Church Network in Place to Aid Tsunami Victims

Says Cardinal Hamao, Head of Council for Migrants and Travelers

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ROME, FEB. 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Church has established a network of cooperation for the proper distribution of aid to victims of the tsunami in Asia, confirmed a Vatican official.



A recent meeting was held in Rome between members of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers and international directors of the Apostleship of the Sea focused on the distribution of material aid and psychological support to victims of the disaster.

Cardinal Stephen Hamao, president of the pontifical council, told AsiaNews that "there are plenty of funds available for aid, and now we are studying how to allocate them in the most efficient way possible."

The cardinal explained that in order to manage the funds correctly, they have been "entrusted to the dioceses and Caritas centers of the affected countries."

With Caritas Internationalis, the Church has created "a concrete network of cooperation," he added. Members of this Catholic aid organization attended the meeting.

"The work of the Church in favor of the victims in the areas hit by the tsunami is not finding any kind of obstacle," Cardinal Hamao said. Moreover, "cooperation with other communities of different religions" is strong, he added.

In fact, "the Apostleship of the Sea and the Council for Migrants were born with an ecumenical vocation and are used to work with people of other confessions, especially in Asia," explained the dicastery's president. The Apostleship of the Sea is under the jurisdiction of the pontifical council.

The long-term assistance planned by the Church will focus on fishermen, who constitute the sector most damaged by the Dec. 26 tidal wave.

But it will also be important "to offer psychological support, especially to children," said the cardinal. In structuring programs in this connection, "we will consult the different parishes and attend to real needs," he added.

Meanwhile, in India, priests in the Tanjore Diocese have been helping tsunami victims since disaster struck. Now they are looking for long-term solutions for 12,000 families in their community.

Father Joseph Lionel, a chancellor of the diocese who offered a reflection on the tsunami in ZENIT on Jan. 21, is working with his brother priests to try to instill hope and rebuild the lives of those most affected by the disaster.

"You would have seen on television and other mass media the gruesome pictures and videos of the affected areas in Nagapattinam District in South India including Vailankanni, a famous Marian shrine in India," Father Lionel stated.

"I do not want to repeat the tragic stories again and again as we try to instill hope in the lives of countless people by our active involvement in the relief and rehabilitation work," he told ZENIT.

Initially, the group of priests was involved in rescuing people, bringing the wounded to hospitals, retrieving the bodies of victims and organizing burials. They also have gathered and distributed water pumps, rice, clothes and necessary items for refugees in camps and have provided meals to thousands.

Now, the priests and their troop of volunteers hope to coordinate long-term relief measures for up to 12,000 families. Relief packages for these families would include kitchen kits, clothing, dry food, baby food, educational materials, water, shelter and medical facilities.

Father Lionel may also be contacted by email at tnj_jolionel@sancharnet.in.