Catholic leaders have offered prayers for the Philippines after two earthquakes struck the region this week.
A magnitude-6.1 earthquake hit the nation’s largest and most populous island of Luzon on Monday. An unrelated magnitude-6.4 quake struck the island of Samar the following day.
Numerous buildings, including a few churches, were destroyed or damaged by the earthquakes. The wall of a supermarket near the capital city of Manila collapsed on Monday, killing at least five people and burying others who have not yet been found. Electricity has been shut down in some areas to prevent fires.
Vatican News reported that the death toll had risen to at least 20 people, while hundreds more are injured or missing.
According to the news website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Archdiocese of San Fernando has barred activity in 24 historical churches until they can be inspected for safety.
Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, encouraged churches to practice safety drills in the wake of the earthquakes.
Archbishop Rolando Tirona of Caceres also urged parishes and priests to revisit safety measures for all church buildings, including seminaries and convents.
“We must always ensure the safety of our churchgoers, and be pro-active in safeguarding our churches and the faithful against human violence and natural calamities,” said Tirona, according to CBCP News.
“Without causing undue panic and confusion, I enjoin you dear pastors to put in place security measures in your respective Churches to protect our faithful and to ensure peaceful liturgical celebrations,” he said.
Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the conference would be praying for all those affected by the earthquakes.
“We…pray especially for the grieving people, who have lost dear ones in the earthquake, and we hope recovery and help would come to these people,” Valles told CBCP News.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, president of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences, offered his condolences in a letter to the bishops and faithful of the Philippines.
“It is with deep sorrow that I heard about the multiple earthquakes that hit your nation and took the lives of some 20 people, injuring hundreds and with several people reported missing,” said Bo.
The cardinal said he is praying for victims, survivors, and caregivers in the wake of the tragedy.