafael "Rafa" Ortigas and general manager and chief operating officer Rex Drilon II over the matter, Soliven said.

In his column published yesterday, Soliven added that "one alibi being discreetly trotted out is that the Ortigas Company bunch... must appease the Muslim black market vendors... because they are being serenaded kuno by the competing Ayala Corporation... to desert the Greenhills shopping center and move into the... supermall being planned by the Ayalas in their portion of Fort Bonifacio."

According to Soliven, "a complete ‘boycott’ by Christian residents of Greenhills and the surrounding area of the Shopping Center and all its shops, restaurants and facilities, including banks, was... discussed last night."

In a radio interview, San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito said that a prayer room is to be built — not an P8-million mosque as earlier reported.

Ejercito said there is no final decision on the project yet but added that an ecumenical prayer room might be constructed instead.

Greenhills is a popular shopping destination for upper middle class Filipinos.

Ejercito noted that most of the Muslim vendors have been doing their daily prayers in several areas in the shopping complex that the management thought it best to provide them a common prayer room.

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