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Pope urges defence and promotion of Latin American and the Caribbean richness, diversity

by Robin Gomes

The mother of God is a figure of the Church from whom we want to learn ‎to be a Church that embraces all the richness and cultural diversity of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, where no one  feels ashamed or small. Pope Francis’ exhortation came in his homily at an evening Mass on Tuesday to commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image is enshrined in Mexico City and is venerated all over the world, especially in the Americas.     

Elizabeth's sterility

Reflecting on the Gospel episode of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth after the Annunciation, the Pope drew attention to the sterility and fertility of Elizabeth.  In her sterility, the Pope explained, she felt stigmatized and belittled by a mentality that considered her condition as a punishment for her or her husband’s sins

Juan Diego, the indigenous Mexican to whom the Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531, also felt the same.  The Argentinian Pope noted that it is the same with the indigenous and Afro-American communities.  Often they are not treated with dignity and don’t have a level playing field; many women are excluded for reasons of gender, race and socio-economic situation; young people receive a low-quality education and do not have the opportunity to continue their studies, or find a job to start a family; many poor, unemployed, migrants are expelled from their land; landless peasants try to survive in the informal economy, and children and girls are subjected to child prostitution, frequently linked to sex tourism.  

Elizabeth's fertility

‎On the other hand, the Pope said, when we contemplate Elizabeth’s fertility we see her as a fruitful-astonished ‎woman. “In her we understand that the dream of God is neither ‎sterility nor even to stigmatize or fill their children with shame, but to make a blessing song flow in ‎them and from them.”   Likewise, the mantle of Juan Diego was imprinted with image of the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe with the face of a mixed race, to show that the Mother is capable of assuming the ‎traits of her children to make them feel part of her blessing.‎ 

Richness, diversity of Latin America, Caribbean

The Holy Father said that the fertility-sterility dialectic draws our attention to richness and cultural diversity of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, which he said should not only to be cultivated but also defended courageously from any attempt at homogenization that ends up imposing a single way of thinking, being, feeling and living that ends up in sterility.   “Our fruitfulness ,” Pope Francis said, “asks us to defend our peoples from an ideological colonization that cancels what is richer in them, whether indigenous, Afro-American, mixed race, peasants or people in the suburbs.

Pope at Mass: have courage to let go of grudges and complaints

(Vatican Radio) At his morning Mass at Santa Marta on Monday, Pope Francis said we must learn to let ourselves be consoled by the Lord, leaving behind our grudges and complaints.

Reflecting on the day’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, he said the Lord has come to console us. Just as the first disciples could hardly believe the joy of the Resurrection, we often find it hard to let ourselves be consoled by the miracles that God performs in our lives.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

It is easier for us to console others, than to let ourselves be consoled, the pope said. So often, we are attached to the negative sins and scars in our hearts and we prefer to remain there on our sick bed, like the paralised man in St Luke’s Gospel, not wanting to hear Jesus telling us to ‘Get up and walk!’

We prefer to stew in our own juice

Pope Francis continued by explaining that we prefer to bear grudges and to stew in our own juice because in that way we are masters of our own hard hearts. Like the paralised man, we prefer the ‘bitter root’ of original sin than the sweetness of God’s consolation.

Such bitterness always leads us to complain, the pope said, with a constant whining as the soundtrack to our lives. He described the prophet Job as the Nobel prize winner of whiners, who complained about everything that God did.

Have courage to let go of complaints

Pope Francis also recalled an elderly priest he knew who complained so much that his companions joked about what he would say to St Peter, upon arriving in heaven. They said his first thoughts would be to ask about hell and to complain that there were too few people denied salvation.

Faced with such bitterness, anger and complaining, the pope said, the Church repeats that we must have courage, just like the friends of the paralised man, who didn’t think about the reaction of the scribes, but only about helping their friend in need.

Let ourselves be consoled by the Lord

The message of today’s liturgy, Pope Francis concluded, is to let ourselves be consoled by the Lord, to be stripped of all our bitter egoisms and complaints. Let us examine our consciences and look into our hearts, he urged, asking if there is any sadness or bitterness there. Do we praise God, or do we always have something to complain about? Let us pray for the grace of courage, he said, asking the Lord to come and console us.

Pope reminds Church of her “maternal vocation” to the needy and sick

Pope Francis is urging Catholics worldwide to bring to the sick and needy “the ‎Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion,” reminding the Church of her  “maternal vocation” to them.  The exhortation came in his message for next year’s World Day of the Sick of the Catholic Church that is traditionally observed on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Released by the Vatican on Monday, the message for the 26th World Day of the Sick has as its theme: Mater Ecclesiae: “Behold, your son... Behold, your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27).   Instituted by St. Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1992, the annual observance intends to draw attention to the sick and their caregivers.

In his message the Pope recalls that “on the Cross, Jesus showed his concern for the Church and all humanity, and Mary is called ‎to share in that same concern.”   The entire community of disciples, he says, is included in Mary’s maternal vocation, and like her, the disciples are called to care for one another, ‎excluding no one, simply because they are persons, children of God. ‎

In the message, Pope Francis evokes the image of the Church as a “field hospital”, noting that in some parts of the world Church hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population.‎  The Holy Father also urges Catholic hospitals to steer clear of “the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn ‎health care into a profit-making enterprise, which ends up discarding the poor.”

 Please find below the full text of the Pope’s message for the World Day of the Sick:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Church’s service to the sick and those who care for them must continue with renewed vigour, in fidelity to the Lord’s command (cf. Lk 9:2-6; Mt 10:1-8; Mk 6:7-13) and following the eloquent example of her Founder and Master.

The theme for this year’s Day of the Sick is provided by the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross to Mary, his Mother, and to John: “Woman, behold your son ... Behold your mother.  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27).

1.         The Lord’s words brilliantly illuminate the mystery of the Cross, which does not represent a hopeless tragedy, but rather the place where Jesus manifests his glory and shows his love to the end.  That love in turn was to become the basis and rule for the Christian community and the life of each disciple.

Before all else, Jesus’ words are the source of Mary’s maternal vocation for all humanity.  Mary was to be, in particular, the Mother of her Son’s disciples, caring for them and their journey through life.  As we know, a mother’s care for her son or daughter includes both the material and spiritual dimensions of their upbringing.         

The unspeakable pain of the Cross pierces Mary’s soul (cf. Lk 2:35), but does not paralyze her.  Quite the opposite.  As the Lord’s Mother, a new path of self-giving opens up before her.  On the Cross, Jesus showed his concern for the Church and all humanity, and Mary is called to share in that same concern.  In describing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Acts of the Apostles show that Mary began to carry out this role in the earliest community of the Church.  A role that never ceases.

2.         John, the beloved disciple, is a figure of the Church, the messianic people.  He must acknowledge Mary as his Mother.  In doing so, he is called to take her into his home, to see in her the model of all discipleship, and to contemplate the maternal vocation that Jesus entrusted to her, with all that it entails: a loving Mother who gives birth to children capable of loving as Jesus commands.  That is why Mary’s maternal vocation to care for her children is entrusted to John and to the Church as a whole.  The entire community of disciples is included in Mary’s maternal vocation.

3.         John, as a disciple who shared everything with Jesus, knows that the Master wants to lead all people to an encounter with the Father.  He can testify to the fact that Jesus met many people suffering from spiritual sickness due to pride (cf. Jn 8:31-39) and from physical ailments (cf. Jn 5:6).  He bestowed mercy and forgiveness upon all, and healed the sick as a sign of the abundant life of the Kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away.  Like Mary, the disciples are called to care for one another, but not only that.  They know that Jesus’ heart is open to all and excludes no one.  The Gospel of the Kingdom must be proclaimed to all, and the charity of Christians must be directed to all, simply because they are persons, children of God.

4.       The Church’s maternal vocation to the needy and to the sick has found concrete expression throughout the two thousand years of her history in an impressive series of initiatives on behalf of the sick.  This history of dedication must not be forgotten.  It continues to the present day throughout the world.  In countries where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the centre of the healing process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and for Christian moral values.  In countries where health care systems are inadequate or non-existent, the Church seeks to do what she can to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread disease.  Everywhere she tries to provide care, even when she is not in a position to offer a cure.  The image of the Church as a “field hospital” that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality, for in some parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population.

5.       The memory of this long history of service to the sick is cause for rejoicing on the part of the Christian community, and especially those presently engaged in this ministry.  Yet we must look to the past above all to let it enrich us.  We should learn the lesson it teaches us about the self-sacrificing generosity of many founders of institutes in the service of the infirm, the creativity, prompted by charity, of many initiatives undertaken over the centuries, and the commitment to scientific research as a means of offering innovative and reliable treatments to the sick.  This legacy of the past helps us to build a better future, for example, by shielding Catholic hospitals from the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise, which ends up discarding the poor.  Wise organization and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity, and constantly kept at the centre of the therapeutic process.  This should likewise be the approach of Christians who work in public structures; through their service, they too are called to bear convincing witness to the Gospel.

6.         Jesus bestowed upon the Church his healing power:  “These signs will accompany those who believe... they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mk 16:17-18).  In the Acts of the Apostles, we read accounts of the healings worked by Peter (cf. Acts 3:4-8) and Paul (cf. Acts 14:8-11).  The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion.  Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task, to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the most largest healthcare institutions.  We cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives.  The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies.  Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission.  It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.

7.         To Mary, Mother of tender love, we wish to entrust all those who are ill in body and soul, that she may sustain them in hope.  We ask her also to help us to be welcoming to our sick brothers and sisters.  The Church knows that she requires a special grace to live up to her evangelical task of serving the sick.  May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in an incessant plea that every member of the Church may live with love the vocation to serve life and health.  May the Virgin Mary intercede for this Twenty-sixth World Day of the Sick; may she help the sick to experience their suffering in communion with the Lord Jesus; and may she support all those who care for them.  To all, the sick, to healthcare workers and to volunteers, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 26 November 2017

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Pope’s Twitter account marks 5 years: ‘Useful for evangelization’

(Vatican Radio)  Five years have passed since Pope Benedict XVI posted the first Tweet on the official papal Twitter account: @Pontifex.

That historic Tweet read: "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart."

Pope Francis in turn took up the prophetic mission of evangelizing through social media upon his election, and the papal Twitter handle currently counts more than 40 million followers in 9 languages.

Listen to Devin Watkins' report:

Standing next to now Pope emeritus Benedict XVI on 12 December 2012 as the first Tweet was posted was Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Secretariat of State.

Joy of spreading the Word of God

Archbishop Becciu spoke to Vatican Media’s Alessandro Gisotti about the significance of the Popes' presence on social media.

“I remember being with Pope Benedict: he was a little clumsy pushing the buttons on the tablet. But at the same time I saw him very joyful. He was happy to be able to dialogue with netizens and to be part of the new wave of modern communications,” he said.

Archbishop Becciu said this was the best way “to reach so many people and spread the Word of God”.

Instagram

Pope Francis expanded his digital footprint by launching an Instagram account (@Franciscus) on 19 March 2016, which now has more than 5 million followers.

Archbishop Becciu said Pope Francis ironically considers himself a “digital dinosaur” but is interested all the same, requesting frequent updates.

“I think the Pope is aware of being an evangelizer and missionary to the world. So for him all instruments may be used. They are tools that can help diffuse his evangelizing word.”

The Pope, Archbishop Becciu said, “reads the Tweets he is to publish with joy and approves them with great enthusiasm.”

Papal advice for social media

When it comes to the proper use of social media, Archbishop Becciu said Pope Francis has already given several guidelines.

“Most importantly, do not abuse them: Do not use them at Mass!” he said, quoting the Holy Father.

Archbishop Becciu said the Pope has also reminded bishops and priests not to abuse social media.

“But at the same time, we must have the courage and wisdom to use them well. Courage is needed because it is new and so we need to ‘throw ourselves’ into this newness. And [it requires] wisdom since every tool should be used in the proper measure,” he said.

One final piece of advice, Archbishop Becciu said, is to avoid offensive speech on social media.

“We must use it as an instrument for communicating with others. Communication should help us grow in the Spirit, in culture, and in our attitudes toward other people.”

Pope at Angelus tells the faithful to prepare for the coming of the Lord

Pope Francis on Sunday told the faithful that Advent is a time to make space for the coming Jesus in our lives.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reflected on the reading of the day in which the prophet Isaiah said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

As we look into ourselves and recognize our sins, in particular those of omission, Advent he said is a good time to pray with more intensly and fill the voids we see.

For example, the Pope continued, we are called to be more attentive to the needs of others, and in this way, just like John the Baptist, we can open paths of hope in the arid hearts of so many people.

The Pope also invited the faithful to prepare for the coming of the Lord as we would prepare for the arrival of a loved one: “with care and joy”.

“In the same way we must prepare for Jesus: waiting for him with care and expectation so we can be filled with his grace when he arrives” he said.

That voice crying out in the desert, the Pope continued, is also an indication of the climate of conversion and penitence that puts us in the right state to meet the Lord.

“The Savior we are waiting for is capable of transforming our lives with the force of the Holy Spirit, with the strength of love” he said.

Francis concluded pointing out that Our Lady was totally immersed in this reality, allowing herself to be “baptized” by the Holy Spirit who filled her with his power: “May she, who prepared for the arrival of Christ with the totality of her existence, help us to follow his example and may she guide us in our steps to meet the Lord who is coming”.

Pope Francis appeals for nuclear disarmament and climate change action

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday said he is close to the Indian communities of Tamil Nadu and Kerala States in the wake of Cyclone Okhi, and in particular to the families of the many fisherman who have gone missing since the cyclone swept those coastal areas.

Cyclone Okhi

Over 500 fisherman are missing and feared dead since the cyclone struck on November 29th.  The Catholic Archdiocese of Trivandrum and Tamil Nadu’s Kottar Diocese told Vatican Radio they are  “very much engaged in the rescue operation and relief work” in collaboration with the state and central governments, and are appealing to draw attention to the emergency which has not received the attention of the international and national media.

Listen to the report by Sean Patrick Lovett:

The Pope’s words of closeness and concern came after the recitation of the Angelus Prayer in St. Peter’s Square.

Nuclear disarmament

Francis also mentioned that the anti-nuclear weapons group chosen to receive the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize will be presented with the award today.

“This recognition takes place in coincidence with UN Day for Human Rights” the Pope said, “highlighting the strong tie that exists between human rights and nuclear disarmament”.

He went on to say that “the commitment towards upholding the dignity of all people, in particular the weakest and most vulnerable, means also working with determination to build a world without nuclear arms”.

“God gives us the capacity to collaborate in building our common home: we have freedom, intelligence and the capacity to use technology, to limit our power in the service of peace and true progress” he said.

Climate change

Pope Francis also looked ahead to a Summit in Paris on Tuesday: “Our Planet Summit” which he said comes two years after the Paris Climate Accord.

“I strongly hope that his Summit, like others of its kind, may favour the clear awareness on the necessity to implement decisions that are truly effective in contrasting climate change, and in the same time fighting poverty and promoting human development” he said.   

Laudato Si' Challenge inspires solutions to environmental problems

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, published in 2015, was hailed as a heartfelt appeal for the future of planet earth, or, as the pope puts it, a call to all people to take “care of our common home”.

Among the many responses to that call is an initiative by private investors inviting entrepreneurs and start-up companies to develop ideas responding to the challenges spelt out in 'Laudato Si’. From renewable energy and recycling, to clean water, food security or supporting refugees, young businessmen and women have been asked to come up with innovative solutions to some the most pressing problems facing our world today.

The project is called the Laudato Si’ Challenge and it has the support of Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican office for Integral Human Development. From thousands of entries, the heads of nine companies have been selected as finalists to receive mentoring, both from Silicon Valley professionals and from Vatican officials.  

Among them is Steve Katsaros, CEO of a company called Nokero (short for No Kerosene) that produces pocket-size solar lamps using the sun’s rays to charge a battery-powered LED light. After presenting his company to Vatican officials, Steve dropped in to Vatican Radio and talked to Philippa Hitchen about the ideas motivating his business venture..

Listen: 

Steven says he started Nokero in 2010 to address the problem of over a billion people worldwide who have no access to electricity, relying instead on Kerosene lamps which are inefficient, dangerous and damaging to their health.

As an inventor, he created the small solar bulb which is light and portable, waterproof and durable, providing 15 hours of light from each charge out in the sunshine. So far, Steve says, the company has shipped 1.7 million units to 120 countries across the globe.

Impact on lives and communities

Describing the impact his product has had, he tells the personal story of a young Kenyan man who got in touch via Facebook to say how he had been able to study by the light of a Nokero lamp, becoming the first person in his family to go on to college. The man told Steve his younger siblings are still using the same lamp to further their own education, something that was unthinkable for them just a few years earlier.

Steve says he belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church, while the companies represent a non-denominational group of entrepreneurs, all inspired by the Pope’s encyclical letter.

Overcome economic injustices

He says he feels it’s time “we all acknowledge that we have been over consuming and not taking fair advantage of the resources we have at the top of the economic pyramid”. Noting that “8 white men have as much wealth as bottom half of humanity”, he says it’s up to his generation to overcome that injustice. “I’m 44 years old guy with 2 young kids”, he concludes “and I don't want them to inherit my trash pile. I want [the world] to be a garden that thrives and supports them, and their children, and their children’s children”.

Crib donations to help Holy Land Christians

(Vatican Radio) Eight dioceses in England have pledged to support vulnerable Christians in the Holy Land through Christmas crib donations.

Churches in the dioceses of Arundel and Brighton, Birmingham, and Hexham and Newcastle will give their crib offerings this year to the Friends of the Holy Land (FHL), a charity that provides relief to Christians living in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan.

Parishes in the dioceses of Leeds, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Salford and Southwark will also donate to the charity, which provides practical support to families facing poverty and unemployment in the region.

A spokesperson for FHL said: “Christmas and Advent is a key time in the FHL calendar as Christians across the world focus their attention on the ‘little town of Bethlehem’.

“Unfortunately, ‘peace and goodwill’ is not reflected in the harsh realities lived by many Christians in the West Bank today. Bethlehem’s Christians are increasingly fleeing what has become a virtual prison for their community. Faced with towering walls of separation, water shortages, and an uncertain future for their children, many emigrate if they can.

“The fields surrounding Bethlehem, where shepherds once ‘watched their flocks’, are now barred to their descendants as large areas of land have been confiscated.

“It is FHL’s mission to raise awareness about these difficulties and to let Christians living in the Holy Land know that they are not forgotten. By channeling donations of time and money, we aim to encourage and support these Christian communities, with funds going to a mixture of sustainable projects and emergency relief to help the most desperate cases.”

The charity’s announcement comes amid a new wave of violence in the region in recent days following US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

(Richard Paul Marsden)

Set another place at the Christmas table for someone in need

(Vatican Radio) Men and women of goodwill across the world are invited to set another place at the Christmas table for someone in need.

Kicking off its annual campaign to offer Christmas lunch to the poor, to the homeless, to families in difficulty, the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio is asking for contributions – whatever they may amount to – in order to be able to offer a tangible sign of closeness and care to our brothers and sisters in need.

The Christmas Lunch across the world

Thanks to the help of Sant’Egidio friends across the globe, the initiative last year saw over 50,00 poor people in Italy, and over 200,000 across the world, invited to celebrate Christmas and enjoy a special lunch together thanks to the “Set another place at the Christmas table” campaign.  

History

The Christmas Lunch with the poor tradition goes back 35 years when a small group of poor people was welcomed to participate in a banquet set up in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. 

Those invited included some elderly people, a handful of neighbourhood friends who would have spent the day alone, and some homeless people who slept ‘out and about’ in the area.

Since then the initiative has grown and spread from Rome’s Trastevere district where Sant’Egidio has its home, to many parts of the world, wherever the Community is present.

In Rome, lunch still takes place beneath the frescoes in the magnificent Basilica, but Christmas meals are organized for the poor in many different venues as well, including old-age homes, prisons and of course other churches and basilicas.   

Service to the poor

Service to the poor is one of the main missions of the Sant’Egidio Community which sees itself as a family united by the Gospel. That’s why, Sant’Egidio members insist, while families across the world gather around the table to celebrate the coming of the Lord, the Community does so with the poor “who are our friends and family”. 

For more information click here.

India’s coastal archdiocese appeals for help for people hit by cyclone ‎

India’s Catholic dioceses in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala states are grappling with the “massive disaster” in the wake of the cyclone Okhi, that swept by Trivandrum and Kanyakumari districts on Nov. 29.  Several hundred fishermen are feared missing, Fr. Deepak Anto, executive secretary of the media commission of the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, wrote in an email to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication urging for help. 

The cyclone originated as a depression in the Gulf of Thailand on Nov. 21 and packed in more power as it traversed across northern Indian Ocean and ended near the coast of India’s Gujarat state causing damage in the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and in Lakshadweep islands.

Fr. Deepak said the affected Trivandrum Archdiocese and Tamil Nadu’s Kottar Diocese “are very much engaged in the rescue operation and relief work” in collaboration with the state and central governments.

Trivandrum Archdiocese has appealed to draw attention to the emergency that the international and national media have “unfortunately” “not given enough coverage,” Fr. Deepak said. 

Archbishop Maria Callist Soosai Pakiam of Trivandrum spoke to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication explaining the situation after cyclone Okhi.

Listen to Arch. Soosa Pakiam:

Arch. Soosai Pakiam said figures so far have reported some 20 dead and over 585 Catholics missing from Kerala alone and the situation in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state is not very different.    He blamed the “intensity of the disaster” on the “lack of proper weather warning” about the approaching cyclone.  Trivandrum Archdioces and Kottar Diocese are engaged in rescue operations in the sea and relief work in collaboration with government agencies. 

Arch. Soosai Pakiam noted that the Kerala Bishops’ Council will observe Sunday, Dec. 10 as a day of prayer for the victms of cyclone Okhi.   The following day, Monday, Dec. 11, a march had been called to the state governor to express their “sorrow, pain and anguish” and to urge rescue operations and rehabilitation work for the affected people. The archbishop appealed for prayers, solidarity and help for all.