Ash Wednesday rite turns tragic: 1 dead

Ash Wednesday rite turns tragic: 1 dead

church balcony collapsed

CAVE-IN A termite infestation is believed to have contributed to the partial collapse of the balcony at the St. Peter the Apostle Parish Church in the City of San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, which left an elderly woman dead and 55 others injured, on Ash Wednesday. —Photo from the Official Facebook Page of the City of San Jose del Monte Public Information Office

CITY OF SAN JOSE DEL MONTE—Churchgoers were queuing up for the ashing ceremony at the St. Peter the Apostle Parish here on Ash Wednesday, when the ritual descended into tragedy after a portion of the church balcony collapsed, leaving an 82-year-old woman dead and 55 others injured, local authorities said.

Interviewed by the Inquirer, Fr. Romulo Perez, the parish priest, said the incident happened right after the homily was delivered by Fr. Divino Cayanan, as the Catholic devotees were lining up to receive the sign of the cross on their foreheads with ash from a lay minister.


“A lot of people attended [the 6:30 a.m. Mass] so many went up instead of hearing the Mass outside,” he said.


Ash Wednesday signals the start of Lent among Roman Catholics.

READ: Diocese of Malolos offers prayers for victims of collapsed church floor

According to the priest, what caved in was the edge of a wooden floor facing the left side of the altar. The choir loft, which had concrete flooring, had remained intact, Perez noted.

Luneta Morales, a resident of Dela Costa Homes in Barangay San Manuel in this city, was attending the Mass when a portion of the wooden floor of the 30-year-old church’s mezzanine fell on her, said Col. Edilmar Alviar, the city police chief.

According to Alviar, Morales was rushed to the emergency room but succumbed to cardiac arrest due to blunt trauma at around 1:30 p.m. at the Ospital ng Lungsod ng San Jose del Monte.

Two of the injured victims, an 82-year-old woman and a 49-year-old lay minister, suffered severe back pain and fractures, respectively, Mayor Arthur Robes told the Inquirer by phone.


Termite infestation

The church located in Barangay Tungkong Mangga was constructed in 1994, but there were telltale signs of termite infestation during maintenance checks, according to Perez.

“For the past 30 years, while there are new constructions made outside the church, there have been no repairs or renovations made inside the church,” said Gina Ayson, head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.

In a statement, Malolos Bishop Dennis Villarojo said those injured, mostly from bruises, were assisted by the parish officials.

“The city authorities are currently investigating the incident, and the parish church is closed until further notice,” Villarojo said.

According to the prelate, he had instructed all parish priests to check their parish structures due to the large number of the Catholic faithful coming every year in time for the Lenten season.

Villarojo also extended his condolences to the family of Morales, adding that he was praying for the recovery of those who were injured.

Hospital cost, aid

Robes assured the public that the city government would shoulder all hospitalization costs and give assistance to all victims, including the fatality’s next of kin.

“The churches in our city do not undergo the mandatory inspection every year unlike business establishments. We only do inspections in churches, when there is a complaint,” the mayor explained.

But Robes said the city government was not keen on pursuing charges against anyone, including officials of the church.

“We cannot blame the church. No one wanted this tragedy to happen. This is just an accident,” the mayor said, noting that he also regularly attended Masses at the parish church.

St. Peter the Apostle Parish Church is among the 104 churches under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Malolos, encompassing the entire province of Bulacan and Valenzuela City in Metro Manila.

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It is one of the 12 churches under the Vicariate of San Jose del Monte.

TAGS: Church, collapse, Malolos

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