MORMONS WANT TO HELP REBUILD

Aid offered to repair damaged Catholic churches in Bohol, Cebu

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They may belong to different religious denominations but in times of calamity, one church readily extends help to another.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are popularly known as Mormons, has distributed relief goods to earthquake victims in Bohol and also plans to contribute to rebuilding Catholic churches that were heavily damaged during the Oct. 15 earthquake.

Jairus Perez, manager of the Mormon’s humanitarian services in the Philippines, said one of their leaders will meet today with Bishop Leonardo Medroso of the Diocese of Tagbilaran, Bohol to discuss how they can help restore heritage churches in the province.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will help without any regard to religion. As Jesus said, we should help those in need—whoever they are. Remember Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan who helped someone whom his descendants considered an enemy,” Perez told Cebu Daily News.

“We are just applying what Jesus taught us in helping other people,” he said.

Perez also expressed willingness to help restore damaged churches in Cebu.

“We already reserved funds for the restoration of Catholic churches, including those in Cebu. We’re ready to send our donations for these churches,” he said. Perez did not specify an amount or which churches though.

Aside from being houses of worship, stone churches built in the 18th and 19th century are considered cultural heritage and tourist attractions.

The belfry in the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño collapsed. Its facade was damaged and some walls and paintings were shattered. Cracks also damaged the facade and walls of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

A national historical landmark, the basilica is the country’s oldest Roman Catholic church. It is run by the Order of Saint Augustine.

Four other churches in south Cebu towns in Dalaguete, Carcar, Sibonga and Boljoon sustained serious damage.

The Boljoon church built over 200 years ago is the only one in Cebu declared by the National Museum as a “national cultural treasure”.

In Bohol, the 180-year-old Our Lady of Light Parish Church in Loon town was destroyed while other old churches in the towns of Baclayon, Dauis, Dimiao, Loay, Loboc and Maribojoc were heavily damaged.

“We feel for our Catholic brothers and sisters. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts all sincere believers as equal in the pursuit of faith and in the great work of serving humanity,” Perez said.

The Mormons opened their new temple along Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City in 2010, the biggest in the country. An estimated 12,000 Mormons reside in Cebu and over 680,000 in the Philippines.

An inventory is being done by architects and heritage advocates for the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Cultural Heritage to assess the extent of damage and repair needed.

The coral stone blocks and some materials in the original structures are no longer available for replacement.

No cost estimates have been given yet, but conservation work is expected to run into several millions of pesos.

Msgr. Esteban Binghay, episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said the local church welcomes the Mormon’s efforts.

“That’s a good gesture from them. They can help and share what they have. After all, the church is a symbol of unity and faith,” he said.

“Ecumenism means helping each other even if we belong to different churches because we believe in one God and we have one faith, one hope, and one salvation,” he added.

Perez said the Mormons are also willing to open one of its buildings for displaced settlers.

He said Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama approached them asking to allow patients and staff of the vacated Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) to temporarily take shelter in their former headquarters in barangay Lahug, Cebu City.

“Nothing is final yet about the use of our facility for CCMC occupants because we need the approval of our church officials,” Perez said.

The CCMC is among the 25 buildings in Cebu City which were declared “unfit for occupancy” by the Department of Engineering and Public Works following the earthquake last Oct. 15.

The Mormons will continue to send relief goods to Bohol and plan to help in the clearing operations.

“We extend our prayers and love to the people of the Philippines as they seek to assess the damage from the recent earthquake and care for the individuals. We are especially mindful of those who are injured or who have lost loved ones,” Perez said.

“We provide relief and development projects for humanitarian purposes without regard to the nationality or religion of the recipients. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We respect those whose beliefs differ from ours,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pacific Online Systems Corp. donated P500,000 to help repair the damaged Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño in Cebu. Another P1 million was approved by the board of directors for the relief and rehabilitation efforts in Bohol.

The donation was mentioned in a disclosure statement filed with the Philippine Stock Exchange, where company shares of stock are publicly traded.

Pacific Online leases equipment to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for its online operations in the Visayas and Mindanao.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the death toll in the 7.2-magnitude quake reached 211, displaced more than 336,000 people and damaged P1.4 billion worth of infrastructure in Cebu and Bohol.

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