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Bishops call for days of prayer for Philippine storm victims

Death toll passes 370 as Duterte pledges aid for those affected by Super Typhoon Rai

Bishops call for days of prayer for Philippine storm victims
Fallen electric pylons block a road while a sign asking for food (left) is displayed along a road in Surigao City, Surigao del norte province, on Dec. 19, days after Super Typhoon Rai devastated the city. (Photo: AFP)

Published: December 21, 2021 09:00 AM GMT

Updated: December 21, 2021 09:39 AM GMT

Catholic bishops in the Philippines have declared Christmas Day and Dec. 26 as national days of prayer and mourning for victims of Super Typhoon Rai that ravaged southern and central parts of the country late last week.

The bishops’ conference on Dec. 20 called on all dioceses to dedicate both days to those affected by the storm — one of the most powerful to hit the country — which has reportedly killed at least 375 people and displaced thousands of others.

Each diocese was also encouraged to hold a second collection at all Masses during the period for the victims.

Conference president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan appealed to Catholics to reconsider having “lavish” parties and instead donate what they would have spent to the typhoon victims.

“Perhaps instead of spending on a lot of lavish Christmas parties and exchanging gifts, we can put together whatever we can and contribute to relief operations,” he said in a Facebook post.

He also posted a text message from Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao, one of the worst-hit areas, describing the storm and appealing for aid.

We encourage everyone to remit all collections to Caritas Philippines that will then plan and implement our overall response

“Blinding torrential rains and howling winds no man could take standing up hammered us for more than three hours. Not only were trees uprooted and rooftops ripped from homes battered like doll-houses, electric power and all forms of communication were cut off, literally isolating us from the rest of the world,” Bishop Cabajog said.

Bishop David urged parishioners to donate to the Alay Kapwa (offering of oneself) Solidarity Fund, which is used by the Catholic Church in the Philippines in times of emergencies like natural disasters.

“We encourage everyone to remit all collections to Caritas Philippines that will then plan and implement our overall response,” he said.

As of Dec. 21, the death toll had risen to 375 with 56 still missing, according to data provided by the Philippine National Police, who also said there were 500 injuries.

President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to give billions in aid despite the country’s ballooning debt caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Duterte promised the money would be made available by the time campaigning started for the 2022 national elections scheduled for May.

"You know, we don’t have money left. I’m not saying this so that the government won’t have to do anything anymore, but to be totally honest, when the Covid pandemic first hit, there was no spending limit,” Duterte said.

He also urged Catholics to ask clergymen if God was present and watching over those who believed in him.

"Our bad luck, all the bad things happened one after the other. I don’t know if God is still watching over us. Why don’t you ask your priest?” he said.

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