A Catholic priest in the Philippine capital described as “abuse of prudence” the government’s order to limit to ten people the number of those who can attend church services.
Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs committee of the bishops’ conference, said authorities failed to consider the many big Catholic churches in the country.
The priest said these churches can accommodate more people without sacrificing “social distancing.”
“Limiting the number of churchgoers to 10 is, I think, an abuse of prudence,” said the priest, adding that there are many big churches that can even accommodate a hundred people standing up to two meters apart.
He said authorities “should have at least considered that reality.”
Father Secillano said dioceses across the country have also formulated detailed guidelines on how to hold the public celebration of religious activities.
“It would be better for [authorities] to look at [the guidelines] and decide the viability of the proposed strategies,” he said.
The priest said he will raise the issue on Monday, May 18, when church leaders meet with government representatives.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, described the “limitations” set to hold religious activities as “unreasonable.”
“It is just another way of saying that you do not have religious activities,” said the bishop in a statement.
“Where did they get these numbers? Why is it that they do not give the absolute numbers of persons who can enter a store, or work in the office, or in the factory? Do they say that only 10 persons should be in an office, or that 20 persons work in a factory, or that only 5 persons can enter a store at a time?” said the prelate.
“This would be preposterous!” he added.
Bishop Pabillo agreed with Father Secillano that there are many big churches in the country.
“Five persons for such a big church as Baclaran or the Manila Cathedral is laughable,” he said, adding that the “one-size-fits-all directive is really unreasonable.”
The prelate said the directive on religious activities “was surely taken without any consultation with the religious sector.”
“This is a problem with the government. They make arbitrary decisions without proper consultation with the sectors involved. So they come out with unreasonable directives,” added Bishop Pabillo.
The government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases has earlier announced that it will allow religious gatherings of up to ten people in areas under “general community quarantine.”
“While adhering to the prescribed minimum health standards, religious gatherings are not encouraged but in any case should be not more than 10 persons,” read the guidelines issued by the task force.
Religious gatherings remain prohibited in areas under the “enhanced community quarantine.”
The strictest lockdown, however, will allow the movement of pastors, priests, rabbis, imams and other religious ministers who will lead necrological or funeral rites.
“Immediate family members of the deceased from causes other than COVID-19 shall be allowed to move from their residences to attend the wake or internment of the deceased upon satisfactory proof of their relationship with the latter and social distancing measures,” read the IATF guidelines.