Papal aides deliver relief to earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria

Turkey and Syria quake

Pope Francis has dispatched a team of papal representatives to provide supplies and comfort to victims of a massive earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on February 6.

Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Charity, and Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Oriental Churches, have been on the ground for an official visit to meet with locals and convey the Pope’s closeness.

Despite miraculous rescues of people being found alive under the rubble throughout the week, the prospect of finding more survivors appears grim as first responders shift from rescue to recovery mode.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8, has left a death toll of at least 45,000, which is still expected to rise. Hundreds of thousands of apartments were destroyed in the disaster.

Strong after shocks followed.

Pope Francis has repeatedly offered words of comfort to the people of Turkey and Syria affected by the earthquake.

In addition to the aid sent this past weekend, the pope sent 10,000 thermal sweaters to victims in the affected area.

Personally delivered by Krajewski, the sweaters were scheduled to arrive on February 17 at the Kilis refugee camp in southern Turkey, which currently is home to around 60,000 people and has hosted refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war since 2012.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that over 1 million people in Turkey are living in temporary housing facilities, such as tents and shipping containers.

Pope sends financial aid to Syria

The Pope also sent an undisclosed amount of financial aid to the apostolic nunciature in Syria to support the Syrian people, who according to the Vatican are “already exhausted by so many years of war and now by the devastating earthquake”.

In addition to Krajewski, Gugerotti has also been on an official visit to the region to “express the Holy Father’s closeness to the populations seriously affected by the recent disastrous earthquake,” and to meet with the bishops and charitable organisations providing frontline aid.

Gugerotti travelled to Aleppo, Syria, where he visited both civil and ecclesial organisations assisting earthquake victims, and celebrated Mass with local Catholic and Orthodox bishops, as well as some Muslim leaders in the area.

He then celebrated Mass in the Greek Melkite cathedral and met with members of a local community of the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa, and then left for Damascus.

Gugerotti is scheduled to meet with local patriarchs and Catholic and non-Catholic bishops who reside in the quake-affected areas in Damascus on Monday.

He will then travel to Istanbul, where on Tuesday, he is scheduled to meet with Turkish bishops and the directors of local Caritas offices engaged in relief efforts.

While rescue efforts have already ended in all but two provinces in Turkey, search efforts continue only in the southern areas of Kahramanmaras and Hatay.

With so many people still missing, the aid provided by the Pope and his representatives is essential in the ongoing relief efforts.



The Catholic Standard


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