Church seeks government nod on religious gatherings in areas under GCQ
MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Church and the Council of the Laity of the Philippines have appealed to the government to consider allowing religious gatherings, including Eucharistic celebrations, in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).
According to Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) permanent committee on public affairs, they are continuously communicating with the government to consider attending Masses in churches as an essential activity of the faithful.
“No, the Church is not quiet. The Church is doing her thing through our leaders in the proper way. The CBCP is coordinating with the IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) for it to consider public celebrations of the sacraments of the Church in the GCQ,” Secillano said in an interview over Church-run AM radio station Radio Veritas.
Essential work gatherings and religious activities will still be prohibited in areas under GCQ in order to prevent further transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The IATF reconsidered its decision to ease rules on mass gatherings in GCQ areas after some local officials voiced their opposition to the lifting of the ban on religious and work-related mass gatherings.
Secillano stressed that the Church continues to convey with the government about the faithful’s spiritual needs and their longing to receive the Eucharist in churches.
“I would like to emphasize that the Church has been compliant, the Church is obedient, the Church supports this protocol, quarantine and other safeguards. The Church has the capability to implement among the faithful these guidelines,” he said.
Despite these challenging times, Secillano assured the faithful that the Catholic Church would not cease in doing its purpose of bringing the people closer to God.
As the government imposed enhanced community quarantine, Christian churches across the country are also holding online Masses and services in a bid to contain the rapid spread of the COVID-19.“The Church has to innovate, do creative ways of proclaiming the Word, celebrating sacraments with the help of technology. The Church has been doing that,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Council of the Laity of the Philippines also appealed that religious gatherings be allowed in GCQ areas.
“With strict compliance to government guidelines on social distancing and sanitation, the lay faithful requests for religious gatherings, including Masses, baptisms, anointing of the sick and funerals, etc. to be allowed in the GCQ areas,” the group said in a statement.
“We demand that our right to religious worship be not curtailed when the necessary safeguards are followed,” it added.
“We present this appeal so as to give the Filipinos a sense of the new normal in their spiritual gatherings and an opportunity to uplift our spiritual well-being, which are both humane and essential,” the group said.
It also recommended that a further review be made, which may include looking into the possibility of delegating this decision to the local executives, “who have greater appreciation, information and control over the religious groups present among their constituents.”
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