DAILY CATHOLIC     WEDNESDAY     November 4, 1998     vol. 9, no. 216

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II has sent a telegram of condolences to the victims of Hurricane Mitch in Central America.

          The papal message, signed in the Pontiff's name by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, was addressed to Archbishop Luigi Travaglino, the papal nuncio in Nicaragua. Although Nicaragua bore the brunt of the destruction, the Pope also acknowledged the heavy losses suffered by people in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and parts of Mexico. The storm is believed to have caused 7,000 deaths. Pope John Paul called on "all people of good will" to show their "fraternal sentiments of solidarity and Christian charity" toward the surviving victims of the hurricane, by providing fast and effective aid.

          In a telephone interview with the Italian daily Avvenire, Archbishop Travaglino reported that the entire northern section of Nicaragua has been isolated by heavy flooding. With more than 100 bridges destroyed, he said, it will be difficult to deliver emergency supplies to that region. Many people are now being reported missing, and many families have lost their homes and possessions. Now, the nuncio reported, officials fear an outbreak of disease, arising from the unsanitary conditions in which the homeless refugees are forced to live.

          Catholic authorities in Nicaragua and Honduras, the two Central American countries most damaged by Hurricane Mitch, yesterday sent out a desperate plea for international help.

          In Managua, Nicaragua's capital, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo celebrated a Mass in memory of the more than 2,000 storm victims-- in a country of only 4 million people-- and said that "we have made headlines because of the disaster; now we hope we can make headlines again because of the international aid."

          The hurrican has affected more than 700,000 Nicaraguans and has destroyed about 70 percent of the country's roads, thus becoming the worst natural disaster since the 1986 earthquake there. "Mitch has turned our country in an immense ocean of needs," said Cardinal Obando, "but we have to move forward and overcome the punishment of nature, as we did before with the war, hurricanes, and earthquakes."

          Meanwhile in Honduras, where Mitch has become the worst natural disaster registered in the country's history, Archbishop Oscar Andres Rodruigez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa called upon his people to "keep faith in God, who never forgets his children," and said that "this is the time to show strength and to bring consolation to the many who are suffering." Honduras, also with around 4 million inhabitants, has lost more than 5,000 lives as a consequence of the hurricane, which has left almost no Honduran family untouched by tragedy.

          In addition to those who have been killed, 250,000 people in Honduras have been evacuated, and almost half the population has lost some or all of their property.

          "More than ever, we need the support, the friendly hand of the international community, especially the most developed nations, in order to overcome this tragedy," Archbishop Rodruigez said. He announced that several volunteer groups have already joined the Catholic association Caritas to begin relief efforts, but the demand for food, medicines, and safe drinking water "have far exceeded all of our supplies."

          In response to their pleas and the Holy Father's call for help, the Knights of Malta have pledged a $3 million relief effort to help the victims of hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua.

          Sir Edward Artis, a leader of the charitable order, announced that the Knights would concentrate on delivering medical supplies to combat the risks of various diseases, especially the infectious diseases that could produce an epidemic in the areas where thousands of people have been left homeless.

          Having visited the areas hit by the hurricane, and seen the devastation, representatives of the Knights of Malta sent out an urgent plea for special funding, Artis said. He said that the appeals asked for help from organizations which could provide "food, blankets, medicine, cooking equipment, and water-purification supplies."

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Nov 4, 1998       volume 9, no. 216


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