Duterte urges Catholic Church to drop religious activities to avoid more COVID-19 infections

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to the Catholic Church on Tuesday to forego religious activities to prevent the further spike in COVID-19 cases, particularly in Metro Manila, which is under Alert Level 3 from Jan. 3 to 15.

“If the Roman Catholic Church [faithful] are listening, I am now appealing to you to forego and cancel all physical gatherings including the procession and the celebration of Masses in churches,” Duterte said, speaking in a mix of Filipino and English in his taped weekly briefing.

“There are millions of devotees there, and you cannot just be complacent about the transmission of the disease. I hope the  Roman Catholic will understand me that all gatherings are not allowed,” the president continued.

Also during the briefing, Dr. John Wong, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force technical working group, recommended avoiding superspreader events such as the celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene,  the Feast of the Santo Niño, and Chinese New Year.

Duterte told the religious leaders to follow Wong’s recommendation.

“Maybe the priests or the bishops are listening. The government does not impose the rules now. It does not really. It does not have the character of an imposition, but rather a request from the government for everybody to follow the guidelines set to prevent the widespread again of the superspreader [events],” Duterte said.

“I have to appeal to them for their understanding and to really look at it in the broader context of our liability also to the people if we do not act correctly or fail to come up with measures to protect the public interest and public health,” he continued.

The National Task Force Against COVID-19 issued a resolution approving the suspension of this year’s Traslacion — the procession of the Black Nazarene statue in Manila, which attracts thousands of devotees.

READ: Task force OKs suspension of Black Nazarene procession in Manila


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