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Philippine Church offers solace to both patients and front-liners

The Church cannot simply look the other way while many Filipinos, especially the poor and ordinary wage earners, bear the brunt of the fear and hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That is the rationale behind the move of Bishop Ruperto Santos of the Diocese of Balanga in central Luzon to request authorities to allow priests to perform their sacramental duties amid the enhanced community quarantine.

According to the prelate, priests must take every opportunity to remain close to the faithful. “We are committed to go to hospitals for sick calls, to do funerals and to bless urns,” he pointed out.

Bishop Santos said he asked that the priests in the dioceses be given quarantine passes by local government units so they could go around the parishes and assist the sick.

It’s a wise move as priests are also front-liners who can provide much-needed counsel for those who seek inner peace in the face of much uncertainty at this time.

The bishop had earlier presided over a funeral Mass for the first coronavirus casualty in Bataan province. One of the priests in the diocese had also been asked to preside over the blessing of a hospital intended for suspected COVID-19 patients.

“Our priests here are mandated to go out to help and be of service especially to the elderly. I asked them to be visible,” Bishop Santos said.

The prelate also said that the diocese and its parishes have been working hand-in-hand with local government officials to protect the people’s welfare.

To reaffirm their commitment to service above self, the bishop and his clergy had earlier agreed to donate their monthly allowances to help their staff and those in need during the public health crisis.

People living in the streets of Manila line up for food packs distributed by a group of Franciscan friars amid a lockdown in the Philippines. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Another welcome development in the common effort to help address the coronavirus pandemic through a combination of humanitarian assistance and fervent prayer is the recent gathering of religious leaders to hold an interfaith prayer for deliverance from the deadly disease.

Military chaplains joined hands in a televised interfaith prayer service from Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. Catholic parishes across the country simultaneously rang their bells at 3 p.m. to signal  the start of the prayer.

“It will be comforting and encouraging for our people when they sense and observe that a spirit of unity and working together is there in these trying times,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

The prayer service started with a Catholic priest and a Muslim imam placing a Bible and a Koran at a front table. A Protestant pastor and an Anglican priest later joined them in the interfaith service.

They prayed for the safety of all the front-liners in the fight against COVID-19 and for the healing of those infected with the virus.

The activity was organized by the government’s adhoc Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

In taking pro-active efforts to help the government, the private sector and civil society in coping with a life-and-death challenge, the Church is fostering unity and healing that will allow us not merely to survive this crisis, but also to prevail over seemingly insurmountable odds.

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

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