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Whole-of-Church response to the pandemic

Pope Francis summed it up very well when he said that since everyone now experiences the sorrow and pain due to the coronavirus, the only way to survive this situation, he says, is by sticking together.

We should live this moment “with compassion and hope … and humility, because too often we forget” there are dark times in life as well. And now that we’re in the season of Lent, then we should “show solidarity with others, especially those who suffer.”

The current crisis, he added, will help to remind us “once and for all, that humanity is a single community,” and that “universal kinship” is important and critical.

That humanity is a single community is a precept that the Catholic Church in the Philippines has taken to heart amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore implementing what might be described as a whole-of Church approach to the current crisis.

Recently, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) held a “Day of Prayer” for the medical front-liners against coronavirus after nine doctors died from the disease.

Archbishop Romulo Valles, CBCP president, invited all the dioceses to offer prayers for the country’s health workers last March 29, the fifth Sunday of Lent. He said it would be up to each diocese and its parishes to concretize the general call to prayer in their liturgies and pastoral activities.

Archbishop Valles also asked the dioceses to open their facilities as temporary shelters for hospital workers who are hesitant to go home for fear of transmitting the virus to their families.

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Manila’s Catholic Church is also moving fast to make all its facilities available to medical front-liners, including providing transportation services for them.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of Manila, has requested parishes to help transport hospital workers to and from their assignments, as public transportation in Luzon was halted after the government ordered an “enhanced community quarantine” in the entire island.

The archdiocese had earlier opened its facilities in different parishes to shelter medical front-liners and a number of street dwellers in the fight against coronavirus.

The Manila Archdiocese is also giving attention to the needs of overseas Filipino workers who have returned from abroad and have become persons under monitoring after possible exposure to the COVID-19 in their place of work outside the country.

In Bulacan province north of Manila, a Catholic parish and its volunteers are also helping front-liners who are working tirelessly to contain the COVID-19 by preparing food for them.

After Luzon was put on lockdown, the parish of Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario in Hagonoy town has been sending free meals to community workers manning the town’s different checkpoints.

“Most of our workers are the front-liners in our community and they need all the help they can get from us,” said parish administrator Lou Salvador Jess de Silva.

“Since today is the season of Lent, we opted to make a way, despite our few resources, to give to others, especially to those in need,” he added.

Redemptorist Brother Ciriaco Santiago (standing third from right) welcomes people to National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Manila’s Baclaran district. Hundreds of people from the provinces were stranded in the Philippine capital following the implementation of a lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the new coronavirus disease. (Photo by Vincent Go)

Over in central Philippines, the Cebu Archdiocese has opened its huge International Eucharistic Congress center, for people showing symptoms of coronavirus.

The IEC Convention Center Cebu, formerly known as the IEC Pavilion, is one of two “first response areas” set up to serve as COVID-19 care and quarantine facilities.

The initiative is part of an initiative called “Bayanihan Cebu Center” to serve mildly to moderately symptomatic patients.

The center was the venue of the 51st IEC that brought in over 10,000 participants from all over the world in 2016.

“Now, its doors are to be opened in collaboration with the kindness and generosity of some people in Cebu, to become a haven of hope and healing,” said Caritas Cebu.

The humanitarian efforts of the Philippine Catholic Church, I should point out, are also consistent with the call of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a much stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting social and economic devastation.

“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people’s lives. But this is much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core.”

Ernesto M. Hilario writes on political and social justice issues for various publications in the Philippines. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of LiCAS.news.

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