Rehab of Samar, Leyte top priority of new CBCP officers

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A panoramic view of devastation in Palo, Leyte.

MANILA, Dec. 4, 2013—Less than a week after assuming office, the new set of officers of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) readily targeted the rehabilitation of Samar and Leyte, which were recently struck by super typhoon ‘Yolanda’, as a top priority.

“The first immediate concern is helping our suffering countrymen in Leyte and Samar… We must move forward from relief work to rehabilitation work then hopefully to developmental programs,” new CBCP president and Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan Socrates Villegas said in a recent interview.

Simple lifestyle 

Villegas, who was particularly moved by the recent disaster and penned a prayer calling on God to spare the Philippines from further disasters, said the urgent need of people in the Visayas demands a certain “simplicity of lifestyle” to make it possible to help “the displaced and grieving typhoon victims.”

“It is Jesus who is suffering. We must serve the Lord among our suffering countrymen,” he added.

According to a recent report from Caritas Manila, weeks after the disaster, as many as 1.6 million families in Samar and Leyte continue to be in dire need of basic necessities like food and toiletries.

The Manila archdiocese’s charity arm calls on the public to donate basic provisions like rice, biscuits, bottled water, coffee, canned goods, soap, toothpaste, new underwear, cooking ware, beddings, tool boxes, working/school clothes, crucifix/rosaries.

The Joy of the Gospel 

Aside from concerns on the national level, the CBCP sees the importance to be in step with the major directions Pope Francis has set in his first apostolic letter, Evangelii Gaudium.

Villegas, who assumed office together with Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles as vice president,  last December 1, also named the dissemination, study and implementation of the “mind of Pope Francis for the Church” as expressed in Evangelii Gaudium, as a CBCP priority.

“It is a heartwarming meditation by the Pope. It must be translated to life,” he added.

Released last November 26, Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of the Gospel, is a 48,000-word document that Catholic leaders and thinkers are calling the “blueprint for evangelization in the 21st century.”

The current set of officers, which also includes Palo Archbishop John Du as CBCP treasurer; Fr. Marvin Mejia as secretary general and Msgr. Bernardo Pantin as assistant secretary general and assistant treasurer, will hold office until November 30, 2015. [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]

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