CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – While 15 penitents will have themselves actually nailed on crosses in Barangay San Pedro Cutud here on Good Friday, will the thousands of mostly Catholic residents of the village be committing “mortal sins” for commemorating the day as their fiesta with meat dishes served aplenty?
Kapampangan Catholic priests here seemed to have softened their views on this issue that has often haunted San Pedro Cutud folk who started to mark their fiesta every Good Friday in the 1960’s since tourists started to arrive in droves to watch the actual crucifixions in a “mini Golgotha here” every year.
Retired Benedictine priest Fr. Ed Santos, 76, expressed tolerance for the Good Friday fiesta atmosphere in the barangay, noting that, like most Filipinos, most of the local folk have been “performing fasting and abstinence arising from poverty almost 365 days a year anyway.”
Fr. Sol Gabriel, parish priest of Marisol in Angeles City, said “I will not limit myself to that perspective (of declaring the commission of mortal sins by the village folk for ignoring fasting and abstinence on Good Friday).”
While noting that the Catholic Church indeed prescribes fasting and abstinence on Good Friday, Gabriel said he was not inclined to “condemn” San Pedro Cutud folk on the issue. “It’s focused on the sin they commit,” Gabriel noted.
“Instead, they should be just told about the consequences of what they’re doing. It (Good Friday) is not for show and fiesta,” he said.
Residents of Barangay San Pedro Cutud started marking their fiesta on Good Friday in the late 1960’s when actual crucifixions started to lure thousands of foreign and domestic tourists, as well as relatives.
They would serve drinks and plenty of meat dishes which usually come aplenty in barrio fiestas in any part of the country.
Before this, village folk religiously observed fasting and abstinence every Feb. 22, the feast of their patron St. Peter. Four other dates are also associated with commemorating the saint, but none falls anywhere near Good Friday.
But Santos cited a “general practice wherein Catholic authorities grants dispensation during fiestas.”
Santos, who is also a Kapampangan historian, recalled there was a time when local Church authorities granted San Pedro Cutud folk dispensation from fasting and abstinence amid their Good Friday fiesta atmosphere. “We just don’t know whether that dispensation has expired.”
No official from the San Fernando Archdiocese could be contacted yesterday to provide information on this.
“Fasting and abstinence is a canonical practice to remind us that we are under the Bishop, the Pope.
Some priests say those who do not practice this commit mortal sins, while others say otherwise,” Santos noted.
“St. Paul reminds us that charity covers a multitude of sins,” he said, as he urged Christians to consider Jesus Christ as “a personal saviour and friend who would care for you even if you are the only person on earth.”
He stressed that ultimately, the question of fasting and abstinence on Good Friday is “between your conscience and God.”
Gabriel, however, said that while he was not prepared to condemn folk in San Pedro Cutud for shelving Good Friday fasting and abstinence, he noted the need “to rectify the situation.”
“Some of the people are just ignorant (of Church laws), but they can celebrate without going against the laws of the Church,” he said.
This, as he reminded Christians of the prescription “to love the sinner, hate the sin.”
The practice of fasting and abstinence is based on the 1966 Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini, and codified in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Abstinence is required throughout the year on Fridays, though the bishops’ conferences in some areas allow other penitential acts.
During Lent, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, both abstinence and fasting are required of Catholics who are not exempted for various reasons.
In recent years, the fiesta atmosphere in San Pedro Cutud has already spread to at least three other areas where actual crucifixions are also being held every Good Friday. At least 24 persons will be nailed to the wooden crosses in makeshift Golgothas also in Barangays San Juan and Santa Lucia here.
Marnie Castro, vice chairman of this city’s Maleldo (Holy Week) 2013 committee, said 15 are slated to be crucified in San Pedro Cutud, three in Santa Lucia and four to five in San Juan.
House painter Ben Enaje, a resident of San Pedro Cutud who again plays the role of Christ this year, will be nailed for the 27th time.