IN a joint Pastoral Message on COVID-19 to Teachers, Educators, Seminary Professors and Seminarians and the Catholic faithful delivered by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas (Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan and Chairman, Episcopal Commission on Seminaries) together with Bishop Roberto C. Mallari (Bishop of San Jose de Nueva Ecija and Chairman, Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education); we were all invited to a collective prayer action to lift the lockdowns and help heal the nation.
An appeal was made for a massive and nationwide campaign for TEN HAIL MARY’S DAILY, in our schools and seminaries, parishes and communities, starting August 15 the Solemnity of the Assumption until September 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to be prayed at 12:00 noon wherever we may be.
God always listens and nothing is impossible with Him. Pope Francis said in March “We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies“.
Together with this Prayer Appeal, the pastoral letter likewise posits other requests outlined as follows:
1. We plead with our friends in media to balance their coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. The science and facts have evolved away from the original narrative that caused and surrounded the lockdowns. Be truly independent and fearless. Follow the truth wherever it may lead.
2. We call on government officials to be more open to the new scientific insights and global experiences around COVID-19, even if these may challenge one’s belief systems and preferred approaches to managing the epidemic. Let us learn from the success stories of our ASEAN neighbors with political humility and collective honesty. We appeal to the IATF for a more participatory approach that is open to the wisdom and experience of various professionals, scientists and physicians as well as genuine and constructive representatives of business, civil society, and local government units.
The nation understood that the government had no choice five months ago but to roll out extreme measures of quarantine to protect the lives of its citizens from a little-understood threat. Continued endless lockdown is unnecessary given the declining and comparatively insignificant death rates and faulty tests. A cure for COVID-19 is already available. Dozens of countries around the world have lifted their lockdowns and schools have opened.
3. We appeal for the upgrade of the capacity of hospitals and rationalize the use of limited hospital spaces. Be more precise in targeting who should receive priority in hospital care. Focus our strategy in protecting the most vulnerable sectors of society including the senior citizens and people threatened with other morbidities. More than anyone else, we bow in homage and gratitude to our medical front liners who have laid down their lives that others may live.
4. We plead to parents and teachers to attend to the special needs of our children under these extraordinary times. Our children will be children only for a few years. Let us insure their balanced growth and formation of the mind, body and soul. They need sufficient physical activities, enough sleep and right nutrition. Their neural, mental, emotional, and social development are primary. There is a bigger and brighter world beyond the virtual world that our children have been accustomed to during the lockdowns.
In conclusion, the pastoral letter likewise appeals that we resist the CULTURE OF DEATH stating that,” The long shadows of death have fallen upon our country. The summary execution of the defenseless poor, the violence against women and children at home and in public life, the reckless tampering of our nation’s ecological balance, the puzzling unabated increase of illegal drugs, the unsolved plunder of public funds, the glorification of contraception and abortion, the growing number of jobless and hungry families, the erosion of basic courtesy and respect and the numbness to the vulgar —the long shadow of death is cast upon our land. This is a regime of death and darkness seems to be enjoying its fine hour. Refuse to get discouraged. Rise up to hope in the Lord. With firm faith we declare “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.”
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