Maasin Bishop Prescioso Cantillas leads the Thanksgiving Mass marking the quincentennial of the first Easter Mass in the Philippines, on Limasawa Island, Southern Leyte. (Sammy Navaja)

Maasin Bishop Precioso Cantillas, on Holy Wednesday’s commemoration of the Quincentennial of the First Easter Mass in the Philippines, hit government limitations on religious gatherings, especially this Holy Week.

Cantillas insisted that for Catholics, attending Mass is “essential” in one’s Christian life.

“Going to Mass is not considered essential to man by those making the decisions for the public or society, which is contrary to the clear teaching of Jesus and his Church,” said Cantillas in an open-air Mass held on Limasawa Island in Southern Leyte, site of the first Mass in the country five centuries ago.

Cantillas emphasized that Church teachings regard the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life.”

“It is very clear that going to Mass, celebrating the Eucharist, is our life,” the prelate stressed. “What is more life-giving and essential than Jesus in the Eucharist?”

The prelate encouraged the faithful to be “active” in making the Eucharist “known to more people” like the first missionaries who brought it to the Philippines.

“We should also be aggressive in proclaiming God’s loving and saving presence today and until the end of time in the places where we live and work,” he said.

Cantillas apologized on behalf of the Church for “failing to make the Eucharist” important to the Filipinos.

“For the past 500 years of Christianity, we may have failed to make the Eucharist the most important, the most essential, the center of our life as Church and individual disciples of Christ,” he added.

Archbishop Charles John Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, in a message sent to the Diocese of Maasin, invited the Church in the Philippines to be “authentic missionary disciples.”

Brown said Christ’s presence in every Mass urges believers to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

“It is in this sharing of the gift of faith with others that we can best express our thanksgiving to God who has loved us through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered, died and rose again from the dead,” he said. Ryan Sorote