Most Filipino Catholics are in favor of the resumption of the public celebration of Masses in areas under “modified enhanced community quarantine” and “general community quarantine.”
A survey conducted by church-run station Radio Veritas showed that 62 percent of respondents wanted Masses to resume but under strict “social distancing” and proper health protocols.
Only 16 percent said they are not favor of the resumption of the public celebrations and 22 percent remained undecided.
The survey showed that geographically, those living in the Visayas region had the highest desire for the resumption of the celebrations at 90 percent, followed by Mindanao at 80 percent, then Luzon at 55 percent.
Those who objected to the resumption were high among Luzon residents at 30 percent, followed by Visayas at seven percent, then Mindanao at three percent.
Those who were undecided were high for respondents in Mindanao at 17 percent, followed by those in Luzon at 15 percent then finally in the Visayas at three percent.
Clifford Sorita, who handled the survey, said the “spiritual hunger” for Masses to resume was indicative for the need to maintain spiritual wellness in the midst of the pandemic.
He said “social distancing” will remain a challenge to “spiritual wellness” because it will hamper religious gatherings.
“The tension between ‘physical health’ and ‘spiritual wellbeing’ is in some way an incompatible one,” said Sorita in a statement.
He said allowing people to attend Masses under strict hygienic and social distancing practices is not just a way of nourishing the soul but a means of “healing” the community through a “sense of communal solidarity” in dealing with the health crisis.
“Fear and anxiety will be our greatest concern under the ‘new normal’ but faith and solidarity will help us endure,” he said.
Conducted from May 1 to 15, the survey used a stratified sample of 1,200 respondents nationwide for a +/- 3% margin of error.
Depleted church finances
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, has described as “tremendous” the financial impact of the lack of collections in parishes due to the prohibition of public celebrations of the Holy Eucharist.
“Not only are there no Mass collections, we have to support our parish personnel. And many parishes shell out money to help the poor in their areas by giving [them] food,” he said.
The archdiocese has already appealed for online donations.
“All the parishes should be open to online donations, but the transparency and proper accounting of the donations should remain,” said Bishop Pabillo.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases has earlier announced that will allow the resumption of religious gatherings but only with a limited number of people.
The Council of the Laity of the Philippines, or Laiko, has earlier called on Catholics not to neglect the Church during the pandemic.
The group appealed to the faithful to support the Church, which continues to help the needy despite the lack of collections due to the suspension of religious activities.
“For eight weeks, there has been no Holy Mass celebration in our parishes …. As a result, collections and various offerings to our churches have also stopped,” read Laiko’s appeal.
The group appealed to the faithful to continue their contributions as an “important and fundamental duty” of being church members.
“Let us be willing to support our neighbors, especially those in the peripheries who only depend on the generosity of fellow believers,” read Laiko’s statement.
Prelate calls for patience
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, however, called on the faithful to be more patient and understanding over the restrictions imposed by the government on religious activities.
The prelate said the restrictions “may at first come across as impractical or without sense to us,” but he said “the way forward is to patiently ask and seek clarification.”
“It is good to remind ourselves that these guidelines are meant not only for the Catholic Church but for all men and women and communities of faith who practice different modes of worship and prayer,” he said.
Archbishop Valles is currently president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
On May 15, the government announced that it would allow religious gatherings of only up to ten people in areas under “general community quarantine.”
Religious gatherings remain prohibited in places under the “enhanced community quarantine.”
Some church leaders criticized the government guidelines, describing it as an “abuse of prudence” and “unreasonable.”
Archbishop Valles, however, said the Church should “try to take the lead in showing the spirit of patience, calmness, understanding, open communication, and cooperation.”
He said these virtues must be put in place as the Church continues “to patiently present our particular concerns to the proper authorities.”
On May 16, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on May 16 released a new set of “Recommendations and Guidelines for the Liturgical Celebration in ‘New Normal’ Condition.”
The guidelines aim to help bishops in making pastoral decisions and courses of action for their respective dioceses.
“We eagerly await the time in the ‘new normal’ condition when we will be allowed to celebrate our liturgy, especially the Holy Eucharist, with our faithful in attendance,” said Archbishop Valles.
He said the Holy Eucharist “is central and essential to the life of the Church and to the life of each individual believer.”