Solidarity With Tsunami Victims Is on Pope's Mind

At 1st General Audience of Year

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2005 ( John Paul II asked the faithful to unite with his prayer for the victims of the tsunami that struck southern Asia.

The Pope observed a few moments of silence and mourning for the victims, during his general audience Wednesday in Paul VI Hall.

It was a show of solidarity for the relief efforts launched by numerous European countries for the Dec. 26 quake-triggered catastrophe.

Officials fear the death toll of 140,000 could double if relief aid fails to reach the survivors in time.

In a frail voice, the Holy Father told the 7,000 pilgrims at the general audience: «Once more I ask everyone to unite with my prayer for the dead and for the populations that are going through grave difficulties.»

Within hours of the disaster, the Pope moved to mobilize the Church’s spiritual and material help for the victims.

In his address at the first general audience of 2005, John Paul II put the new year under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, «marked as it is by a deep concern for the sufferings which the people of Southeast Asia are currently undergoing.»

He dedicated his brief meditation to reflect on the solemnity of the Epiphany, which is celebrated today in many countries.

In Christ, the Pope explained, «God definitively enters history and offers salvation to men and women of all times and places.»

The feast of Epiphany celebrates a «universal dimension of salvation,» he said. «The Son of God is recognized and adored by the Magi, who represent the entire human race.»

«The good news of salvation,» the Pope added, «is thus intended from the very beginning for all peoples of the world.»

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