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Manila street dwellers given shelter amid coronavirus outbreak fears. Manila street dwellers given shelter amid coronavirus outbreak fears. 

Coronavirus: Philippine Church joins Pope’s prayer initiatives

The Philippine Catholic Church is joining two worldwide prayer initiatives of Pope Francis this week as a response to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. It is also reaching out to the homeless in the capital.

By Robin Gomes

“Heeding the Pope’s invitation, we recommend that we will pray together the Lord’s Prayer at 7:00 pm on March 25,” wrote Fr. Marvin Mejia, Secretary-General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a circular on Monday.

Speaking during Sunday’s Angelus prayer, Pope Francis called on Christians to respond to the pandemic with the “universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness”. 

“In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together we lift our voices towards Heaven,” he said.

He particularly invited Christian communities and leaders of Christian Churches to join in reciting the “Our Father” at noon on Wednesday, March 25, Rome time, or at 7:00 pm in the Philippines.

The Pope also announced that on March 27, he will preside over a prayer service and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in front of St. Peter’s Basilica at 6:00 pm Rome time (1:00 am on March 28, Philippine time). 

He will conclude it with the ‘Urbi et orbi’ blessing, with the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence for all those following the event live through the various platforms of communication.

‘Urbi et orbi’, the Latin for ‘to the city [Rome] and the world’, is normally given twice a year – at Christmas and Easter. 

Both papal events will be live-streamed from the Vatican. 

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday reported 90 new cases of the virus raising the total to 552.  There were also two more deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 35.

Manila Catholic schools open to homeless

Meanwhile the Catholic Church is ramping up efforts to reach out to the vulnerable in the capital Manila amid the virus lockdown. 

Some Catholic schools have opened their doors to street dwellers, many of them were instructed by authorities to something missing? church-based feeding and care centre.

Fr. Flavie Villanueva, who heads the Kalinga Center in Tayuman district, said they decided to move the homeless to places where they can be properly cared for.

He said about 168 homeless persons have now taken refuge at the campuses of De La Salle University, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and St. Scholastica’s College.

Fr. Villanueva said they will bring about 100 more street dwellers to two other “safe spaces” where they can stay during the enhanced community quarantine period.

The Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center opens its doors every Thursday and weekend to homeless people who can have a free bath and a simple meal while undergoing formation and counselling.

More than 150 homeless persons usually line up outside the centre to receive help, including a pack of vitamins and a face mask.

Duterte calls for Week of Prayer

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte has declared this last week of March as the National Week of Prayer against the contagion. 

The President made the declaration on Saturday, recognizing the vital role of faith in bringing peace, solidarity, compassion, and heroism in times of adversity. 

“Through prayer, let us, as one nation, find the strength to defeat this invisible enemy, with the aid and blessing of God,” Duterte said.

 “I urge all Filipinos of all faiths, religious traditions, and backgrounds to unite our hearts in prayer as we face the COVID-19 threat, fixing our eyes on the Almighty in this time of afflictions.,”

The President has declared a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the entire country.

Last week, he placed the entire mainland Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine, limiting the movement of people on the island, to contain the pandemic.  He has also declared a state of calamity in the entire country for six months due to the rising number of infections.

On Monday, the Philippine Congress' House Committee of the Whole passed a bill granting President Duterte more powers during the national emergency amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic crisis. 

24 March 2020, 16:06