Chilean Bishops Appeal for Solidarity After Quake

Condemn Looting and Pillaging

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SANTIAGO, Chile, MARCH 3, 2010 ( The bishops of Chile issued messages, individually and as a group, calling for the nation’s solidarity with victims of Saturday’s earthquake and condemning looting in the affected areas.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake took more than 720 lives and affected two million more.

In a message to his countrymen on behalf of all the prelates, the president of the Chilean episcopal conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, exhorted politicians to work together for the good of the country.

He stated: «With just a few days before a change in government, we need to work as a united country, together with the present and future authorities, with the best will and collaboration of everyone.

«We would not like political considerations to tarnish aid in a spirit of solidarity or reconstruction.»

The prelate denounced the cases of vandalism: «Between tremors and rubble, we have with astonishment seen the barbaric action of those who steal in the midst of the emergency.»

«In hours of understandable desperation,» he continued, «we appeal to all for serenity and solidarity, and to the Christian faithful for intense family and community prayer at this time.»

In another statement, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, archbishop of Santiago, also condemned the «looting and speculative sales of essential products.»

He stated that to take advantage of «a moment of difficulties, of weakness of the work of institutions, of persons who are working in the supermarkets, for one’s own benefit beyond one’s needs, is altogether to be condemned.»

The cardinal stressed the importance of volunteer work not only for the material needs of the survivors but especially for the psychological needs, the country’s Channel 13 reported.

Living Church

Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati of Concepcion, the second largest city in Chile and the locality most affected by the quake, expressed gratitude for the curfew imposed by the government to contain vandalism, Radio Cooperativa reported.

«The disaster is great from the material point of view,» he acknowledged.

However, the prelate added that «the other earthquake, the spiritual,» is just as scary.

He continued: «There is a wave of solidarity and generosity; the work of volunteers who are mobilizing is a forest that is growing. But acts of vandalism are trees that fall and make a lot of noise.»

The archbishop explained that his archdiocese «has made available to the authorities all of our networks.»

«We are going to distribute the aid that comes to us through the parishes, chapels and communities,» he added.

Archbishop Ezzati said: «Most of our churches have collapsed, but that is the least of it. What interests us is the living Church that persons are.»

Other prelates from around the world have already sent messages and gestures of support to those areas affected by the disaster.

Saturday’s earthquake was 500 times more forceful than the Jan. 12 quake in Haiti.

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