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Philippine bishops issue 'obligatory prayer' for South China Sea

Government squares off with China over contentious territory

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: July 13, 2015 06:42 PM GMT
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Philippine bishops issue 'obligatory prayer' for South China Sea
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The Philippines' Catholic bishops on July 13 issued an "oratio imperata" or obligatory prayer as tension in the disputed South China Sea continues to heat up.

"If the dispute escalates and it becomes a problem of peace, how can the Church not be involved? Peace is the mission of the Church," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the country's bishops' conference.

The prayer will be recited in all dioceses so that "the tension may ease, and justice, and equality, and prosperity and brotherhood may be served," he said.

The bishops issued the prayer at the end of their annual meeting in Manila on Monday.

The U.N. Arbitral Tribunal is currently meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands, to deliberate on the Philippines' case against China over disputed territories in the South China Sea.

China, however, has consistently rejected the Philippines' invitation for arbitration and instead called for bilateral negotiations over the disputed territories. 

"We don't have the means to negotiate with super powers," Archbishop Villegas told reporters in Manila.

"We cannot represent the Philippines in the international court, but we can certainly represent the Philippines before God and ask God, who is the source of peace, to take care of the Philippines," he said.

Copies of the prayer have been distributed to all the bishops to read in dioceses and parishes across the country. 

The prayer calls on God "to look kindly" on the Philippines.

"We pray to you for peace over that part of our islands and waters. We pray that questions over it may be resolved through justice and respect for people's rights. We pray that no harm will be done to our marine creatures and habitat," the prayer says.

It also prays for Philippine leaders "that they resolve this crisis with courage and in the spirit of dialogue."

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