By Tracy Cabrera
INFORMATION overload and spreading misinformation about the state of the country amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prompted the Catholic Church to call on schools and seminary educators to question, be critical and yet remain hopeful despite a climate of “restlessness and fear” created by the Covid-19 outbreak.
In a joint statement, Episcopal Commission on Seminaries chair Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education head Bishop Roberto Mallari said that schools need to discern the truth in the present times, especially behind the appearances of seeming unstoppable increasing infections.
“We must make appropriate decisions on the basis of this truth,” Villegas and Mallari pointed out, in a reference to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bishops also said that fear of illness and death looms over the country and basic freedoms have disappeared.
“Over two million of us (Filipinos) have lost jobs and over 93,000 businesses have closed down or have severely been restructured. Our economy has plunged 16.5 percent, losing 1.5 trillion pesos a month, and is in technical recession, the first since 1991. We have an epidemic of depression and increasing reports of suicides,” they said.
The bishops also called for students to search for clarity of purpose and certainty of direction from the country’s leaders during the pandemic.
“We need to be critical and discerning against the many false narratives prevalent in media and the many unscientific unreasonable public policies.
Once you understand the issues better, find creative ways to be active in bringing a solution in the light of the Gospel.
This is our Christian social responsibility,” they enthused.
Villegas and Mallari also appealed to those who did not share their “common Christian faith” yet shared a “common concern for the nation,” adding that media should balance their coverage of the Covid-19 crisis.
“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,” they said.
On a final note, the bishops said hospitals should be “precise in targeting” who should receive priority in hospital care by protecting the most vulnerable sectors of society.
“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,” said the bishops.
Meanwhile, Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes advised President Rodrigo Duterte to focus on policies that will enable people to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and avoid politicking and promoting death during the health crisis.
“(Duterte) should focus on concrete measures so that Filipinos can survive the coronavirus pandemic. The Philippines has seen enough fatalities and infected people caused by Covid-19,” Cortes concluded.