Manila (AsiaNews) - Like their counterparts in other parts of the world, Vietnamese Catholics have responded to the appeal Francis Pope launched during the Angelus on Sunday and are now praying for the victims of the earthquake in the Philippines, their families and survivors.
Bishop Paul Bui Van Dọc, president of the Vietnamese bishops' conference, expressed his deep sadness over the natural disaster that hit the Central Vusayas and extended his condolences to its survivors, in particular those in the areas of Bohol and Cebu. At the same time, the bishop assured Filipinos the "solidarity" of the people of Vietnam, both Catholics and non-Catholics.
On 15 October, a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the central Philippines (Central Visayas), killing at least 190 people with the final tally likely to top 200. Many buildings, including old churches dating back to the Spanish colonial era, suffered major damage, jeopardising the existence of some of the most important pieces of the country's architectural heritage.
Over three million people have been more or less seriously affected by the earthquake in eight cities and 52 municipalities.
Damage estimates so far are in excess of 900 million pesos (a little under US$ 21 million) with 46,000 homes destroyed, as well as 39 bridges and 18 major roads.
Currently, 111,000 Bohol residents are housed in government camps; many others live in tents because of incessant aftershocks, more than 2,000 since the main earthquake struck.
In a personal message sent to the Archbishop of Cebu Mgr Jose Palma, president of the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, Mgr Bui Van Doc noted the "pain" he felt for the country, which after the devastations of Typhoon Nari, had to endure an equally destructive earthquake.
Speaking on behalf of the Bishops' Conference of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people, the bishop expressed "our closeness in prayer" and salvation "in the merciful arms of our Heavenly Father" for all the victims. He also expressed "sadness" for the "serious damage" to "historic sites and ancient churches."
Hoping in a speedy recovery, the Vietnamese archbishop invoked the protection of Saint Michael the Archangel for the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the National Secretariat of Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA) continues to help quake victims. Two of its teams have been hard at work in Bohol, checking damages and organising emergency aid.
Other evaluations will be carried out across the Archdiocese of Cebu, which was also hit by the earthquake.
All the dioceses of the Philippines are mobilised in a fundraising campaign. For now, the priority is to help the victims; only at a later date, plans to rebuild destroyed churches will be examined.
So far, NASSA has allocated 400,000 pesos in favour of the diocese of Bohol.