ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Churches reopen after lockdown; the Church activates a psychological and spiritual counseling program

Thursday, 9 July 2020 coronavirus   local churches   healthcare   spirituality   psychological counseling  

Manila (Agenzia Fides) - It is a new "starting signal" for the whole Catholic community and will be welcomed with joy and renewed spiritual enthusiasm: the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines have welcomed the government's provision which allows to resume the public celebration of the Holy Masses and religious gatherings from 10 July. During the celebrations social distancing measures and the use of protective masks will have to be respected and the churches will thus be able to welcome only 10% of the people who normally attended them. "It is still a positive step", says to Fides Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila. Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, at the head of the diocese of Cubao, praised the authorities of the Philippine government assuring that the Church "will follow the government's indicated protocols to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus".
Archbishop Jose Palma, an ordinary of Cebu, in the southern Philippines, also urged the faithful to strictly follow the rules of the government since "the city of Cebu has turned into a hot spot for the coronavirus and has remained the area of the country with the most rigorous form of Lockdown". "We recognize the sincerity and sacrifices of public officials, with the best intentions of protecting public health, they carry out their duties with dedication, with responsibility towards all of us: we contribute to the common good by respecting containment measures", he told the people of God, announcing the partial resumption of the liturgies.
Meanwhile, the Diocese of Kalookan, in Metro Manila, has launched a special initiative to protect the mental health of those suffering from anxiety and other problems due to the coronavirus crisis. Defined "Covid Hope-line", the telephone counseling program uses mental health experts, psychologists and priests to help people in emotional distress. Mgr. Pablo Virgilio David, Bishop of Kalookan, who is also Vice President of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said that since the first weeks of the lockdown (since March 15), the diocese has held psychological-spiritual webinars and has activated an online consultation. "We have tried to help people in the diocese when they need the guidance of a priest or a psychologist; in this phase of crisis and difficulty, we are called to rekindle hope in those who suffer, are in discomfort, are in trial or illness", said Mgr. David. In fact, three months after the lockdown imposed for the pandemic - the Bishop recalled - the National Center for Mental Health has reported that an increasing number of Filipinos face mental health problems and psychological disorders. "In this time of crisis, many health problems have arisen or worsened: the Church must be ready to face these problems", said Mgr. David. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 9/7/2020)