DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     August 25, 1999     vol. 10, no. 160

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Catastrophe Unites Christians of All Denominations

          ISTANBUL, AUG 23 (ZENIT).- At present, Caritas-Turkey is one of the most active humanitarian organizations assisting victims of the earthquake that devastated the northwest of the country on August 17. It serves 2,000 hot meals daily, distributes food and medicine to thousands of people, and has erected a camp-city where those affected will be able to spend the winter.

          Official estimates say there are 40,000 dead, and 130,000 homes destroyed. Capuchin friar Adriano Franchini, director of Caritas-Turkey, gave the international agency "Fides," details of the commitment to aid promoted by the Catholic Church in the country. "Caritas moved quickly and well. We have organized groups who, from the first day, have personally controlled the needs of the area. In this way, we have been able to organize the aid, avoid dispersion and respond to real needs. We buy products in local factories, but at present we especially need camping tents --- difficult to find, at this point in time, and portable toilets."

    Joint Action with International Caritas

          The aid is being given in cooperation with European Caritas and Caritas International. "Initially, customs formalities blocked the flow of aid; after a sea of discussions, everything seems to be resolved. There will be time later on for bureaucracy. We have not wanted to delegate the organization and distribution of aid to Turkish [governmental] organizations; we go directly to the affected areas and work there ourselves. We have created a 'crisis unit' that distributes 2,000 hot meals a day, as well as bread, water, fruit juices, and hygienic and health services, to thousands of people who have suffered losses," the Capuchin said.

    "Ecumenical" Charity

          Fr. Lorenzo Piretto, Dominican delegate of the Apostolic Vicariate of Istanbul, explained that Christians have succeeded in working together, to help the victims. He told "Fides," that the "Christian Churches have started joint aid projects: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants of the Latin, Greek, Armenian and Syrian rites have joined to carry out common acts of solidarity."

          "The most beautiful aspect of this painful event has been to see how it has united the different Christian communities in Turkey, and become an opportunity to undertake concrete ecumenical cooperation. I hope that, in addition to times of prayer together, which are already taking place, in the future there will be collaboration in helping the poor and in other initiatives. All of a sudden the divisions -- which at times are truly incomprehensible -- have disappeared: there have been signs of fraternity between the Christian leaders [reflected[ in immediate understanding."

          According to Duncan MacGregor MacLaren, secretary general of Caritas International, Caritas-Turkey, which has few resources, has been reinforced by the regional office of that institution, which has its headquarters in Beirut. In fact, the authorities themselves of the city of Istanbul were the first to appeal to this institution for help. ZE99082304

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

August 25, 1999       volume 10, no. 155


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