By LESLIE ANN AQUINO
Manila, Philippines – While no one knows what will happen in 2014, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged Filipinos to remain a people of hope.
“I don’t know what is waiting for us in 2014 like we did not know that in 2013 Pope Benedict XVI will resign,” CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in an interview.
He said this is aside from the string of calamities that hit the country.
Still, Villegas said, there’s always a reason to be optimistic and hopeful.
“We are not just an optimistic people…we are a people of hope because our hope comes from faith in God,” he said adding that such hope comes from the awareness that God is always at work in human history.
Asked regarding the plans of the CBCP in 2014, Villegas said their topmost priority is still the relief and rehabilitation of areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda as well as the strong earthquake.
“Our number one priority is the immediate relief and rehabilitation of Samar, Leyte, Bohol and parts of Cebu because our brothers and sisters are suffering there,” he said.
“We cannot have any programs that will play blind to the needs of the suffering poor,” added Villegas.
On October 15, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Central Visayas, particularly the province of Bohol, destroying a number of heritage churches in Bohol and Cebu.
Barely a month after the strong temblor, supertyphoon “Yolanda” battered Eastern Visayas, particularly Samar and Leyte, killing thousands of people and destroying a number of properties including churches in its wake.
The prelate said another priority is the formation of the laity since 2014 is the Year of the Laity.
“To form our lay people and get them engaged in social transformation, and in the work of evangelization,” Villegas said.
Lastly, he said, is their preparation for the 500th year of the first Mass of the first baptism in the Philippines on 2021.