By Robin Gomes
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a circular on Tuesday to all the country’s bishops, approving and endorsing the ringing of church bells to mark the start of a televised interfaith prayer at 3:00 pm on Wednesday.
“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,” Archbishop Valles wrote in the circular.
The prayer activity is an initiative of the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipinos to unite in the prayer as the country continues to battle the epidemic.
“This being the Holy Week, I am calling on the nation to come together, this Holy Wednesday afternoon and pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Filipino and unite in one prayer to God to fight one common enemy,” Duterte said in a televised address.
In a letter to Archbishop Valles on Monday, Bishop Oscar Florencio of the Military Ordinariate of Philippines requested the Catholic Church’s participation in the initiative.
“I respectfully make representation to request Your Excellency, to exhort all the Bishops of the CBCP that all Parish Churches of the entire archipelago will ring their bells in their belfries at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on April 8, 2020, a Holy Wednesday, to signal the start of the televised Interfaith Prayer,” Bishop Florencio wrote.
The bishop will lead the Catholic Church’s participation in the prayer service, through the Chaplain Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“In this endeavour, the AFP Chaplains (Priests, Pastors, and Allah) will assist to invoke the mighty help of God as we plead Him to heal those affected by COVID-19 and to spare us from this present pandemic,” Bishop Florencio said.
“May the suffering-servant of Yahweh, Jesus, our Miracle-Worker, our Wounded Healer listen to our humble supplications in this time of our dire need for His mercy,” the bishop said.
The Philippine health ministry on April 7 confirmed 104 new infections, taking the total to 3,764. With 14 new coronavirus deaths, the total number of fatalities now stands at 177.
Since March 17, Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines and home to half of the nation’s 104-million population, has been on a strict lockdown in a bid to contain the outbreak.
Since then, provincial and town executives in the rest of the country have also implemented their own versions of the lockdown, putting virtually the entire country under quarantine, with commercial aviation and shipping banned and land transportation under restrictions.
The measure was to end on April 12. Duterte on Tuesday extended it to the end of April