SANTIAGO, Chile, MARCH 5, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is offering his prayers for the people of Chile, recently devastated by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake, that they will find hope in the midst of disaster.
The Pope stated this in a message sent to the president of that country’s episcopal conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua.
The Feb. 27 quake affected 2 million people in eight of Chile’s 27 dioceses. Over 800 people were killed in the disaster and some 500,000 more were displaced.
The Pontiff stated, “Deeply grieved by the sad news of the earthquake that caused numerous casualties, injuries and widespread property damage, I offer prayers for the eternal repose of the deceased.”
“I raise fervent prayers to the Lord that he would give his consolation to those affected by such an enormous disaster and inspire in all people sentiments of Christian hope and fraternal solidarity to help them overcome adversity,” the Holy Father added.
He sent a special word of encouragement to “Church communities, civil institutions and people of good will, so that, in these difficult times, they will provide effective assistance, with a generous spirit and solicitous charity.”
“With these sentiments,” Benedict XVI stated, “and invoking the protection of Our Lady of Mount Caramel, I impart my heartfelt apostolic blessing as a sign of affection to the beloved people of Chile.”
The country is still reeling from a series of aftershocks that continue to shake the already unstable towns. Over 120 aftershocks measuring at least 5.0 have struck the country since Saturday’s quake.
Caritas is among the other organizations providing relief to the survivors in the form of food and hygiene resources.
On Thursday, Bishop Goic and the archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz were invited to a meeting with the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet.
In the meeting, they underlined the need for unity and solidarity in this moment of need that requires the good will and generosity of all, the bishops’ conference reported on its Web site.
Bachelet expressed gratitude toward the Catholic Church for its support and spiritual accompaniment to the quake survivors.
“As always, the Catholic Church is working, collaborating and helping the community in many various ways, for which I am grateful on behalf of the entire government,” she said.
Bishop Goic affirmed that while the Church has lost many “temples,” what “most concerns us are people, the living temples, who suffer pain and have lost their loved ones or their material goods.”
On Sunday, parishes across the country will unite in praying for the people affected by the earthquake, and will take up a special collection for their aid.