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Manila, Philippines (ChurchMilitant.com) - Filipino bishops are contracting COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated, even while other bishops are forcing laity to be jabbed in order to attend Mass and religious events.
San Carlos bishop Jose Gerardo Alminaza from the Negros Occidental province tested positive Sunday for the second time since June, but this time with no symptoms. The archbishop of Manila, Cdl. José Advíncula, also tested positive Friday with a slight fever, but is reportedly in "good shape." Both already had the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, and in light of the positive tests, have since canceled Masses and public engagements so they can isolate. A third Filipino prelate, Bp. Leopoldo Jaucian of the Bangued diocese also contracted the Wuhan virus after being fully vaccinated.
Jaucian posted his status on the diocesan Facebook page a couple of weeks ago: "Having been fully vaccinated and diligently following health protocols, COVID-19 has not escaped me."
Everyone around these prelates has been encouraged to watch their symptoms and isolate if necessary, according to reports from the dioceses.
Bishop Alminaza had cataract surgery planned for Monday but needed to get tested for COVID prior to surgery. "This was canceled due to the positive result. Thank God, I am OK and asymptomatic so far," the bishop remarked.
President of the Philippines bishops' conference, Abp. Romulo Valles, called the faithful to pray for Cdl. Advíncula's recovery. Saturday's statement reads:
We extend our prayers of fast recovery, complete healing and good health to Cdl. Advíncula. We assure him of our closeness with him with our love, support and prayers. We also entreat the faithful to pray for the good cardinal so that he can resume his important ministry in the archdiocese of Manila and the Universal Church.
Even while bishops themselves are catching COVID after being fully vaccinated, other bishops are banning unvaccinated laity from entering churches. Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Philippines, released a statement last week limiting religious gatherings in light of an Alert Level 4 status of Quezon City.
Ongtioco stipulates that indoor church gatherings are open only to fully vaccinated laity. He further mandates outdoor gatherings can only operate at 30% capacity and indoor at 10% while limiting both gatherings to 18- to 65-year-olds. Ongtioco has closed public Masses multiple times and still strongly encourages watching livestreamed Mass from home.
It's not just the Philippines who are discriminating against unvaccinated laity. A Canadian prelate was the first in the world to ban the unvaccinated from Mass. On Friday, Abp. Valéry Vienneau of Moncton in New Brunswick released a statement asking volunteers to police the entryways for vaccine passes. Laity without proof of being jabbed are barred by Vienneau from receiving all the sacraments and from attending funerals.
Vienneau directed pastors, "We ask you to implement these new measures in each of your Christian communities ... We would not want one of our places of worship to be the location of a COVID exposure due to our negligence. The minister of health is counting on our cooperation."
The Vatican announced Monday that it will prohibit persons without a COVID-19 digital certificate from entering its sovereign territories starting Oct. 1, despite zero COVID cases and no deaths from the disease. The move comes counter to advice from one of the world's leading vaccinologists and inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, Dr. Robert Malone, who met with a Vatican cardinal to urge a moderated approach that does not fly in the face of science.