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Bishops gradually removing fees for church services

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MANILA – Catholic bishops in the country are slowly doing away with collection of fees for sacraments and other church services for humanitarian consideration.

The most recent prelate to do such practice is Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, who no longer charges fees for funeral masses and blessings.

“In the spirit of sacrifices of Lent and as our gift to the Diocese towards 50th Golden Anniversary in 2025, after careful consideration through prayers and pastoral discernment, we are removing the arancel system (giving stipends to priests) in Funeral Masses and Blessings,” Santos said in a circular issued on Monday.

“This is necessary because the grieving persons, relatives, friends and loved ones of the faithful departed must be consoled. Financial obligations from the perspective of the Church are not of prime importance and must not be a burden to them. We want to portray the local church as a caring Mother with compassion with the bereaved,” the Catholic prelate added.

Santos noted that for those in the funeral parlors and memorial chapels wherein masses will be offered for the dead, “we should not oblige them either for the arancel, but we can be open for their free will to give or donate for the Church.”

The order will take effect in the diocese on April 21, Easter Sunday.

The arancel system in the Church refers to the practice of giving stipends to priests for specific church services.

In 2015, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan stopped charging fixed rates for sacraments and sacramentals in the archdiocese.

The parishes, however, would still accept whatever it is that parishioners can offer.

Other dioceses are also creating guidelines for the uniform and gradual removal of the arancel system.

In the Archdiocese of Manila, some parishes are likewise, looking towards the removal of arancel.

Fr. Roy Bellen of the Archdiocese’s communications office said they are looking to stop 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.

Pope Francis is convinced that churches should not charge the services they provide as sacraments are gifts from God. (PNA / Ferdinand Patinio)

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