03/17/2011, 00.00
JAPAN
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Japanese Church launches aid centre for tsunami victims

The centre is based in Sendai, in the areas affected by the tsunami. Message from the Bishop of Sendai. The diocese also reports children dead in kindergartens, churches destroyed and damaged. Families offer hospitality to the homeless elderly. Shelters without water, electricity, fuel, medicine, causing physical and mental fatigue of the displaced.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - The Japanese Catholic Church today opened an aid centre for survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. The centre has its headquarters in the Cathedral of Sendai, one of the worst affected areas. The bishops are calling on the faithful to raise funds, but also offer shelter to the homeless.

Speaking to AsiaNews Fr. David Uribe, provincial superior of the Missionaries of Guadalupe in Japan, confirmed to that already this morning, five Japanese families in Tokyo expressed their willingness to accommodate, survivors of the disaster, especially the elderly, in their homes for as long as necessary.

The aid centre, opened today, is managed by the Bishop of Sendai, Mgr. Martin Hiraga, the Bishop of Niigata, Mgr. Tarcisius Kikuchi, the Bishop of Saitama, Mgr. Marcellino Tani and Caritas Japan. Its remit is to raise funds that will go to thousands of people affected by the tsunami.

Marking the launch Mgr. Hiraga today sent a message expressing his sadness for the destruction caused by the earthquake and tidal wave, which has so far left over 15 thousand people dead or missing. The powerful earthquake devastated four provinces that form the area of the diocese of Sendai: Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

In his message, the bishop invites every Christian to become involved in this charitable initiative and help those who have lost everything. He also recalls that in these difficult times is important not to forget the infinite mercy of God The Catholic Church in Japan is made up of about 500 thousand believers, a disproportionate group in comparison to the huge number of people affected by the disaster. The bishop hoped, however, that even the smallest act of charity will help many people.

In the north-east of the country, destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami, there are about half a million homeless, housed in makeshift centres. The situation of the survivors is critical: they lack water, electricity and fuel (diesel and oil), medicine and many essential items. The shortage in basic necessities and lack of immediate prospects, is provoking great physical and mental fatigue among the displaced. According to some estimates, it will take at least 10 years and investments in excess of those used after the Kobe earthquake of 1995 (almost 160 billion U.S. dollars) to return to a normal way of life in the affected areas.

The chancellor of the diocese of Sendai, Fr. Peter Komastu, also announced the first figures regarding Catholic face of the disaster. He confirmed that an unspecified number of children, pupils of the Catholic Diocesan kindergarten, lost their lives. Moreover, the structures damaged by earthquake and tsunami include: in the province of Iwate, the first floor of the Kamaishi parish, in the province of Myagi, serious damage to the parishes of Furukawa and Stukidate; the parish of Kesenuma has been damaged and its kindergarten is currently being used as makeshift accommodation for the displaced. Finally, all the parishes of the south coast of Fukushima (in the area of the nuclear power plant currently at risk) were destroyed by the tsunami.

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