After 25 years, archdiocese rules ‘no more Simbang Gabi’ at consulate

The nativity scene is usually present at every Simbang Gabi

By Cristina DC Pastor

The Archdiocese of New York maintained its objection to the holding of Simbang Gabi midnight masses at the consulate building on Fifth Avenue, prompting the possible relocation of the Christmas tradition observed for 25 years by Filipinos in the New York Tri-State.

“A mass can only be carried out in a consecrated location and thus, the archdiocese does not approve of having mass celebration performed outside of a sacred worship space,” the archdiocese told The FilAm in a prepared statement. “In other words, the mass celebration must be performed in a church.”

That all masses must be held in a “sacred worship place” is provided for in the canon law, which is a body of laws emanating from the Vatican, Fr. Lorenzo Ato, a spokesman for Archbishop Timothy Dolan, explained to The FilAm.

The canon law provides that the eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in a “sacred place unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise,” and the eucharistic sacrifice must be carried out on a “dedicated or blessed altar.”

“How do we preserve the unity of our church, the unity of our community if we do not observe the canon law,” said Fr. Ato.

When told that the Simbang Gabi – or the series of nine evening masses preceding Christmas, usually from December 7 to 15 — has been observed annually for more than two decades, Fr Ato said, “That’s why we are correcting it.”

The consulate building on Fifth Avenue

The organizers are appealing the decision. They sent the archdiocese a letter explaining the origin of the Simbang Gabi and its importance as a holiday tradition among Catholic Filipinos. Simbang Gabi sa Konsulado is usually held with different community organizations taking turns at hosting a mass.

“Our annual Simbang Gabi is the only event where my kids get to be part of and feel what a traditional Christmas gathering is like, with the traditional mass, the Filipino Christmas songs and food,” said Jeanette Mojares, mother of Nina and Christian. “It brings and promotes the Philippine culture in the U.S. It keeps them in touch with their Philippine culture.”

“The response of the archdiocese is being awaited by the consulate general and the community organizations,” according to a statement from the consulate.

The Simbang Gabi organizers are scheduled to hold a meeting on Dec. 2 to decide on an alternative venue for the masses in case no agreement is reached by both parties. The Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Lower Manhattan, a designated place of worship for Filipinos, is a possible venue.

One Comment

  1. […] by Noel Y. C.The Filipino community welcomed a decision by the Archdiocese of New York to allow the Simbang Gabi masses to continue at the consulate building this […]

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