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Vatican official's assurance that aid agencies don't proselytise

Catholic aid agencies are working in overwhelmingly Islamic Aceh province as a way to show the church's compassion for victims and survivors of the tsunami disaster, a visiting Vatican official has said.

The church was not present in Aceh to proselytise or preach, but merely to help survivors heal emotionally and physically, Msgr. Giovanni Dal Toso, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," the Vatican's charity promotion and coordinating office, said Feb. 1 during a press conference in Jakarta.

A day earlier, Msgr. Dal Toso toured Aceh province, met with Catholic aid officials and viewed the devastation.

"It was important to be there and to see what has happened; but it is important also to see the positive response of so many people," he told Catholic News Service.

He said church workers in Aceh told him that Catholic aid agencies were working with their Muslim counterparts and that "there were no tensions" between church agencies and Indonesian government and Islamic leaders.

Msgr. Dal Toso toured Aceh in place of Archbishop Paul Cordes, the "Cor Unum" president and papal envoy to the tsunami-stricken region.

The monsignor said they were in Asia "to show the Holy Father's compassion for and attention to the suffering people of Indonesia." Archbishop Cordes traveled to Indonesia, but was too sick to travel to Aceh or participate in the press conference.

The Vatican delegation was later scheduled to visit Sri Lanka. Following the press conference, the delegation met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Msgr. Dal Toso said the Catholic response to the disaster was threefold: a global groundswell of financial support from Catholics, a concrete presence of many Catholic aid agencies in the stricken areas, and prayers that those affected would "overcome this tragedy, not just from a material point of view, but from a spiritual point of view."

During the press conference, he stressed the importance of the Catholic Church's work in areas of conflict and disasters. The work of Catholic aid agencies and missionaries answers the church's Gospel call of "love for everyone, especially the poor and suffering people," he said.

Vatican official says aid agencies show compassion, don't proselytise (Catholic News Service 1/2/05)

Pontifical Council "Cor Unum"

Caritas thank you to tsunami appeal donors (CathNews 27/1/05)
Caritas distributes Muslim prayer kits for Eid celebration (CathNews 24/1/05)
Total Catholic aid to Tsunami recovery effort now at $500m (CathNews 21/1/05)
Caritas Australia Tsunami Appeal now at $8m (CathNews 20/1/05)
Caritas Australia Asia Earthquake Appeal tops $8 million (Caritas 19/1/05)
Australia remembers tsunami victims (CathNews 17/1/05)
Australians to remember tsunami victims (CathNews 14/1/05)
Inter-faith prayer for tsunami victims in Phuket (CathNews 7/1/05
Stronger faith builds in the wake of disaster (CathNews 6/1/05)
Australian Church sends prayers and support to tsunami victims (CathNews 4/1/05)

Indonesia: Faith leaders stress relief agencies must not try to convert (Independent Catholic News/Fides 1/2/05)
Post-Tsunami Aid in Sri Lanka Has a Downside (Zenit 31/1/05)
Papal Envoy Seeing Tsunami Damage Firsthand (Zenit 31/1/05)
Our record response to tsunami disaster appeal (Southern Cross February 2005 - temporary url)
Here love refuses to die, says Cardinal Toppo ( 31/1/05)
Pope prays that worldwide solidarity shown in tsunami disaster will serve as source of hope (Catholic News Agency 31/1/05)
Church Agencies Work To Rebuild Lives Of Tsunami Victims (Catholic Bishops Conference of India/UCAN 31/1/05)
Cardinal Telesphore Toppo chairman of Catholic Bishops' Conference in tsunami affected areas; to encourage traumatised fishermen resume daily activity Bishop of Kottar comes from the sea (Fides 29/1/05)
Christian organisations reject wrong accusations that humanitarian mission aimed to Christianise: interfaith press statement on humanitarian work in Aceh (Fides 29/1/05)
Post-Tsunami Solidarity Cheers John Paul II (Zenit 30/1/05)
Pope's Message to Peoples Affected by Tsunami (Zenit 30/1/05)
Between setting sun, rising moon, JRS discovers beachhead of horror (Catholic News Service 28/1/05)
At Catholic hospital, Indonesian tsunami victims try to find healing (Catholic News Service 28/1/05)
Pope sends envoy to tsunami-hit Indonesia and Sri Lanka (Jakarta Post/AP 31/1/05)
Bishops Applaud Debt-Relief Policies (Zenit 28/1/05)

2 Feb 2005