12/31/2004, 00.00
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After the tsunami prayers and questions

by Weena Kowitwanij
Suffrage masses are held in all of Thailand's Catholic churches. The Pope's empathy is remembered. Card Kitbunchu urges leaders to be "wise".

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The body count in Thailand has reached 2404; the injured are 9824, but the figure is provisional and bound to rise. Hardest hit is Phang Nga province, which is on the Andaman Sea.

The local Bishop, Mgr Pratan Sridarunsil, said the death toll might surpass 2,000, whilst the known injured are 5573.

Leaders of the country's various religions celebrated liturgies and suffrage rites for the tsunami victims and prayed for the families affected by the tragedy.

At 7 pm yesterday, a mass for the souls of the departed was celebrated in all Catholics churches and prayers for the survivors were read.

In Bangkok's Cathedral of the Assumption, the local Bishop, Card Michael Michai Kitbunchu, celebrated mass before a gathering of 600 faithful.

Salvatore Pennacchio, Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand, read a message from the Pope expressing his condolences and sorrow; he also confirmed a special prayer for the Thai Church.

In his homily, Card Kitbunchu referred to St Paul's Epistle to the Romans emphasising that it is everyone's duty to help others as summed up in the command "Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself."

The Cardinal invited everyone to be grateful for others' generosity and appealed for special wisdom and strength in government leaders that they may face the critical situation.

For some of those attending mass, the tragic events of the last few days have raised questions of faith. "As a human being, it is very difficult to really accept the situation," said Br Sakda Kitcharoen, provincial superior of the Congregation of St Gabriel, "but as Catholics we have to refer to Job so that we may understand and cope with the crisis.  Why God who is the God of Love and Mercy let such a thing happen?  What is his real plan?  At this time, the most important thing is to encourage one another and lend a helping hand as much as possible."

Brother Sakda is scheduled to leave tomorrow for Phang Nga with Bishop Pratan to "see what we can do in a concrete way to help the poor and the needy".

The Bishops' Conference of Thailand has set up a team that includes some educators who are responsible with rehabilitating the educational environment and reconstructing schools.

Volunteers going into the field to help survivors are highly motivated. "In this critical situation," said Bernard Bural, a French volunteer network co-ordinator, "we have to be strong, console and encourage one another, and not lose hope because those who lose hope have already died."

The Thai Red Cross has appealed to medical staff, especially surgeons, infectious disease specialists and nurses, to volunteer their services.

Demand for blood (types A and O, and RH-negative) and medicines is also great.

Translators in German, French and Scandinavian languages are also required because of the large number of hospitalised foreign tourists.

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See also
Caritas Thailand sending first aid shipment to Nargis victims
People united by the hand of God despite the tragedy
Thai churches shelter tsunami survivors
Unknown tsunami victims buried
God never abandons us, even in a calamity, says Pope


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