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Philippine Church leaders move to end charging fees

MANILA (UCAN): More Philippine bishops are taking steps to remove fees for sacraments and other services. The latest to make the move is Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, who issued a circular on March 12 ordering the removal of fees for funeral Masses and blessings in his diocese. Priests were told not to charge fees for Masses even in private memorial chapels.
 
“Financial obligations from the perspective of the Church are not of prime importance and must not be a burden,” the bishop explained.
 
“We should not oblige (the faithful) either for the arancel (tariff), but we can be open to their free will to give or donate to the Church,” Bishop Santos said.
 
The arancel system refers to the practice of giving stipends to priests for services.
 
The new policy will be implemented in the Diocese of Balanga starting on Easter Sunday, April 21.
 
In 2015, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, stopped charging fixed rates for sacraments and sacramentals in the archdiocese.
 
He said parishes would only accept whatever parishioners can offer.
 
The archdiocese also stopped parishes charging fixed rates for issuing canonical certificates.
 
Bishop Santos said fees for baptisms, weddings, confirmations and Masses will be removed after the diocese finishes assessing the readiness of parishes to do so.
 
In other Philippine dioceses, guidelines have also been set for the gradual removal of the arancel system.
 
In the Archdiocese of Manila, several parishes have already started “to calibrate their finances” in preparation for the removal of fees.
 
Father Roy Bellen, of the archdiocese’s communications office, said the plan is to end the arancel system by 2021, the fifth centenary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.
 
Pope Francis has repeatedly urged churches to render services for free.

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