MANILA--Catholic churches in the Philippines lit up in red Wednesday, as masses and prayers were offered in solidarity with Christians worldwide being persecuted and killed because of their faith.
But amid a COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected and killed millions globally, the Church also dedicated its prayers for those who are sick with the virus and the medical frontliners who are leading the fight against the dreaded respiratory disease.
During a mass at Manila Cathedral, church rector Rev. Fr. Reginald Malicdem asked devotees to remember those affected by the virus, and who in some ways also experienced persecution due to their condition.
"Our 'Red Wednesday' this year also gives focus on our brothers and sisters who are sick because of COVID-19, also our frontliners who are also suffering, who are also in one way or another persecuted," Malicdem said.
"We pray for them and our prayers for them are our expression of love. For them red is also the color of love."
Meanwhile, at the St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Pangasinan, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said persecution will always be a challenge to Church since it was established because of it.
Similar to Jesus Christ, Villegas said persecution should not be met by self-defense or self-protection. The archbishop saidp it must be met with courage and faith that God is always "on our side."
"We are not cowards when it comes to persecution. Our Lord taught us how to handle persecution and self-defense, self-protection is certainly not the way," said Villegas, who is also the former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
"We cannot meet hostility with further hostility. We cannot meet animosity with more animosity. We cannot meet immaturity with more immaturity."
On social media, official accounts of various churches shared photos of its interiors and facades lit in red for Wednesday's commemoration, including the Manila Cathedral, Quiapo Church, Pasig Cathedral, and Malolos Cathedral.