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placeholder May 19, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Chinese Catholics donate
funds, clothes for earthquake survivors

CHENGDU, China (CNS) — Chinese priests had to work around disrupted telephone systems and damaged roads as they tried to assess the damage from the May 12 earthquake centered under Sichuan province.

A couple cries next to the recovered bodies of students laid out on the playground of a school in Mianzhu, China, May 13. A magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck China May 12, killing more than 12,000 people.
CNS photo/Jason Lee, Reuters

Responding to appeals for aid and prayers on Catholic Web sites, Catholics across China have begun donating money and clothes to help survivors, the priests told the Asian church news agency UCA News.

The magnitude 7.9 earthquake, which hit just after midday May 12, had its epicenter beneath Wenchuan County in Sichuan province. Wenchuan is less than 60 miles northwest of Chengdu, the provincial capital.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI lamented the “serious loss of human life, the numerous homeless and the incalculable damage” wrought by the earthquake.

At the end of his May 14 general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope called the earthquake a “devastating calamity” and implored God to relieve the suffering and help those on the front lines offering emergency aid.

By May 14, government officials reported more than 15,000 people had been killed in the quake, but the death toll was expected to rise. At least 25,000 people were still buried under the rubble.

Father Simon Li Zhigang, administrator of the Chengdu Diocese, told UCA News May 13 that he could not reach by phone the priests serving in Wenchuan and Beichuan. About 100 Catholics live in Wenchuan and several hundred more in Beichuan, he said.

The quake completely destroyed Annunciation Seminary, which was built in 1908 in Pengzhou County, about 25 miles south of Wenchuan. Only three people were injured, said Father Francis Zhang Yiqiang of the Chengdu Diocese.

In the Nanchong Diocese, about 150 miles from the epicenter, Sister Wang Yan told UCA News the activities room added to their church building shook for seven minutes and almost everything fell to the floor.

“I thought it was the end of the world,” she recalled.

The night after the quake, dozens of laypeople stayed inside a wooden church in Nanchong because they feared sleeping in their damaged brick houses, she said.

In the neighboring Chongqing Diocese, priests divided into groups to see if parishioners were safe and assess damage, but it was difficult to contact Catholics in the affected areas.

Jinde Charities, in China’s Hebei province, appealed on its Web site for prayers and donations for the quake survivors. As a Catholic nonprofit organization registered with China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, Jinde provided aid during last summer’s flooding in Chongqing and during snowstorms around the Chinese New Year earlier this year.

Bishop Peter Feng Xinmao of Jingxian said as soon as roads were cleared Jinde planned to send a team of 20 nuns to help meet victims’ medical needs. The bishop said a priest in Dujiangyan reported that 80 percent of the houses in the city were uninhabitable.

Bishop Feng said the Taize Community in France had pledged 10,000 euros (US$15,500), but “the gap between the needs and the resources is still huge.”
“Now, with great trust and confidence, we’d like to turn to you, our dear and loyal friends, for support and help,” the appeal said.

In southern China, the Zhongshan-based Tianrun Service in the Jiangmen Diocese used its Web site to urge Catholics to donate medical aid, clothes, tents and money that it would send through the government’s civil affairs department or charitable organizations.

 
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