03/13/2019, 14.18
PHILIPPINES
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Filipino bishops cancel funeral fees

The bishop of Balanga issued a circular that will come into force on Easter Sunday. The goal is to eliminate fixed fees for liturgical services across the country by 2021, 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christian missionaries.

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) – More and more Filipino bishops are scrapping the arancel (fee) system for the services offered by the Church such as funerals, memorial Masses, weddings, confirmations, etc. In its lieu, the faithful are encouraged to donate what they can.

The latest to do this is Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga who ordered the end of fees for funeral masses and blessings in his diocese as of 21st April, Easter Sunday.

The decision by the Diocese of Balanga comes in response to appeals by Pope Francis, who since his election has called for a "poor Church for the poor".

The Pope, who is marking the start of the seventh year of his pontificate today, has repeatedly pointed out that the sacraments are a gift from God and asked churches to celebrate the rites for free.

According to Mgr Santos, the move was necessary to help people already grieving by their loss. “Financial obligations from the perspective of the Church are not of prime importance and must not be a burden to them,” he noted.

For this reason, he ordered the priests of his diocese not to demand fees for funeral Masses and memorial chapels. The Church "can be open for their free will to give or donate to the Church,” he explained.

The Philippines is Asia’s most Catholic country. The first bishop to drop fees for religious services was Mgr Socrates Buenaventura Villegas, archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, in 2015.

Instead of fixed rates, he wanted the spirit of stewardship (Pananabangan) to come into play. This means that parishes will just accept whatever parishioners can offer.

Fr Roy Bellen of the Manila archdiocese’s communications office said the goal is to end the arancel system by 2021, the fifth centenary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.

“This hopefully can be a gauge of the faithful of their change of paradigm in support the Church rather than thinking of ‘buying the sacraments’ from the Church,” he said.

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