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ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Celebration of the rites of Holy Week and Easter once again prevented by the pandemic

Manila (Agenzia Fides) - Because of the emergency linked to Covid-19, this year, Catholics will not be able to celebrate the rites of Holy Week and Easter in presence. Coronavirus infections continue to increase, particularly in Manila and the neighboring provinces.
According to information sent to Agenzia Fides, on March 21, the Philippine government announced the ban on all gatherings in the capital and in the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. This measure was made compulsory from yesterday until April 4, Easter Sunday.
Head of State spokesman Harry Roque said all types of gatherings including celebrations of religious rites are prohibited. Weddings, baptisms and funerals can be celebrated in the presence of a maximum of 10 people.
Even before the government's announcement, the three dioceses of Novaliches, Cubao and Pasig had voluntarily announced the suspension of public Masses for a periodo f two weeks, urging people to stay at home safely and to limit travel.
With a letter sent to the Catholic community, Msgr. Roberto Gaa, bishop of Novaliches, and Msgr. Honesto Ongtioco, bishop of Cubao motivated the decision and encouraged the population in these particularly precarious times.
"I know how difficult it is for many of us Catholics to accept this decision. Our churches are the places where our people find refuge, especially at this time of year", said Msgr. Gaa. "If we do not do anything drastic and things remain as they are, the situation could worsen in other places as well". Bishop Gaa also asked to reduce by half the employees working in parish offices and to limit the movements of the personnel to only the buildings of the church. "It is heartbreaking to close our places of worship just at the most important moment of the liturgical year", said Msgr. Ongtioco, but we must keep this situation under strict control, which puts many of our faithful at risk". "This is the season of great love. For me, loving our neighbors right now means keeping them safe".
The affected dioceses encouraged the faithful to stay at home, to follow health protocols and to participate in religious celebrations through social networks, especially during Holy Week. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 23/3/2021)

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