Papal nuncio to PH favors increased capacity in churches

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — Watching religious services online or on television just cannot replace in-person worships, and so the government was right in allowing more people to join Holy Mass celebrations in churches, according to the papal nuncio to the Philippines.

"Whatever we can do to bring more people to mass in a safe way, I'm absolutely in favor of [it]," Archbishop Charles Brown told CNN Philippines chief correspondent and anchor Pia Hontiveros in an exclusive one-on-one interview.

"We have to, you know, keep a few things in balance. One, we need to do anything possible to prevent the spread of this virus and to keep people safe. Secondly, we need to realize the real experience of mass [is] not in front of [a] TV screen or a computer screen but actually receiving the body and blood of Jesus which is the essence of our celebration of the mass," he added.

Last week, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed more people inside places of worship in areas under general community quarantine. It increased the seating or venue capacity from 30% to 50%. The government has been imposing capacity limits on religious gatherings due to COVID-19 concerns.

Prayer during Lent

The eased restrictions came as Filipino Catholics celebrated the start of the Lenten season, a period they devote to abstinence and penitence in remembrance of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection. It runs for 40 days — from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday.

This is the second Lent amid the coronavirus pandemic, which the papal nuncio described as the "painful reality." One of the "pillars" during Lent is prayer, the archbishop noted, and so he urged devotees to pray this will be the last time Catholics would have to observe this penitential season during a health crisis.

Brown arrived in the country late last year, shortly after Pope Francis appointed him as the new Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, a post that has been vacant since November 2019. He replaced Italian Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia who was transferred to the United Nations in New York to head the Holy See’s Permanent Observer mission.

Catch the exclusive one-on-one interview of our chief correspondent and anchor Pia Hontiveros with Papal Nuncio Charles Brown on Wednesday, February 24 at 8PM.