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Palace to churches: Present distancing plans
Manila Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo has appealed to the government to allow public masses, saying religious services are also essential while the country is facing a crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
Manila Cathedral/Jason Molinas, file

Palace to churches: Present distancing plans

Evelyn Macairan, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 12, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday urged religious groups to coordinate with local government units (LGUs) and to present proposals on how to observe safe physical distancing in places of worship.

Manila Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo has appealed to the government to allow public masses, saying religious services are also essential while the country is facing a crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Pabillo assured authorities that physical distancing and sanitation measures would be implemented if masses are permitted.

Last month, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed religious events to be held in areas under the more lenient general community quarantine (GCQ). The task force took it back after local executives expressed concern that safe physical distancing may not be observed in religious ceremonies.

Asked if the IATF is open to allowing public masses, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said LGUs are the ones against the holding of religious events in GCQ areas.

“The IATF took back the recommendation allowing religious meetings in GCQ areas. So they need not be convinced. The ones who opposed it are the local officials. They are saying there is no way we can implement social distancing in churches and other places of worship because they cannot enter these places while people are worshiping,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

“So there is really a need for close coordination between the different churches and their local government units. They themselves have to present a plan to the local government units that will implement the quarantine, how they can implement social distancing,” he added.

The Archdiocese of Manila recently issued “new normal” protocols for church activities, including limiting allotting half-hour gaps between masses to disinfect churches, holding masses outside churches, and limiting the number of people who can join weddings and baptisms.

Roque said he was sure that a majority of the IATF are in favor of allowing religious gatherings.

Pabillo said that they are willing to comply with the protocols that would be given by the government to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 if they would be permitted to resume holding masses and other religious gatherings in GCQ areas.

“We are ready for as long as we would be allowed (to hold religious gatherings)… They just have to allow us resume our religious activities and we would follow because these activities serve as a source of resilience to the people,” Pabillo said in a radio interview. 

Even before President Duterte placed the entire Luzon, including Metro Manila, under enhanced community quarantine last March 17, the local Catholic Church had already implemented physical distancing measures to prohibit practices of some believers to stem the spread of the virus especially during the Holy Week and 40-day Season of Lent.

BRODERICK PABILLO CHURCH MASS PHYSICAL DISTANCING
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