Asia Crisis Closely Followed at Vatican

Church Reaches Out to the Needy in Wake of Catastrophe

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2005 ( John Paul II offered prayers in the wake of the tsumani-earthquake disaster in Asia, and kept in touch with his representatives in the region.

The Dec. 26 earthquake, just off the coast of the island of Sumatra, triggered a tsunami whose death toll could reach 150,000. Effects of the tsunami were felt as far away as Africa.

While praying for the victims and their families, the Pope has followed news of the disaster and has maintained contact with his nuncios in the affected areas.

Last Sunday, the day of the catastrophe, after praying the Angelus together with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father requested that «the international community make every relief effort possible to these regions.» He also assured them of his prayers and solidarity with all the suffering.

The Pope prepared to send an urgent initial aid package through the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum.»

At the end of Wednesday’s general audience, John Paul II said: «News from Asia continue to reveals the vastness of the immense catastrophe which affected mainly India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.»

«The international community and many humanitarian organizations promptly began to organize aid,» he said, according to Fides. «The same is being done by the Church’s many charity institutions.

«In this season of Christmas I urge believers and all men and women of good will to contribute generously to the major operation of solidarity for these peoples so tragically stricken and now exposed to the risk of epidemics of disease.»

He added: «I am close to all with my love and prayers, especially to the injured and the homeless, while I entrust to the Divine Mercy of God the countless number of people who lost their lives.»

The Italian bishops’ conference has decided to contribute 3 million euros ($4 million) in aid. The Holy Father’s humanitarian aid fund, «Cor Unum,» has opened a special bank account to receive donations, according to Agence France-Presse.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS) announced a commitment of $25 million for emergency relief and long-term rehabilitation programs to assist people across the south and southeast Asia region devastated by the tsunami.

To contribute to CRS tsunami relief efforts, send donations to:

Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
Memo line: Tsunami Emergency

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