Pope Prays for Turkey’s Quake Victims

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers for the victims of Turkey’s magnitude 7.2 earthquake as Catholic aid agencies worked to support the tens of thousands of victims left homeless in temperatures that approached freezing each night.

At the Vatican Oct. 26, at the end of a prayer service for peace, Pope Benedict said his thoughts were with the victims of the earthquake that “caused a serious loss of human lives, numerous missing and extensive damage. I ask you to join me in prayer for those who lost their lives and to be spiritually close to the many people who are struggling. May the Almighty give support to those who are involved in the rescue work.”

The day after the Oct. 23 quake, Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella aid agency based in Rome, sent a team from its offices in Turkey to assess needs in the country’s east, where the quake occurred. More than 1,350 were injured, and by Oct. 26 the death toll was approaching 500.

More than 500 aftershocks complicated rescue and relief efforts and compounded the damage in the region near the city of Van and the town of Ercis.

A Caritas statement acknowledged those problems: “Access to the area’s villages, where many mud-brick homes have collapsed, may be difficult.”

In the United States, the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services was supporting its Caritas partners as well as the International Blue Crescent.

A CRS statement said that, initially, it would support efforts to provide 500 families with heaters and wooden ovens, blankets, plastic sheeting, hygiene packets, food packages and baby food.

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