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Vatican prelate reflects on tsunami relief effort

Archbishop Josef Cordes, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, will travel to Asia later this month to visit the communities struck by the 26 December tsunami. He plans to pray for the dead and bring a substantial financial contribution to the relief effort.

Pope John Paul has already sent a personal contribution to the tsunami victims, the archbishop noted in a report from Catholic World News. But all of the offices of the Roman Curia are now contributing toward a second donation. Archbishop Cordes could not predict the amount that he will finally bring, since contributions are still coming in, but said he had "great confidence in the Church organizations" that are participating in the effort.

The German archbishop went on to say that many other Catholic agencies and organizations are responding to the Pope's appeal for relief aid for the Asian disaster victims. The international Caritas agency and its various national affiliates, as well as the world's episcopal conferences, have been active. Archbishop Cordes said that he welcomed the multiple efforts, since they allowed "direct participation" by many different donors, and avoided the bureaucratic approach that might come with a massive joint effort.

For Cor Unum itself, the archbishop said, the administrative costs of charitable efforts are less than 1 percent, thanks in large part to "the many volunteers in parishes, the many priests and lay people, the many religious congregations that involve themselves at no cost."

The needs of the tsunami victims reach far beyond financial concerns, however Archbishop Cordes remarked. The material contributions that are pouring into southeast Asia-- while necessary and welcome-- do not provide the "response of faith" that the Church can offer. For the bereaved families of tsunami victims, he observed: "If faith does not shed light on their circumstances, what will?"

The world's first response to the victims, the archbishop continued, should be an expression of genuine, active solidarity. And if that response helps to reduce the materialism and selfishness that afflicts all mankind, "some good can come out of a disasters of this magnitude."

Finally, the Cor Unum leader said, it is important to begin thinking about rebuilding communities that were destroyed by the tsunami. Aid to the victims should continue, he said, throughout the process of reconstruction.

Vatican prelate reflects on tsunami relief effort (Catholic World News 11/1/05)

Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"
Caritas Australia Asian Eathquake/Tsunami Appeal

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12 Jan 2005