MANILA - Malacañang on Monday urged the Catholic Church to submit guidelines for the resumption of Holy Masses after a Manila bishop described as "unreasonable" the limited number of participants set by government in religious services during the quarantine period.
Areas under a general community quarantine (GCQ) are allowed to hold religious services with up to 10 persons, while religious gatherings under a modified lockdown are limited to only 5 persons.
"Inaanyayahan po namin ang Simbahang Katolika (na) makipag-ugnayan hindi lamang po sa local government units kung paano ipatatupad ang social distancing," Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a virtual press briefing.
(We urge the Catholic Church to coordinate not just with local government units on how to implement social distancing)
"Siguro yung CBCP (Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines) can officially communicate with IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) kung paano nila gagawin po yan."
(Maybe the CBCP can officially communicate with the IATF how they plan to do this.)
Roque said the influential sect Iglesia ni Cristo has submitted its proposal to government to double its worship schedule services as churches will accommodate half its capacity.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said government should have instead recommended 1 to 2 meters physical distancing regulation between individuals inside churches instead of limiting the number of participants.
He earlier said he has submitted guidelines to the IATF on the reopening of churches.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told ANC that government was consulting different religious groups.
"What we want for them (is) to propose certain procedures on how they can safely conduct religious services. That’s the initial discussion last time."
"We know some of these outbreaks started at religious services, like in South Korea, so we will adjust as soon as we have more positive developments and really if we are able to stop the virus."
The government earlier allowed religious gatherings under areas in GCQ but reversed the policy the next day due to the clamor of local officials, Roque said.
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 introduced the religion in the 1500s.