Pope Benedict XVI sent a donation of $100,000 to the Bishops’ Conference of Japan to help the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11.
Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, told Vatican Radio that the council is working closely with the Japanese bishops, Caritas International network and other aid organizations to determine the best way to respond to the needs of the people.
Cor Unum is the council that carries out the Pope's humanitarian efforts.
Msgr. Figueiredo said Japan has experienced “a vast tragedy” on par with the 2004 tsunami in Asia, the earthquake and flooding in Pakistan, and the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
“The first thing we need to do is to pray that these people have hope,” he said, before explaining that material assistance is also needed. “The Holy Father has sent $100,000 to the Japanese bishops through this pontifical council because that is the fastest way to get the funds to the most affected dioceses.”
In addition, the Vatican official continued, “The bishops are the ones responsible first for the works of charity in the dioceses, and they know what the people need.” He emphasized that the Church plans to continue assisting those in Japan for the long term.
Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai, one the regions most affected by the tragedy, told Fides news agency that unity and good will are needed. “Catholics in the Diocese of Sendai are a small flock of just over 10,000. But we continue praying for the victims and we will do everything possible to bring relief and bear witness to the message of Christ during this time of suffering,” he said.
He added that the bishops will hold an emergency meeting on March 16 in Sendai. “We need to advise each other on how to respond. In the meantime, we trust in God and we ask for prayers from Christians around the world.”
“We have received the message from the Holy Father and we thank him for his words that inspire courage and hope. Right now this is our specific mission: to help the nation raise its eyes to heaven and to keep the flame of hope alive,” Bishop Hiraga said.