The Catholic Bishops of the Philippines are calling for a novena of prayer and charity for victims of a massive typhoon which has claimed the lives of an estimated 10,000 people.
Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, media director of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, told Vatican Radio the funds raised during the novena, which runs from 11-19 November, will be channeled to the crisis region through Caritas Philippines.
Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, made landfall on 8 November, driving some 600,000 people from their homes and causing widespread destruction, especially in the Leyte province.
During his weekly Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis prayed for the people of the Philippines, calling for those in the region to both pray for the suffering and to provide concrete aid.
Three days after the storm struck the country, more than 9.5 million people are in need of aid across nine provinces.
Vatican Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin has also sent a telegram to Philippine president Benigno Aquino III on behalf of the Holy Father. He writes that the Pope is “deeply saddened by the destruction and loss of life caused by the super typhoon,” and that he “expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this storm and its aftermath.”
The Pope also offered his encouragement to civil authorities and emergency personnel as they work to bring aid to the victims of the storm.
Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines-NASSA, Fr. Edwin Gariguez, said: “It’s the first time the Philippines has experienced a disaster of this magnitude. Despite the precautions, this was beyond all expectations. We couldn’t image a storm of this size hitting the Philippines.”
The vast majority of casualties were in the Leyte province, where a tidal surge of nearly 10 feet destroyed the region’s capital, Tacloban City.
Caritas and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) teams managed to reach the Leyte island yesterday to assess the humanitarian situation.
“The casualties are increasing day by day. There are dead bodies everywhere. People are traumatized. The most urgent needs are for food and water,” Fr. Gariguez said.
Catholic Churches, convents, and schools were also damaged by the typhoon
“Despite the impact on the Church in Leyte, we are working with the neighboring dioceses such as Maasin to get food in by road Monday morning,” said Fr Gariguez.
Reports coming from other islands, according to Caritas Philippines, are showing similar destruction. “We are getting reports from Panay and Biliran that the situation there is very difficult. Houses have been leveled. There are many casualties. They haven’t been reached yet. People lack the basic necessities,” said Fr Gariguez.
Caritas and CRS say the priorities are emergency shelter, water and sanitation, household relief items (blankets, kitchen items, cookware), potable water and toilets as relief operations gear up.
“We really need all the help we can get,” said Fr Gariguez. “This is a catastrophe. We appreciate all the messages of solidarity from Caritas organisations and their supporters around the world.”
Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga said: “Our prayers are with the people of Philippines. They are a people who have suffered many natural disasters in the past, always with great resilience and faith. They can be assured of the support of Caritas around the world.”