By Roy Lagarde

After nearly two months in lockdown, calls are mounting for the government to allow church services while keeping all the necessary precautions.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of Manila, said that “religious services are also essential services” during this time of coronavirus pandemic.

“So 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,” Pabillo said.

“Of course, necessary precautions should be taken, like the proper social distancing and the sanitation practices to be done in the churches,” he said.

According to him, religion is very important to many Filipinos for it gives them strength especially in difficulties.

He said that a proof to this is that one of the things that people save first in times of disasters are their religious images and Bibles.

After the disaster, the prelate said the first thing that the community would restore is their chapel and pray together.

“The signs of God in their lives are very important for the people,” Pabillo said, adding that allowing public Masses “will uplift their spirits to a great extent”.

“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.

Fr. Elias Ayuban, superior of the Claretian congregation in the Philippines, also called for the reopening of churches, particularly in dioceses where there are no Covid-19 cases.

He said that going to the market is allowed, where physical distancing is hard to implement, “I see no prevailing reason why an organized Sunday gathering in a cathedral or spacious parish church, where physical separation can easily be executed, not permitted”.

“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,” Ayuban said.

Government authorities earlier announced that worship gatherings will continue to be banned even after easing quarantine measures in some areas.

A lay Catholic organization urged the government to rethink its decision and give the faithful an opportunity to uplift their spiritual well-being, “which are both humane and essential.”

The Council of the Laity of the Philippines said it is willing to submit its plans, protocols and guidelines to assure authorities of their strict observance of the safety and health measures.

“With strict compliance to Government Guidelines on Social Distancing and Sanitation, the lay faithful requests for Religious Gatherings to be allowed in the GCQ areas,” said Rouquel Ponte, Laiko President.

“We demand that our right to religious worship be not curtailed when the necessary safeguards are followed,” he also said.