CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 4, 2005 ( Benedict XVI will send a special envoy to express concrete solidarity to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the U.S.' Gulf Coast.

The Pope also appealed to all believers to join in prayer so that the relatives of the dead and injured will experience God's consolation.

After reciting the midday Angelus today with crowds gathered at the papal summer residence, the Holy Father spoke to those present in Italian, saying that "in these days, we all feel saddened because of the disaster caused by the hurricane in the United States of America, especially in New Orleans."

Benedict XVI revealed at the same time that he has entrusted Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," with the task of witnessing "my solidarity to the populations affected."

In other recent disasters, Archbishop Cordes has offered financial aid on behalf of the Pope to peoples affected. With his presence and prayer meetings, he has expressed the Holy Father's spiritual closeness and that of Catholics worldwide.

The aim of "Cor Unum" (in Latin it means one heart) is to channel the Pope's gestures of solidarity, to coordinate the activity of Catholic aid institutions, and to sensitize believers on the evangelical reasons for charity.

"Our deep concern"

Benedict XVI said that he is praying "for the deceased and their relatives, for the injured and for the people who have lost their homes, for the sick, children and the elderly." He sent his blessing to "all those involved in the difficult operations of rescue and reconstruction."

Then, speaking in English, the Holy Father appealed to believers to join in prayer so that "the grieving families experience the consolation of God's presence," and assured rescue workers "of our deep concern and support."

The U.S. bishops' conference has organized a national collection to help victims of the hurricane.

Catholic aid is arriving in the affected area thanks to Catholic Charities, diocesan Caritas agencies, and other organizations, associations and movements.

Catholic schools from across the nation are opening their doors to students displaced by the hurricane, announced the U.S. episcopate.