Manila (AsiaNews) - The Year for Priests inaugurated last June 19 by Pope Benedict XVI is seen in the Philippines as a great opportunity to strengthen the relationship between priests and laity.
The Philippine Republic together with East Timor is the only Asian country with a Catholic majority with 68 million believers (89% of the population). It is also one of the poorest states in the world, with a poverty rate above 15%. In this context, there are about 25 thousand priests who work in various parishes, each serving an average of 8 thousand faithful, that number rises to 20 thousand in the capital Manila. The Church and its ministers here play a crucial role in society, working actively in the field of education and providing help to the sick and poor.
"The best way to mark the Year for Priests is to pray for priests and for vocations," says Milagros Gapus, catechist and teacher in the Archdiocese of Manila. She continues by saying that "priests are just like us. So we must pray for them that the Lord enlighten them in moments of weakness, loneliness and doubt. "
To raise awareness of the support of the laity, the Philippine Bishops' Conference has issued a circular stating that "the celebration of the priesthood aims to create a greater awareness among the faithful regarding the indispensabile role of priests in their communities and the need for prayers in support vocations and the newly ordained. "
Another key factor is the economic support to the seminarians, who are often unable to continue their studies because of a lack of money. Jose Flores, a parish worker from the Archdiocese of Manila said that she and other lay people are giving money to help young seminarians.
During the Year for Priests the archdiocese of Manila will hold in all the parishes and chapels weekly prayer appointments, the 'Holy Hour "on Friday and the adoration of the Eucharist on Saturday. They will begin July 1st 2009 and aim to spiritually and financially support the work of priests, through the prayers and offerings of the faithful.