The opening of churches during the quarantine period will help address depression and the reported rising number of suicides in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This was the response of Catholic missionary priest Victor Sadaya, CMF, to the challenge of the government for the Church to help address the incidents of suicides.
“Faith offers strength and hope to people in the midst of the pandemic, said Father Sadaya, executive director of Porta Coeli Center for Psychotrauma Management and Counseling.
The priest said the government should allow increased church capacity during the celebration of religious activities for the people to practice their faith during the pandemic.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier appealed to church leaders to help address the “alarming” rise in suicide cases in the country.
“We respectfully request our spiritual leaders to bring this much needed message of hope to our suffering countrymen in order to stave off more incidents of self- destruction,” said Guevarra.
Under the government’s “general community quarantine” measures, however, only 10 people are allowed to attend religious gatherings in the national capital Manila and nearby provinces.
“The opening of the church to more faithful would be a big help, especially for those who struggle with depression brought about by the pandemic,” said Father Sadaya.
“Remember, most of those vulnerable to suicide are people who have also lost their faith,” said the priest in an interview with Radio Veritas 846.
Father Sadaya said that due to quarantine restrictions, people spend more time on social media and “don’t have the time to pray or at least to be silent and to reflect.”
The National Center for Mental Health receives an average of 30 to 35 calls per day on suicides and up to 400 calls per month during the coronavirus lockdown.
The number of calls received every day by the University of the Philippines’ Psychosocial Services has also increased from only 40 to more than 100 during the start of the quarantine in March.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reminded the public during on Monday, August 24, that “it’s okay not to be okay.”
“All of us are going through something similar especially with our current situation,” she said.
During the same briefing, government spokesman Harry Roque encouraged the public to talk to someone or a spiritual leader when confronted with problems.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, has urged the government to include spiritual health as an essential need of the public.
“We need … the Eucharist (to) sustain us in our journey. This is essential for us. We will get life, real life through Jesus which we receive in holy communion. We receive his real body and blood,” the prelate said in June.
Meanwhile, Bishop Rex Ramirez, head of the Episcopal Commission on Health Care of the bishops’ conference, said the health crisis should encourage “the best and not the worse in us.”
In a circular on August 24, the bishop noted that “the fear and suffering, the anxiety and uncertainty” is brought about not just by the pandemic but also by the social virus of “selfishness and corruption.”
“The harm these do to our people and our country is immeasurable,” he said.
He called on the faithful to stand with those who spend their best efforts “for the wholistic betterment of our communities, our country and ourselves as health is not just about physical well-being.”
The Health commission and the Commission on Youth and Social Communications will launch on August 31 an online advocacy dubbed “Yakapin ang Bagong Bukas” or “Embrace a New Tomorrow.”
“Let us be encouraged through inter-faith prayer and this inspirational video,” said Bishop Ramirez.
The bishop also called for a simultaneous ringing of church bells at six o’clock on the said day to “signal our unity and call for a collective effort in these trying times.”