Church services in Typhoon city

Church services in Typhoon city

Churches in parts of the Philippines destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan are holding Sunday services.

Bells rang out from the badly damaged Santa Nino church in the worst hit city of Tacloban.

More than 80% of the 90 million people in the Philippines are Roman Catholic.

The November 8 typhoon killed more than 3,500 people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes.

A major international relief effort is under way to assist survivors.

Hours after the storm hit, Father Amadero Alvero was on the streets, sprinkling holy water over the dead and praying for them.

The 44-year-priest then returned to church and led mass at Santa Nino.

“Despite what happened, we still believe in God,” he said. “The church may have been destroyed, but our faith is intact, as believers, as a people of God, our faith has not been destroyed.”

Today Fr Alvero lead a service for about 500 people in the church in Tacloban.

Sun shone for the first service, but by the second, rain was falling through a hole in the roof.

It was one of scores of churches across the region holding services that were attended by thousands, many homeless and grieving. Some came to give thanks for surviving, others to pray for the souls of the departed.

Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people, was largely levelled by the November 7 typhoon.

Fr Alvero carried on his work until the fifth day, blessing bodies wherever they lay – in smashed cars or floating in water – then stopped when the smell became too much for him, though he said other priests have continued.

Asked why God would allow a storm so powerful and so deadly to obliterate the region, claiming the lives of so many innocents and causing immense suffering, Fr said: “We are being tested by God, to see how strong our faith is, to see if our faith is true. This is a test of God. He wants to know that we have faith in him in good times, as well as in bad.”

Santo Nino and other churches have also been helping care for those who survived.

About 30 families are living in the church, and there are boxes of water and canned goods and food piled up on the premises.

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