VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI urged Christians to help children who lost their parents in the tsunami that hit South Asia last Dec. 26.
The Pope took advantage of his meeting on Saturday with the bishops of Sri Lanka, at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit, to express his sympathy over the tragedy, and to guarantee his and the Church’s solidarity with the victims.
More than 31,000 people in that island nation died as a result of the deadly tidal wave, and more than a million were left homeless.
In response to the greeting addressed to him by Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando, president of the Sri Lankan episcopal conference, the Holy Father said: “I was deeply disturbed to observe the devastating effects of the tsunami.”
“Please accept my profound sympathy and that of Catholics everywhere for all who have endured such terrible losses,” he added. “In the faces of the bereaved and dispossessed, we cannot fail to recognize the suffering face of Christ, and indeed it is he whom we serve when we show our love and compassion to those in need.”
“The Christian community has a particular obligation to care for those children who have lost their parents as a result of the natural disaster,” the Pope said in his address, delivered in English.
“To these most vulnerable members of society the kingdom of Heaven belongs, yet so often they are simply forgotten or shamelessly exploited as soldiers, laborers, or innocent victims in the trafficking of human beings,” Benedict XVI stated.
“No effort should be spared to urge civil authorities and the international community to fight these abuses and to offer young children the legal protection they justly deserve,” he continued.
The Holy Father explained that God was not absent during the tsunami, adding that “in everything God works for good with those who love him.”
“This was manifested in the unprecedented generosity of the humanitarian response” to the disaster, he said.
“I want to commend all of you for the outstanding way in which the Church in Sri Lanka struggled to meet the material, moral, psychological and spiritual needs of the victims. We can recognize further signs of God’s goodness in the partnership and collaboration of so many diverse elements of society in the relief effort,” stated the Pope.
“It was heartening to see members of different religious and ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, and throughout the global community, coming together to show their solidarity towards the afflicted and rediscovering the fraternal bonds that unite them,” he said.
“I am confident,” the Holy Father added, “that you will find ways of building further on the fruits of this cooperation, especially by ensuring that aid is offered freely to all who are in need.”