GUIDELINES are being set up for the gradual removal in the Catholic Church of the arancel system, or the Church “practice of giving stipends to priests for specific church services,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan scrapped the system of charging fixed rates for sacraments and sacramentals in his archdiocese as early as 2015, the CBCP, citing that example, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Bishops take everything into consideration because their parishes have varying realities,” the statement noted.
In Manila, the country’s largest archdiocese, some parishes have already started ‘to calibrate their finances’ towards the removal of arancel.
Fr. Roy Bellen of the Manila archdiocese’s communications office said the target 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.
Saying that sacraments are gifts from God, Pope Francis has repeatedly urged churches to give services freely, the statement noted.
“The latest to follow suit is Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga who ordered the removal of fees for funeral masses and blessings in his diocese,” the statement said.
“Financial obligations from the perspective of the Church are not of prime importance and must not be a burden to them,” Bishop Santos wrote in a circular on Tuesday. He also ordered that no fees for masses must be required by priests even for those in funeral parlors and memorial chapels.
“We should not obliged them either for the arancel, but we can be open for their free will to give or donate for the Church.”
Bishop Santos said their next plan is to start removing arancel on baptism, weddings, confirmation and Masses in the few years to come.