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SCL bishops, priests strengthen regional humanitarian response

As hundreds of thousands in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite struggle to restore normalcy in their lives following Taal volcano’s eruption beginning on Jan. 12, the South Central Luzon Bishops Conference (SCLBC) of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) drew out a plan to strengthen the conference’s humanitarian response.

Taking off from the reality of displacement, and the loss of homes and livelihoods due to the restive supervolcano, SCLBC chairperson Bishop Rowel Arevalo on Jan. 29 met with priests and lay representatives of several dioceses of the SCL region, which covers faith communities from Pampanga to Masbate, in the Parish of St. Joseph the Spouse of Mary, General Emilio Aguinaldo town in Cavite.

“For this meeting two weeks after the eruption, we now have a good basis for assessing our response as a regional body and planning our future undertakings in providing and sustaining humanitarian assistance beyond our ongoing relief missions,” Bishop Arevalo said as he welcomed the participants to the meeting.

The meeting was attended by 22 priests and lay people from the Dioceses of Laguna, Maquebaca, Greater Manila, Cavite and Rizal-Pampanga.

As the gathering proceeded, the attendees raised a wide range of issues and themes pertinent to the future of Kapit-Bisig, SCLBC’s humanitarian mission implemented through the Ramento Project for Rights Defenders and SCL National Priests Organization (NPO).

The group ultimately unified on the need to sustain and reinforce Kapit-Bisig.

“As we look forward to making a meaningful contribution in helping the affected population assert and claim their rights to home, food and livelihood, it is vital that improvements be introduced to the organizational and programatic scopes of Kapit-Bisig as a rights-based humanitarian intervention,” said IFI General Secretary Bishop Joel Porlares, also a member of the SCLBC.

Rev. Cesar Hilario, SCL NPO chairperson and Kapit-Bisig coordinator in Batangas, expressed his appreciation to the clergy who volunteered in and enjoined the faithful to participate in the disaster response.

“Our priests are an extremely important component of the SCLBC Kapit-Bisig’s effort in alleviating human suffering and uplifting human dignity in this calamitous time,” he said. “NPO members have been, since the organization’s inception, been known for helping the most vulnerable and those left at the margins of society.”

Bishop Arevalo added: “We salute our bishops, priests and lay people who have made Kapit-Bisig a faithful ministry to the most vulnerable among our people.”

Characterized by insightful inputs and open discussions, the meeting provided an avenue where the attendees expressed their commitment to participate more meaningfully in the missional work of the SCL jurisdiction.

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