Aide: Church Doesn't Forget Somalia

Wonders What Will Awaken an International Sense of Responsibility

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 17, 2011 ( The director of the Vatican press office is affirming the Church’s concern for Somalia, concern that has been manifested in a Cor Unum donation and a papal appeal today.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi spoke of the plight of Somalia on the most recent edition of Vatican Television’s «Octava Dies.» The country is facing its worst drought in decades and multitudes — including countless children — are fleeing on foot to neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya in search of water and food.

The situation is particularly severe in the south, where the Islamic radicals of Al-Shabaab had impeded aid groups from distributing food.

Benedict XVI today emphasized the Church’s concern for the region, urging international solidarity in the address he gave after praying the midday Angelus with the faithful in Castel Gandolfo.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has just sent a donation of some $70,000 as a token of the universal Church’s concern.

Last Thursday, UNICEF called the situation in the Horn of Africa «the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world … with Somalia being the epicenter of the crisis.»

It explained that the «extremely fragile situation, characterized by conflict and insecurity, has escalated at the same time as climatic and price changes were hitting hard on the population.»

Solidarity awakened?

Father Lombardi’s comments noted the «tragic situation» and the «humanitarian emergency.»

«There is talk of extenuating marches on foot under the threat and attacks of bandits, and even of children attacked by packs of hyenas,» he said.

The Vatican spokesman assured that the Church is present and suffering with the Somali people, and he recalled three Church workers — one a bishop (Salvatore Colombo of Mogadishu) and one an Italian nun — who have been killed in Somalia.

«The innocent victims are now incalculable,» he said, «also among other Christian confessions — because of fundamentalist hatred, and among the defenseless population because of armed struggle between political and ethnic factions.»

«For 20 years the country has been without control, with piracy active on its coasts,» Father Lombardi stated, noting how «many humanitarian agents have had to abandon their task because of the violence and threats they face.»

The Jesuit lamented that the international community seems to «have abandoned this unfortunate country to its fate,» resigning itself to the situation, despite the Pope’s repeated appeals in his yearly address to the Diplomatic Corps.

«Do we also try to forget it,» the priest asked, «or will the terrible images and anguished appeals of these days succeed in awakening our sense of responsibility and solidarity?»

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