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Philippine Catholic bishops urge faithful to respond to pandemic ‘with eyes of faith’

Catholic church leaders in the Philippines urged the faithful, especially church institutions, to respond to the coronavirus pandemic “with the eyes of faith, with the heart of charity, and with the armor of truth.”

In a pastoral letter released on Wednesday, August 12, the country’s Catholic bishops appealed to communities to help provide the public an “access to the truth.”

The letter was issued by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, head of the commission on seminaries, and Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose, chairman of the commission on catechesis and Catholic education.

The bishops urged Catholic academic institutions “to make sure that scientific studies” about the pandemic are widely shared in the general public “using reason, science, and Catholic social teachings.”

“Although medicine is not our expertise in seminaries, let us drink from the well of Catholic social teachings how to face this worldwide pandemic,” read the letter.

The church leaders said that access to vital information and studies about the disease “will free [Filipinos] from baseless fears and unnecessary anxieties.”

They urged faith communities to conduct “circles of study and discernment” and “disseminate a holistic perspective” about the health crisis, “even if these are contrary to the prevailing narrative.”

- Newsletter -

The prelates said the public must hear “responsible and reasonable voices” that are “critical and discerning against false narratives prevalent in the media and the many unscientific unreasonable public policies.”

The prelates pleaded with the media for “balanced” reporting, saying, “science and facts have evolved away from the original narrative that caused and surrounded the lockdowns.”

The bishops urged media practitioners and news outfits to become “truly independent and fearless,” and to “follow the truth wherever it may lead.”

“Once you understand the issues better, find creative ways to be active in bringing a solution in the light of the Gospel. This is our Christian social responsibility,” read the statement.

“We must hold on to and protect our freedoms of thought, movement, speech, and assembly,” it added.

Resist culture of death

The pastoral letter, which was endorsed by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, acting president of the bishops’ conference, called on the faithful to “refuse to get discouraged” amid the “long shadows of death [that] have fallen upon our country.”

The bishops denounced the killings, the attacks against women and children, environmental degradation, corruption in the government, abortion, poverty, and “the erosion of basic courtesy and respect and the numbness to the vulgar.”

“This is a regime of death and darkness seems to be enjoying its fine hour,” said the bishops.

The pastoral letter also addressed other sectors of society and the Philippine government, appealing to act on the crisis that affected too many lives.

“We call on government officials to be more open to the new scientific insights and global experiences around Covid-19, even if these may challenge one’s belief systems and preferred approaches to managing the epidemic,” read the pastoral message.

The prelates challenged authorities to learn from the experience of other countries in battling the pandemic “with political humility and collective honesty.”

The bishops also urged the government’s anti-Covid task force to be “open to the wisdom and experience of various professionals, scientists and physicians as well as genuine and constructive representatives of business, civil society, and local government units.”

“The nation understood that the government had no choice five months ago but to roll out extreme measures of quarantine to protect the lives of its citizens from a little-understood threat,” the statement read.

The bishops, however, said the “continued endless lockdown is unnecessary.” Instead, the prelates urged the government to increase the capacity of the country’s healthcare system.

“[Upgrade] the capacity of hospitals and rationalize the use of limited hospital spaces. Be more precise in targeting who should receive priority in hospital care,” the statement read.

They said the Filipino people might have suffered because of the economic and health crisis but the people can also “be free from the massive ills that are gnawing at our nation.”

The bishops called for a month-long “massive and nationwide” prayer of “ten Hail Mary’s” in all Catholic communities every day at noon starting August 15, feast of the Solemnity of the Assumption until September 15, feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

On Wednesday, August 12, the Health department announced an additional 4,444 patients infected with the new coronavirus disease, bringing the country’s total caseload to 143,749.

The latest data showed that of the total number of cases, 72,348 are considered as “active” cases. Of the new cases, 3,049 were tagged as “fresh” cases while 1,395 were “late” cases.

There were also 636 new recovered cases recorded, bringing the total number of recoveries to 68,997.

However, the country’s Covid-19 death toll is now at 2,404 after 93 new deaths were recorded.

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