MANILA - Religious services are "essential" to the public, a leader of the Catholic church in the capital said, as he urged the government to reconsider the re-opening of Churches under strict guidelines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Malacañang announced Friday that religious gatherings will be allowed in areas under relaxed lockdowns, only to reverse the policy the next day.
"Religious services are also essential services," Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of Manila, was quoted as saying by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) News.
"When the decision makers consider the essential services to be allowed, they should also consider the opening of the churches and its services as important," he added.
The resumption of Masses will uplift the public's "spirits to a great extent," said the bishop.
"Allowing people to go back to Church to thank the Lord, to ask for his protection and implore his help, are deemed very important by the people," he said.
Churches, he said, should take precautions like sanitation and physical distancing.
Fr. Elias Ayuban, superior of the Claretian congregation in the Philippines, also called for the reopening of churches in areas with no COVID-19 cases.
"I see no prevailing reason why an organized Sunday gathering in a cathedral or spacious parish church, where physical separation can easily be executed, [should] not permitted," he said in the same report.
"It is about time to reopen the doors of our churches for people to pray. While it is true that we can pray anywhere, there is no place like the church and no celebration like the Mass," he added.
A lay Catholic organization is willing to propose health and safety guidelines for parishioners, CBCP News reported.
“We demand that our right to religious worship be not curtailed when the necessary safeguards are followed,” the report quoted Rouquel Ponte, president of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines.
The Philippines, with its 100 million people, is the bastion of Roman Catholicism in Asia, with 8 in 10 people subscribing to the faith. Spanish colonizers brought the religion in the 1500s.