Papal Envoy Seeing Tsunami Damage Firsthand

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, JAN. 31, 2005 ( John Paul II’s special envoy in tsunami-struck Asia is viewing firsthand the consequences of the Dec. 26 disaster.

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On Sunday, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” presided at a Mass in Banda Aceh, the center of the disaster.

A statement issued by the group that is traveling with the archbishop said, “Even today the corpses continue to be counted,” some 200 a day, as a result of the tidal wave.

“They are wrapped in plastic sacks and transported in trucks that go around the devastated areas to collect them,” the statement said. “It is work that will still last a long time, as there is much rubble to remove.”

Archbishop Cordes, who is accompanied on his visits by the apostolic nuncio in Indonesia, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith, visited the local Catholic community on Sunday and, in particular, the archbishop of Madan and the diocesan administrator of Sibolga.

Today the special papal envoy met with the government minister for the coordination of reconstruction.

In Banda Aceh, the Catholic community is now made up of 500 or 600 people, amid a total population that before the tsunami numbered some 400,000, the vast majority Muslims.

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