Church leaders in the Philippines have asked the faithful to help in whatever way they can to assit the families and communities affected by the ongoing eruption of a volcano near the capital Manila.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has called on local churches to implement second collections during Mass to help raise aid for the afflicted.
“During this very difficult situation, for the thousands of families affected by this volcanic activity, we are encouraged to do acts of solidarity,” wrote Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the conference.
He also called on the faithful to “sincerely offer our prayers to the Lord for these suffering people.”
“We are also called to acts of charity and solidarity through our donations of material goods, such as food and most probably shelter and clothing, because people may have left their residences without bringing enough necessary provisions,” wrote the prelate.
The archdioceses of Manila and Caceres had earlier called for a second collection during Mass starting from Jan. 19.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila said food, clothing, and other necessities are still needed, even as he hailed the outpouring of initiatives for displaced families.
Meanwhile, the bishops’ conference warned the public against a scam employing the name of some clergy members to solicit donations.
Father Marvin Mejia, secretary general of the conference, issued the warning after Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan brought attention to the scheme.
“Beware of the ongoing scam, targeting some bishops and their contacts, or scammers asking for donations for some bogus projects,” said Father Mejia.
While no human deaths have been reported as a result of the volcanic eruption, thousands of animals, specifically livestock necessary to people’s livelihoods, perished in the hot cloud of toxic gas and lava flows that followed.
The government’s national disaster management body said a two-kilometer-high plume of steam from the volcano had forced evacuations on the island — now a volcano in the middle of a lake.
Photographs of the eruption showed the once lush island transformed into a wasteland.
“No plants or animals survived,” said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
Meanwhile, church groups swung into action, including a Catholic seminary that opened its doors to displaced families.
The National Shrine of St. Padre Pio in the town of Sto. Tomas, Batangas also welcomed hundreds of individuals, as did the Redemptorist Church in the city of Lipa, also in Batangas province.
Archbishop Gilbert Garcera has asked Catholics to join him in praying for the safety of everyone affected by the eruption.
“Aside from prayers, we are appealing for donations in cash or [offerings] in-kind for the archdiocese’s ongoing relief operations,” the prelate said over the church-run Catholic AM station Radyo Veritas 846.
Taal Volcano, which had 47 craters as of last count, has erupted 34 times since 1572. Its upheavals have proven deadly, killing more than 1,300 people in 1911 and more than 200 in 1965.
At the center of the 23-square-kilometer island is a two-kilometer diameter crater that formed during the 1911 eruption.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has already recorded 212 volcanic quakes around the island as of Jan. 14.
The volcano remains under Alert Level 4, which means an “imminent hazardous” eruption may occur “within days to hours.”
“For the past 24 hours, Taal Volcano’s activity has been characterized by continuous eruption of the main crater due to magmatic and hydrovolcanic activity,” read a bulletin from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
The eruptions generated up to 500-meter tall “lava fountains” topped by dark gray steam-laden plumes.
“Flashes of volcanic lightning” were also observed along with “new vents” from where lava fountains and steam plumes have been spotted, said the agency.