04/27/2013, 00.00
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Sichuan quake: Catholics among the victims hope to rebuild destroyed homes and churches

by Jian Mei
In the affected area at least 6 thousand of 10 thousand Catholics have lost their homes, farms, crops. Three churches were completely destroyed, with many others seriously damaged. The Chengdu regional seminary also damaged. Some churches destroyed in the 2008 earthquake had not yet been rebuilt. Card. Tong launches appeals for prayer and to raise funds to be donated by Caritas Hong Kong. Many people, disgusted by the corruption of the Chinese government prefer direct donations through NGOs working in Sichuan.

Chengdu (AsiaNews) - Together with the whole population of Sichuan, Catholics have observed three minutes of silence this morning at 8.10, in memory of all those who died in the magnitude 7 earthquake that hit the region at that hour on April 20. According to the Chinese culture, the seventh day after a death is a day of mourning.

Until yesterday, the death toll according to Lushan County Xinhua, 196 people had died and 13,484 were wounded in the area of ​​Yaan (Sichuan).

Fr. Chen Yong, of Saint Mary's parish, near Yaan (diocese of Leshan), said that his parishioners are living together with other survivors in tents and receive food, blankets and medicine from rescue teams. Many houses have collapsed or have become unsafe.

About 6,000 out of more than 10,000 Catholics in the area are seriously affected by the quake. "So far, we have received no report of Catholics that died in the quake, but some are injured, and at least one is hospitalized," said Father Chen.

The priest- ordained last year, is from one of the three parish priests serving in quake-hit area.

Many villagers are poultry farmers and have lost their houses, fields and farms. They worry about their livelihood and have no money to rebuild houses.

Since the quake happened, Father Chen said he and other priests have been helping people, transferring injured and coordinating the distribution of relief aids to the needy. Catholic volunteers are now in the area helping quake victims, counselling and reaching out to remote places.

In that quake-hit area, several churches are severely damaged, and three of them collapsed completely, he said. Priests may have to celebrate or pray in the open space for the time being.

"In the first days after the quake, I had no time to think or hesitate, except rushing from place to place to help rescue and see what could be done for the victims. Roads linking up villages were damaged or blocked by debris, and telecommunications failed. Now many resumed service," he said.

In Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan, about 160 kilometers from the epicenter, the regional seminary of Sichuan there also experienced damages from the April 20 stroke. Seminarians and teachers remained safe as they were evacuated from the dormitory and campus buildings when the quake happened. Cracks on the walls and inside the chapel are now more obvious, as some remained from the 8.0-magitude quake in 2008.

Seminarians held a Taize prayer on April 21 evening, mourning the dead, praying for victims and asking for the Lord's comfort while facing such crisis again.

Some churches damaged in the 2008 quake have not been fully repaired or rebuilt.

Meanwhile, Church and other non-government organizations are appealing for donations and support for the quake victims. However, people are reluctant to give because evidence showed embezzlement of huge amount for the 2008 quake by corrupt officials.

In Hong Kong, the law-makers are debating on a local government's plan to donate HK0 million (10 million euros) to Sichuan government to aid quake victims. Instead, liberals call forgiving the fund through NGOs working in the quake-hit areas.

A Catholic in Hong Kong told AsiaNews that he chooses to donate through Hong Kong NGOs working in Sichuan. "I detest mainland government officials' corruptions, which obstructed the needy to be helped. But these evils will not deter my love and concern for the victims who suffer the loss of lives and home, plus the weather is still cold there. I trust those NGOs are transparent and use funds properly, and will truly help the needy with honesty and sincerity."

Cardinal John Tong, bishop of Hong Kong, is urging his faithful in the diocese to pray for the China quake victims, as Pope Francis' called on April 21, and to donate through Caritas-Hong Kong to help the victims.



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