By Robin Gomes
In a joint pastoral message, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on teachers, educators, seminary professors and seminarians, and the Catholic faithful to pray ten "Hail Marys" every day at 12.00, from August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, to September 15 the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The pastoral letter by the CBCP Commissions on Seminaries and on Catechesis and Catholic Education was endorsed by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, who is standing in for CBCP president Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, who is recovering from a mild stroke.
“Nothing is impossible with Him”
The Philippine Church recalled that people have suffered under nearly five months of lockdowns amid fear of illness and death. Their basic freedoms have mostly vanished, over two million people have lost jobs, and more than 93,000 businesses have been adversely affected. They lamented that people have been asked to accept “an epidemic of depressions and increasing reports of suicides”, as the “new normal”.
In the face of this, the bishops invited “all to a collective prayer action to lift the lockdowns and help heal the nation”, assuring that “God always listens and nothing is impossible with Him.”
The statement was released on Wednesday ahead of the upcoming opening of the new school year, which was tentatively set for August 24 but is now being debated by senators. Several groups, students, and parents have called for the postponement of classes due to growing health concerns and the issue of the preparedness of schools.
As of Thursday, the Department of Health confirmed new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 147,526, the highest in Southeast Asia, while total deaths reached 2,426.
Reason, science and Catholic social teachings
The country’s bishops called on Catholic colleges and universities to make sure that scientific studies about Covid-19 are widely shared with the general public “using reason, science and Catholic social teachings”.
Admitting that medical science is not the expertise of seminaries, the bishops urged them to “drink from the well of Catholic social teachings how to face this worldwide pandemic”. These teachings, they said, will give them access to truth and “free them from baseless fears and unnecessary anxieties”.
The real world of children
Turning to parents and teachers, the bishops urged them to “attend to the special needs” of children under “these extraordinary times”, and ensure their “balanced growth and formation of the mind, body and soul”. They said:
The pastoral letter deplored the “marginalization of religious values” in the programmes to fight the pandemic. “The Covid-19 program”, it stressed “must be rooted in … an ethics which is people-centred”.
The bishops denounced the “regime of death and darkness” pervading the nation. With ills such as the summary execution of the defenceless poor, violence against women and children, the reckless ecological imbalance, increase in the use of illegal drugs, the plunder of public funds, the promotion of contraception and abortion, and the growing number of jobless and hungry families, the bishops said, “the long shadow of death is cast upon our land”.
They encouraged the faith communities to Christian social responsibility by being critical and discerning against the many false narratives dominating the media and the many unscientific unreasonable public policies. By understanding the issues better, they can find creative ways to be active bringing a solution to situations in the light of the Gospel.
The Philippine bishops had earlier held a 21-day prayer for the healing of the country, from July 16 to August 5.