Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu reminded priests in his diocese this week not to use the pulpit in their “personal campaign” against the government’s vaccination program against COVID-19.
“If you believe that [the vaccination] is not appropriate, then don’t include it in your sermon. Because a sermon is an official teaching of the Church,” said the prelate.
In a video released by the archdiocese, Archbishop Palma advised priests that the Catholic Church “recommends vaccination.”
Earlier this week, Pope Francis issued an appeal urging people to get inoculated against COVID-19, saying the vaccines could bring an end to the pandemic.
“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19,” the pope said in a video message.
The Church leader said vaccines “grant us the hope of ending the pandemic” even as he said that it should be “available to all.”
“Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable,” said Pope Francis.
“I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love,” the pope said.
Archbishop Palma said he respects the opinion of priests on the use of vaccines against the coronavirus disease, but he said the pulpit is used only to preach the official teachings of the Church.
The Cebu prelate said the homily must share the reflection or the message of the Church in general even if, at times, it runs in contrast to the personal beliefs of the priest himself.
“When the priest insists on his own personal conviction against what the teaching magisterium holds, that is direct disobedience to Church authority,” said Archbishop Palma.
“The Church means in the simplest sense, ‘to gather or to bring together.’ Amidst the present crisis situation, the Church calls for unity. Jesus in his Gospel prays to the Father for unity,” he added.
The prelate was reacting to a video, which is reportedly circulating in private messages online, of a priest warning the people against the COVID-19 vaccine.