Pope Reiterates Closeness to Quake Victims

Death Toll in Central America at 403

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 15, 2001 (ZENIT.org).-
John Paul II is following closely all news of the deadly earthquake that struck Central America, and has sent a second message to express his closeness to all those affected.

After appealing Sunday to the international community to help the victims of the disaster that struck El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and southern Mexico, the Holy Father sent a telegram to Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador, in which he assured the people of his prayers.

John Paul II said that he was «profoundly saddened when learning the painful news of the earthquake, which has caused numerous victims, wounded.»

Aftershocks and the threat of more mudslides continued in El Salvador today, two days after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed at least 403 people and left another 1,200 missing, CNN said. Hopes of finding more survivors were fading as hundreds of people left their homes amid concern over the possibility of more mudslides, the news organization said.

Fearing higher casualties, El Salvador President Francisco Flores has asked Colombia to donate 3,000 coffins.

The Pope in his message asked Archbishop Saenz Lacalle to communicate his condolences to «the family members and express to the wounded and affected his paternal solicitude and sentiments of closeness.» The message also addresses all institutions and men of good will, «so that they will lend effective help with a generous spirit and Christian charity, in these difficult moments.»

Parishes in El Salvador, meanwhile, were being turned into relief centers for the victims of the earthquake, sources in the capital´s archdiocese stated.

When celebrating Sunday Mass, in a cathedral with cracks from the earthquake, Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez of San Salvador said that all the country´s parishes are ready to assist all those affected by the disaster. The parishes will be used as distribution centers for emergency food, medicine and clothing.

On Saturday night, representatives of the Catholic Church took part in a meeting with President Flores. A committee was set up to coordinate Church and state relief efforts so that aid is distributed fairly. Church officials suggested that victims be given psychological counseling, to help them cope with the loss of loved ones and their homes.

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