CBCP’s Villegas: Spare Church of ‘any semblance of business, commerce’

By Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco / Correspondent

AS part of its ongoing archdiocesan reform and to spare the Church service from “any semblance of business and commerce,” Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas has ordered the closure of parish-run religious stores.

“It is a hard climb but we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” he stated in a circular issued to parish priests on Tuesday, adding that the Church is not engaging in business beyond its spiritual mission.

The new policy was discussed and agreed upon during the archdiocesan clergy meeting last week.

During the meeting, it was also noted that there are even some print materials on sale which are unrelated to devotion and catechesis.

“…We will not open new religious stores and close the ones that are in existence, unless such stores have submitted their records to the Bureau of Internal Revenue [BIR] and have gained business licenses from the government as required by law,” Villegas said in an article posted on Catholic Church web site.

He added that the BIR has sent some “alarming signals” about imposing taxes on these religious stores. “The Church stands at risk as secularism gains ground. We choose the path of pastoral prudence,” Villegas added. He, likewise, asked parishes to stop charging fixed rates for issuing certificates “in consonance with our collective vision to cleanse the Church of any semblance of commercialism in the rendering of Church services.”

The new “obligatory policy” was agreed upon by the majority of priests and religious men of the archdiocese during their regular meeting last Friday.

Villegas stated that baptismal certificates, confirmation certificates, marriage certificates, wedding banns, and similar documents must be issued to requesting parishioners “without requiring any fixed amount.”

It may be recalled that in April last year, Villegas also pushed to end the system of charging fixed rates for sacraments and sacramentals. Instead, he wanted the pananabangan or stewardship spirit to function.

This means that the parishes will just accept whatever it is that the parishioners can offer, adding that blessings and sacraments must not appear as church services “rendered in exchange for fees.”

Despite the pushed reform, the prelate appealed to the faithful for support on a regular basis by donating generously to their parishes regardless of services they may need.

“This is a proof of our maturity in the faith and devotion to our Mother Church. We must be a community that gives because we love the church,” Villegas added.

“We dream of a church renewed, truly close to the people and responsive to the needs of the flock. Let us make this vision come true. Thank you for sharing the vision,” he concluded.




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