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"
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2 Feb 2005