Saying that the dispute between Manila and Beijing over territories in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) “cannot be solved among people only,” Filipino Catholic bishops on Monday called on the faithful to seek divine intervention by praying the Oratio Imperata.
The Oratio Imperata or obligatory prayer is a set of Roman Catholic invocative prayers consisting of a liturgical action and a short, general prayer that bishops may publicly pray when a grave need or calamity occurs.
At the end of the three-day plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas–who was reelected president of the group–issued the Oratio Imperata for Peace, which would be distributed nationwide.
“We pray to you for peace, over that part of our islands and waters. We pray that questions over it may be resolved through justice and respect for people’s rights,” part of the prayer read.
The prayer appeals that no harm befalls marine creatures and their habitat and the people protecting the country’s islands and seas.
“We have no capacity to face the superpowers but we know how to pray. We encourage everybody to pray because we know that the tension in the West Philippine Sea cannot be solved among people only, but through the grace of God. Let’s all pray together,” Villegas said.
“We cannot all go to The Hague, not everybody can patrol the West Philippine Sea, but we can all kneel down and pray because the Lord can hear our prayers,” he added.
China has been aggressively staking its claim to the South China Sea by taking control of areas in the disputed maritime territories.
Recently, it announced the completion of its reclamation works in areas it occupied within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Manila elevated its dispute with Beijing before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. The UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Netherlands is hearing oral arguments on the Philippines’ position on the case.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also on Monday supported calls for search engine giant Google to remove Chinese references on disputed areas in the South China Sea and replace them with neutral names.
Google map, for example, refers to the Macclesfield Bank by its Chinese name, Zhongsha Islands.
“We support that move to give them neutral names,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said.
Change dot org, an online advocacy platform, last week launched a petition demanding that Google refrain from using Chinese names for South China Sea areas.
“A lot of people use these maps and if you’re looking for names [of certain features], you resort to Google,” Jose said.
Panatag Shoal–internationally known as the Scarborough Shoal–is called on the map as Huangyan Island and described as part of Zhongsha Islands.
Panatag Shoal, which is 198 kilometers west of Subic Bay in the Philippines’ Zambales province, was seized by the Chinese after a standoff with the Philippine Coast Guard in 2013.
“Google maps showing this [Huangyan Island] is part of Zhongsha island chain gives credence to what is plainly a territory grab that peace-loving nations should stand against,” Change.org said in its website.