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Bishop, Caritas staffer say situation in Mexico serious, much aid needed

IMAGE: CNS photo/Francisco Guasco, Reuters

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MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop and a Caritas worker in Mexico said the situation was extremely serious after the Sept. 19 earthquake, and much aid would be needed.

"The situation is complicated, because the first earthquake (Sept. 7) had already affected thousands of people in Chiapas and Oaxaca," Alberto Arciniega, head of communications for Caritas Mexico, told Catholic News Service Sept. 20. "The church is continuing to assist those dioceses, but with what happened yesterday, the emergency situation is being re-evaluated to get a more exact assessment of the aid that is needed."

All the dioceses in Mexico were collecting food, water and other necessities for victims of the quakes, said Arciniega. He said they were seeking economic support from inside and outside the country.

"We know it is a serious situation, and international aid is being requested," Arciniega told Catholic News Service.

"Rehabilitation and reconstruction will take time and will be expensive," he added. "Thousands of people have been left homeless, and many churches have been damaged."

The magnitude 7.1 quake that hit Sept. 19 was not as strong as the earlier magnitude 8.1 quake, but the second quake was centered in Puebla state, just southeast of Mexico City, as opposed to in the Pacific Ocean. Arciniega said Puebla and Morelos states and Mexico City were worst hit in the second quake.

Arciniega shared audio of an interview with Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, in Morelos state.

The bishop reported "many deaths" and "many churches damaged." He said one colonial-era church collapsed but added, "Miraculously, the priests escaped safely."

Bishop Castro said parishes in his diocese had been collecting items to send to victims of the Sept. 7 earthquake in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Now those items -- if they were not destroyed in the Sept. 19 quake -- will be used locally, the bishop said, adding, "but it will not be enough."

He said one priest was taken to the hospital with serious injuries after his church collapsed; another was rescued from the rubble.

"There is a great deal of solidarity, thank God, but it is not enough. This is a serious disaster," Bishop Castro said.

Economic aid is important for "people who have been left homeless, who have been left with nothing, absolutely nothing."

"I am on my way now to visit the areas that have suffered the greatest damage, to try to convey a message of encouragement and hope," he said.

Arciniega was in Oaxaca when he spoke to CNS. He said the Sept. 19 earthquake was felt there, but apparently did not cause damage.

"People (in the south) are worried that the assistance will stop because the cameras and newscasts are focusing on Mexico City. There is fear that the aid will stop and the emphasis will be on the center of the country," he said.

He added that it was raining in Tehuantepec, an area of Oaxaca damaged in the first earthquake.

"That makes the housing situation more complicated. Not only did people's homes collapse, but now it's raining, so people are in shelters, they need food. They are setting up community kitchens. We are continuing to evaluate how much the diocese can do to help itself and requesting aid from other dioceses and from outside the country."

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Contributing to this story was Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Church leaders offer prayers, Mexicans pitch in after earthquake

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Jasso, Reuters

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Mexican church leaders offered prayers and urged generosity after an earthquake struck the national capital and its environs, claiming more than 240 lives -- including at least 20 children trapped in a collapsed school.

The U.S. bishops joined them in prayer, asking for the protection of "Our Lady of Guadalupe, comforter of the afflicted and mother most merciful."

The magnitude 7.1 earthquake Sept. 19 added to the misery of Mexicans who suffered a magnitude 8.1 earthquake 12 days earlier. That quake left nearly 100 dead in the country's southern states and left thousands more homeless.

"We join the pain and grief of the victims of the earthquake, which occurred today ... in various parts of our country," the Mexican bishops' conference said in a Sept. 19 statement. "Today, more than ever, we invite the community of God to join in solidarity for our brothers who are suffering various calamities that have struck our country."

Mexicans have responded to the earthquake with acts of solidarity. The telephone system was overwhelmed and traffic snarled as power outages affected traffic lights. In hard-hit neighborhoods, people poured in, armed with buckets and shovels to help clear rubble from collapsed buildings, where people were trapped. Others were quick to donate food and drink to those assisting.

"Once again we are witnesses to the people of Mexico's solidarity," the bishops' statement said. "Thousands of hands have formed chains of life to rescue, feed or do their small part in the face of these emergencies."

Caritas chapters across the country opened collection centers to help those harmed by the earthquake. In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera asked all parishes in the impacted areas, along with priests religious and laity to "collaborate with the authorities in order to assist people that have been affected and show Christian solidarity," said an article published in archdiocesan newspaper Desde la Fe.

Dioceses in Puebla and Morelos, south of the capital, reported widespread damage to churches. Caritas Mexico, the church's aid organization, reported at least 42 people dead in Morelos and 13 deaths in Puebla, where a dozen churches also collapsed.

Damage was widespread in parts of Mexico City, where at least 27 buildings collapsed, said President Enrique Pena Nieto.

A private school collapsed in Mexico City, trapping students ranging from kindergarten to junior high school. The Associated Press reported at least 25 students and teachers died, with others remaining unaccounted for.

As often happens in disasters, authorities expected the death toll to rise, because people could have been trapped in buildings when they collapsed.

At his general audience Sept. 20, Pope Francis prayed for victims and rescue personnel, invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico.

"In this moment of suffering," he said, "I want to express my closeness and prayers to the entire Mexican population."

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City expressed his sympathy to the relatives of those who had lost loved ones in the earthquake. He urged parishes, religious and the lay faithful to work with government authorities to "aid people who have been affected and demonstrate Christian solidarity."

The quake epicenter was in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. Earthquakes usually affect Mexico City as much of it is built on a former lake bed and buildings sway in the soft soil, even though the epicenters are in distant states. That phenomenon allows an earthquake warning to sound, giving people approximately a minute to evacuate their buildings. The alarm did not sound Sept. 19, however.

"It totally frightened me," said Pedro Anaya, a small-business owner.

He decided to help, joining the hundreds of people hauling away debris from a collapsed apartment building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.

"I saw that my family was OK so I came to help," he said.

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Contributing to this story was Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru.


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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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Pope Francis prays for Mexico during this ‘moment of sorrow’

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2017 / 09:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Mexico after they suffered a devastating earthquake Sept. 19, asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for all those who have died or lost loved ones.

“Yesterday a terrible earthquake has devastated Mexico. I saw that there are many Mexicans here today among you. It caused numerous victims and material damages,” the Pope said in Spanish after the General Audience Sept. 20.

“In this moment of sorrow I want to express my closeness and prayer to all the beloved Mexican population. Let us all raise our prayers together to God so that he may welcome into his bosom those who have lost their lives, comfort the wounded, their families and all those affected.”

He also asked for prayers for all military personnel and others who are helping those affected, and prayed for “our mother,” Our Lady of Guadalupe, to be “close to the beloved Mexican nation.”

A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico City Tuesday destroying dozens of buildings and killing at least 217 people, according to the head of Mexico's civil protection agency, Luis Felipe Puente.

Citizens and rescuers worked through the night to dig people out of the rubble. The death toll is expected to rise as the rescue continues.

The powerful quake hit Puebla state just 76 miles south-east of Mexico City, and follows less than two weeks after a magnitude 8.1 quake, the strongest the country has experienced in a century, struck off of the southern coast of Mexico Sept. 8, killing at least 61 people.

The Sept. 19 earthquake, with more than 11 aftershocks, hit Mexico City exactly 22 years to the day after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake which killed thousands struck the city in 1985.

In his weekly General Audience address, Pope Francis gave an encouraging reflection on hope, saying that this week he intended to address those gathered in St. Peter's Square as an educator or as a father speaking to a child.

He encouraged those present to not give up, or let themselves become bitter, but to trust in God the Creator, who in the Holy Spirit moves all things for good in the end. “Believe it, he is waiting for you,” he emphasized. “Think, where God has sown you, he hopes! He always hopes.”

“Do not,” he said, “ever think that the fight you lead down here is completely useless.” All will not end in shipwreck. “God does not disappoint: if he has placed hope in our hearts, he does not want to wear it out with continued frustration.”

Everything has been created to eventually bloom in an eternal spring, he continued, even we have been created by God to bloom.

But, Francis urged, we cannot sit around waiting, we must act. “If you’re on the ground, get up!” he said. “If boredom paralyzes you, drive it away with good works! If you feel empty or demoralized, ask the Holy Spirit to again fill your nothingness.”

“And above all,” he said, “dream! Do not be afraid to dream.” Throughout history, those who have had hope in dreams are the ones who have won great victories, like the end to slavery, or better living conditions, the Pope said, and we should look to these people as examples.

We must be responsible for the world and for the life of every person, he said, because injustice done to any man is “an open wound” which dampens even our own dignity.

And in this responsibility, Francis continued, we must have “the courage of truth,” even while we remember that we are superior to no one. “If you were the last to believe in the truth, do not shy away from the company of men,” he said.

“Even if you live in the silence of a hermitage, bring into your hearts the suffering of every creature. You are a Christian; and in prayer give all back to God.”

He also advised against listening to the voices of those who spread hate and division, saying that human beings were created for community, and to live together in peace.

Even though living the truth and cultivating ideals takes courage, never stop, be loyal, Francis urged, even if you have to pay “a salty bill.” Your life, from your Baptism, has already been steeped in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, he said. You belong to Jesus, so do not be afraid.

“And if one day you get scared, or you think that evil is too big to be challenged, simply think that Jesus lives in you. And it is He who, through you, with his mildness wants to subdue all the enemies of man: sin, hatred, crime, violence; all our enemies,” he said.

The Pope continued his counsel, saying that when you make a mistake, as humans do, it’s important not to let it imprison you, but to turn it over to God, remembering that he came to save sinners.

And when you make a mistake again, “do not be afraid,” he said. “Get up! Do you know why? Because God is your friend.”

“If you are bitter, believe firmly in all the people who still work for good: in their humility there is the seed of a new world. Spend time with people who have kept their heart like that of a child. Learn from wonder, cultivate amazement,” he concluded.

“Live, love, dream, believe. And with God’s grace, never despair.”

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