.- As Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest storms in history – hit the islands of the Philippines today, the country's bishops called for prayers to be said for the safety of the nation's people.
“We all know that Typhoon Yolanda,” as the storm is known in the Philippines, “is very strong and we pray that it would not really hit us or bring havoc to the country,” Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, president of the Philippines' bishops' conference, said Nov. 8.
“We have had enough calamities through the earthquake last Oct. 15 and I am hoping that through our prayers, you know with God’s help, the effects of the typhoon would not be too destructive” he added, according to Filipino news outlet Sun Star.
“I am appealing to my brother bishops that they will exhort our priests to lead prayers against impending calamities.”
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines around dawn on Friday, and battered the country for nearly five hours. It is now in the South China Sea, and is headed towards Vietnam and southern China.
Chita Montfort, executive director of Prayer Warriors for the Holy Souls, told CNA that Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, issued an 'oratio imperata' “sometime last year to prayer for deliverance from calamities,” and that the prayer has been distributed to over “600,000 members” of the group.
An “oratio imperata” is an “ordered prayer” said in times of calamity, and traditionally said at the end of Mass. The prayer for the Philippines expresses gratitude to God for the “wonders of creation” and acknowledges “our sins against You and the rest of creation.”
The prayer goes on to ask for forgiveness of sins and to “be spared from the threat of calamities, natural and man-made.”
“We beseech You to inspire us all to grow into responsible stewards of Your creation, and generous neighbors to those in need,” it says.
Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignasio, rector of Quiapo parish and head of the Manila archdiocese's disaster management ministry, told CNA that in spite of continuous natural disasters, “Filipinos seek God and take it as a part of life.”
“They do not curse God; rather they ask help from God, and spiritual help from the Church.”
He said that the disaster management ministry was monitoring Typhoon Haiyan together with government agencies, and that this has helped their people to take preventative actions and to notify parishes in danger so as to reduce the loss of life.
Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete prayed “that the graces of God will build on our natural tendencies,” saying that knowledge and faith must go together to guide people's response to such disasters.
“Our faith is stronger than any problem or any calamities,” he said.
CBCP News reported that bishops were coordinating with government agencies in disaster relief, and quoted Archbishop John Du of Palo as saying Nov. 7 that he had reminded his flock to take practical measures, such as “to secure candles, flashlights, water and non-perishable food products.”
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon had “declared ‘safe areas’ to serve as evacuation centers and already prepared food items for relief operations,” and required his priests to reinforce their parish buildings.
Catholic Relief Services is in the Philippines to assist with disaster response, mobilizing resources to help the government in the most affected areas. Greg Auberry, the organization's regional director, said Nov. 7 they were moving tarps to Cebu to provide shelter for 8,000 families.
Typhoon Haiyan could be the strongest storm in recorded history, CNN reported. The typhoon is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, with sustained winds of 195 miles per hour and gusts as strong as 235 miles per hour. Four people have been reported killed by the storm already.
The strong winds have led to flash flooding and landslides, and destroyed many homes and other buildings. Some areas saw 45-foot floods and more than 15 inches of rain, according to the BBC, which also reported that this was the 25th tropical storm to hit the Philippines in just this year.
The country is still recovering from a powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.2, which hit the central islands of Cebu and Bohol on Oct. 15, causing more than 100 deaths and reducing local churches and houses to rubble.
“The pain of another disaster is devastating,” Auberry said.