Holy See Hopes Tsunami Relief-Aid Continues

Vatican Appeals to U.N. Not to Neglect Long-term Help

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NEW YORK, JAN. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Catholic organizations have succeeded in collecting $500 million, which is being allocated to long-term programs of recovery in the wake of the Dec. 26 tsunami in Asia.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, highlighted the importance of long-term assistance when addressing the U.N. General Assembly last Tuesday on “Strengthening of the Coordination of Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance of the United Nations, Including Special Economic Assistance.”

“It seems clear,” the prelate said, “that this is an emergency whose aftermath is going to last through the medium and long term, and so it is to be hoped that the solidarity of private citizens and governments alike will not die down once the world recovers from the initial shock of the calamity.” The text of his address was released today by the Holy See.

“Since the start of the emergency, His Holiness Pope John Paul II has expressed his deepest sympathy,” Archbishop Migliore said. “He has committed the agencies of the Catholic Church to act in a genuine gesture of solidarity with all people without exception in each nation touched by this enormous tragedy.”

The institutions of the Catholic Church “and the papal representatives present in the affected countries went into action immediately,” he observed. “Firstly, they gave out food and clothes as well as sheltering the affected populations.

“Tragically, it has become clear that the most affected group has been young children, of whom at least 50,000 were swept away, but there are also tens of thousands left orphans. For this reason we are placing special emphasis upon ways to bring help to surviving children in the zones worst affected.”

“In cooperation with the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum'” — the Pope’s charitable organization — “a very long list of Catholic agencies is already using funds from throughout the world, amounting to nearly $500 million, some of which is going into emergency aid and the rest into longer-term projects through our local networks,” Archbishop Migliore told the U.N. assembly.

The Vatican representative insisted that nongovernmental organizations and religious-related groups should be allowed to work directly with the populace in the field.

He also noted that “aid from multilateral funds should be distributed equitably between the affected regions without political, ethnic or religious bias.”

“The extraordinary impact of the power of nature in a radius of thousands of miles has elicited an equally extraordinary response from the peoples and governments of the whole world in an outpouring of sympathy and solidarity rarely seen in recent times,” the archbishop added.

“Such a swift and practical expression of global solidarity” demonstrates the existence of “a deep sense of our shared humanity and fragility in the face of such terrible events,” he noted.

In addition to “strengthening emergency relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, … the world’s nations should seize this opportunity and the good will generated by the world’s peoples so as to further important humanitarian goals” also in other areas of the world, the archbishop exhorted.

“My delegation earnestly hopes,” he concluded, “that this year will be one in which solidarity will be the hallmark of the political agenda in a way that will help all nations refocus on ways to achieve the development goals agreed upon at the start of this millennium.”

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