Chinese Catholics joined the rest of their country in a moment of silence on Monday to mourn and pray for those killed and injured in the massive earthquake that hit southwestern China last week.
UCA News reports that, as of May 19, the State Council reported the death toll to be 34,073, with more than 245,000 people injured. The May 12 quake, centered in Wenchuan in the Sichuan province, was initially estimated to measure 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Its magnitude was later revised upward to 8.0.
About 80 Catholics at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Chengdu stood after Mass and observed the country-wide three minutes of silence.
Father Simon Li Zhigang told UCA News that not many could come for the Mass because it was held on short notice. He said about 100 people had attended a requiem Mass for the dead that morning.
Zhang Jingqi, a 22 year-old Catholic university student and relief volunteer, told UCA News that she could never have imagined such a silence on the university campus. She said the moment of silence showed the “huge power of solidarity among the people.”
Fifty priests and nuns, including a team sent by the nationwide Church-run organization Jinde Charities, have arrived in Chengdu to help the relief efforts. Some of the clergy and religious are qualified doctors and nurses.
More than 113,000 soldiers are involved in the rescue efforts. Father Li told UCA News that the government’s Earthquake Relief Command Unit and the Red Cross Society enlisted the Church workers for coordination, due to the magnitude of the effort.
The Chinese government has declared an unprecedented three-day period of national mourning for the victims of the earthquake. Entertainment businesses have been required to close and the Beijing Olympics torch relay in Zhejiang and Shanghai has been suspended until May 22.