Pope praises human solidarity after tsunami tragedy
During his first two public audiences of 2005, Pope John Paul II reiterated his condolences for the victims of the tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean on 26 December. In both addresses, he praised the world community for its unified response to the tragedy.
On 1 January, as he offered his new-year's greetings to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, the Pope promised his "prayers for the victims of this catastrophe and their loved ones." Catholic World News reports he had celebrated a Mass for their intentions the previous evening, in his private chapel.
"Once more I express my nearness to the populations struck by the tragic cataclysm of these past days," John Paul said in a New Year's Day greeting from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square at noon.
"In assuring my prayer for the victims of the catastrophe and for their families, I note favorably the solidarity efforts which are developing in every part of the world," the pontiff said.
"On this sense of human solidarity, in addition to God's help, is based the hope of better days during the year which begins today," the pontiff said, sitting in a chair in front of the window as thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans listened below in the square.
Appearing again on Sunday, 2 January, for the Angelus audience at noon, the Pope remarked that "even in the most difficult and painful trials -- such as the calamity that struck southeast Asia recently -- God never abandons us."
Other Vatican officials issued their own messages of support for the Asian victims. Cardinal Renato Martino, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, observed that "no one can feel a stranger" to those who are suffering. Cardinal Martino told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera : "In the fact of tragedies of this magnitude, mankind realizes his vulnerablility." He remarked that the natural disaster underscored "the mystery of suffering," which all men must finally accept.
"Perhaps God wants to test our capacity for solidarity," the Italian prelate said. After seeing the suffering of others, he remarked, "the temptation toward selfishness might be easier to defeat." The lessons of the tragedy could also help to form the members of the younger generation, he said.
Cardinal Martino called for a "mobilization of international solidarity" to help the tsunami victims.
Cardinal Bernard Law, the archpriest of the basilica of St. Mary Major, announced plans for a concert to benefit the tsunami victims. The concert, organized in conjunction with the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, will be held on January 5, and will feature the choir of the basilica and the Nova Amadeus Chamber Ensemble. Admission will be at no charge, with free-will offerings going through Cor Unum to stricken communities in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Somalia.
Caritas International, the world's largest Catholic relief agency, announced that it has received more than $35 million in donations during the past week, with new contributions still pouring in. Dozens of other Catholic groups have contributed to the relief efforts, including the Jesuit Refugee Services, which is providing aid to the millions of people left homeless by the disaster.
Vatican leads Church mobilization for tsunami victims (Catholic World News 3/1/05)
Pope sees Hope and Prays for Tsunami Victims and Peace in New Year (Catholic Online 1/1/05)
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
World Days of Peace | Message for XXXVIII World Day For Peace 2005
Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"
Pope's Peace Day message that violence can't solve problems (CathNews 17/12/04)
Pope: seek peace by consistent means (Catholic World News 3/1/05)
Asia Crisis Closely Followed at Vatican (Zenit 1/1/05)
Disease spreads as tsunami death toll rises (The Tablet 1/1/05)
Even at Charity Used to Aiding, It's a Scramble (New York Times 31/12/04)
Bishops of Sri Lanka: Unite to help victims of tsunami (Vatican Information Service 31/12/04)
Pope calls for solidarity with victims of earthquake (Vatican Information Service 30/12/04)
The Church mobilizes to help victims of Asian tsunamis (Vatican Information Service 28/12/04)
4 Jan 2005