Caritas Philippines renews calls to act on climate crisis, ecological conversion

November 10, 2023

The social action arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines has called on the public to take up the challenge of Pope Francis’ Laudate Deum.

“We are called to be stewards of the Earth, to protect and nurture the environment, and to ensure that no one is left behind in the face of climate injustice,” said Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, president of Caritas Philippines. 

In Laudate Deum, the Pope emphasized the dire need for action, criticized climate change deniers, and highlighted the undeniable human origin of global warming.

Pope Francis expressed deep concern about the inadequacy of global responses to the climate crisis, which he believes has brought humanity dangerously close to a breaking point.

Bishop Bagaforo made the call during the commemoration of the 10th year of super typhoon Haiyan in the municipality of Palo in Leyte province in the central Philippines on October 8.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, president of Caritas Philippines, offers prayers for the victims of climate-induced disasters during a candle-lighting activity in commemoration of the 10th year of super typhoon Haiyan in Palo, Leyte province in the central Philippines on November 8. Photo by Mark Saludes

Super typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, struck in 2013 and affected more than 14 million people across 46 provinces.

In his homily during a celebration of the Eucharist at the Palo Cathedral, Bishop Bagaforo urged the public to “look back” and remember the “devastation and the overwhelming loss experienced” on November 8, 2013. 

The prelate honored the “lives cut short” due to the onslaught of Haiyan. He also encouraged the faithful to pray for those “who are still unfound”. 

Bishop Bagaforo stressed that the Haiyan commemoration just not only depicts “sorrow” but also “an opportunity to honor the resilience and strength of the Filipino spirit”. 

“The courage, solidarity, and faith displayed by our people during those dark days became a beacon of hope and an example for the world,” he said. 

The prelate expressed gratitude to the various humanitarian actors and the Catholic social action network that “responded with unwavering commitment”.

Caritas Philippines, in cooperation and collaboration with various foreign and domestic Caritas organizations, reached over 160,000 families. “Our overall Caritas confederation response is estimated at 3.2 billion pesos,” he said.

“Our collective Caritas response not only provided immediate relief but also contributed to the long-term recovery… exemplifying how faith-based organizations can play a pivotal role in disaster response, as well as in addressing the broader issues of climate change and social justice,” said Bishop Bagaforo. 

On November 7, representatives of various foreign and domestic Caritas organizations gathered in a solidarity event “to reflect on the responses” they made since the aftermath of Haiyan in 2013. 

Archbishop John Du addresses the crowd during a consolidation activity organized by Caritas Philippines to commemorate the 10th year of Haiyan in the municipality of Palo in the central Philippine province of Leyte. Photo by Mark Saludes

Fr. Alchris Badana, social action director of the Archdiocese of Palo, said the 10th Haiyan anniversary “ is not just a commemoration of a tragic event, but a celebration of our collective strength and determination”. 

He said it is a testament to the “power of partnerships,”  both local and global, “that have illuminated our path toward recovery”.

“Let us carry forward the lessons of resilience and partnership into the future, not only in times of crisis but as a guiding principle in our daily lives,” the priest said. 

Archbishop John Du of Palo said the “fast recovery” of the victims of Haiyan is “because of the many people” around the world who helped respond to the call for aid.

“We were able to recover not because of our own strength and resilience but because of God’s loving mercy and through the people he sent to help us,” he said. 

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