Filipino Catholics grateful for easing of Mass restrictions as Lent begins
CNA Staff, Feb 19, 2021 / 06:26 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Charles Brown, the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, applauded the government’s decision to ease restrictions on religious services, which he said is especially timely as the Church enters the season of Lent.
Brown spoke to CNN Philippines after a government task force loosened regulations on religious services throughout the country. The archbishop said this will allow Catholics to have additional spiritual opportunities during the penitential season of Lent. He encouraged Catholics to use this time to pray for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Whatever we can do to bring more people to mass in a safe way, I’m absolutely in favor of [it],” Brown told CNN.
“We have to, you know, keep a few things in balance. One, we need to do anything possible to prevent the spread of this virus and to keep people safe. Secondly, we need to realize the real experience of Mass [is] not in front of [a] TV screen or a computer screen but actually receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus which is the essence of our celebration of the Mass,” he added.
Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, urged Catholics to continue taking the coronavirus seriously.
“Covid-19 hasn’t been extinguished yet from our midst. We are still not safe from this virus and its unpredictable nature makes it a major threat to everyone’s health,” he said, according to Radio Veritas.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases eased coronavirus restrictions last week, increasing venue capacity for religious services from 30% to 50%. However, children and adults over 60 are still prohibited from attending Mass.
Harry Roque, a spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte, confirmed the decision on Feb. 17.
The decision was welcomed joyfully by local Catholic communities, UCA News reported. A group of altar servers in San Jacinto Parish in Quezon City expressed hope that the decision would permit more Masses to be celebrated during Lent and on Sundays.
“We would like to thank our health authorities for listening to the call of our bishops to allow more parishioners to enter churches. We received reports saying that churches are not the spreaders of the virus provided health protocols are followed,” they said, according to UCA News.
Mariel De Guzman, a catechist in Manila Archdiocese, also applauded the decision, saying many Filipinos turn to their faith in this time of psychological difficulty.
“With the economic problems that we [Filipinos] have … job retrenchments, lack of job opportunities, expensive Covid testing, to whom can we go? To Jesus. Only to Christ. He gives us hope during this desperate time,” she said.