ROME, FEB. 14, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his personal sorrow and his closeness to the Salvadoran people, reeling under the impact of a second deadly earthquake in a month.
The National Emergency Committee said the 6.1 quake Tuesday left 237 people dead. The earthquake's epicenter was in San Pedro Nonualco, 37 miles east of San Salvador. It affected the provinces of San Vicente and Cuscatlan.
The tremor happened exactly one month after the Jan. 13 earthquake, which killed 827 and affected more than 1 million people.
In a telegram sent today to Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador, John Paul II expressed his profound sorrow over the victims and the property damage, and prayed for God's aid for them.
Likewise, in the message sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope prayed that God "will inspire in all feelings of solidarity and fraternity so that, in these very difficult moments, institutions and men of good will will collaborate efficiently, with a generous spirit and Christian charity, to mitigate the pain and overcome the adversities."
With the help of Caritas' international worldwide network, Caritas-El Salvador, the Church's local aid organization, has helped 72,000 families affected by the January quake.
Also Wednesday the Holy Father received the new Austrian Envoy to the Vatican and warned the diplomat that, in today's materialist and consumeristic society, Europe is at a crossroads. "It can build a flowering garden or a quagmire of death," he said.
The Pontiff vividly portrayed the historical moment of the Old World, when he received Walter Greinert, the new Austrian ambassador to the Vatican, who arrived to present his credentials.
John Paul II said that "Austria and the Holy See intend to pursue a deepening of their traditional collaboration, to bring this garden into bloom."
This objective, the Pope said, will be reached only if the "culture of life" is fostered, as well as the dignity of the human being. "Man has a right to life in every phase of his existence, from conception to natural death, and in every condition: in health or sickness, with impediments, [whether] rich or poor," the Holy Father said.
The legalization of "abortion in the first three months of pregnancy in Austria, as in many other European countries, remains a serious wound in my heart, as does the discussion of euthanasia."
At the end of the meeting, the Pope appealed to Austria to give special attention to immigrants, refugees, the disabled, those who suffer, and those "who need sincere and fraternal help." He also called for greater solidarity between rich and poor nations.