Pontiff Urges Prayer for New Zealand Quake Victims

Asks God’s Help for Rescue Teams

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is promising prayer for those being “severely tested” by the earthquake in New Zealand.

Today at the end of the general audience, the Pope mentioned the victims of the quake that struck Christchurch at 1 p.m. Tuesday, local time. The current death toll is at 75, but some 300 people are still unaccounted for. More than 100 people were rescued the evening and night of the quake.

“At this time, my thoughts turn especially to the people [of New Zealand] who are being severely tested by this tragedy,” the Holy Father said. “Let us ask God to relieve their suffering and to support all who are involved in the rescue operations. I also ask you to join me in praying for all who have lost their lives.”

Rescue teams as well as condolences arrived from around the globe.

From nearby Australia, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, president of the bishops’ conference, assured solidarity with the New Zealanders.

“It is with great sadness that the bishops of Australia and the Catholic people of this nation watch the unfolding events following the massive earthquake in Christchurch yesterday,” said his message to Bishop Barry Jones of Christchurch. “The proximity of our countries and the solidarity we share in times of disaster lead us to feel enormous grief for what your people are experiencing. […] You and the people of Christchurch are very much in our prayers at this time, and we pray that Our Lord will continue to accompany you.”

Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s bigger cities, with a population of some 350,000.

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