Sunday, August 19, 2007

Pope to Peru: "The Church Is With You"... and So Is Bertone

Most Vatican officials are far afield in these waning days of summer, but the Pope has kept his second-in-command well in motion in his first August on the job.

B16 announced at this morning's Angelus that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will travel to Peru this week as a sign of the pontiff's concern after the magnitude 8.0 earthquake last Wednesday that caused heavy damage along the country's Pacific coast, killing over 500. Having just attended the Knights of Columbus' Supreme Convention in Nashville earlier this month and opened the Communion and Liberation mega-conference at Rimini this morning (see below), the Peru trip will be the second foreign trip of Bertone's 11 months as Secretary of State... and the second of the month.

Addressing himself to quake survivors and those grieving loved ones, the Pope "assure[d]" the affected this morning that "the church is with you, with all its spiritual and material solidarity," adding that Bertone's presence on the ground would also convey the Holy See's "concrete help" in the ongoing relief and recovery efforts.

In Pisco, where 150 Mass-goers died while attending a funeral as the quake hit, statues recovered intact from the collapsed church of San Clemente were put on an emotional public display yesterday:
Desperate and ragged residents, most of them hungry people who haven't slept under a roof since the quake, thronged around the Christ statue in amazement as it was carried in procession into the square by half a dozen men in hard hats and masks.

The survival of the religious figures gave people hope and something to celebrate in their desolation in this predominantly Catholic country.

"The Lord is present here with us, along with the saints, it's a miracle they weren't destroyed," said Amelia Ugaz de Aria, 69, whose home was flattened by the earthquake.

Nearby, a mobile hospital attended to injured survivors while others continued to search for kin among rows of distended, purple bodies laid out in the square and still awaiting identification.

Lourdes Girau, 42, sobbed as she kneeled before Jesus and with a rag dusted off the wooden cross he was staked to.

"The fact that he's here, shows Jesus continues to live to fight so much tragedy," Girau said.

Townspeople rushed to hold the hands of San Clemente or caress the face of Jesus, their fingers tracing the painted blood stains streaming down his skin.

PHOTO 1: AFP/Rodrigo Angaua
PHOTO 2: Reuters/Mariana