VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II has sent a message to the tsunami-struck peoples of southern Asia, expressing his spiritual closeness to them and encouraging solidarity.
The Pope sent the message with his special envoy, Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” who left Rome on Saturday.
The archbishop headed to Indonesia, one of the countries hardest hit by the Dec. 26 tidal wave. The tsunami killed 150,000 to 178,000 people across 11 nations, according to various estimates so far.
Archbishop Cordes is visiting Banda Aceh, one of the most affected cities. Today, he presided at a Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead.
The archbishop will visit Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and attend a meeting of Catholic aid organizations. He will also meet with religious leaders to foster a common commitment to reconstruction.
Archbishop Cordes plans to visit Sri Lanka this Wednesday through Friday, and meet with civil authorities, bishops, religious leaders, relief workers and Catholics, as well as the people affected.
In the letter he gave Archbishop Cordes, the Pope expresses gratitude for the solidarity aroused by the tsunami worldwide, in particular among Catholics, hoping that it “will prove a source of encouragement, perseverance and hope to everyone in the great work of rebuilding that lies ahead.”
In the letter, the Holy Father urges “the followers of the different religions to work together in offering comfort and assistance to those in need.”
His letter adds: “May this catastrophe lead, by God’s grace, to a future of greater generosity, cooperation and unity in the service of the common good on the part of individuals, peoples and nations.”