Pope says he’s close to Turkish people in time of ‘so much pain’

By Justin McLellan | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “I am close to you, and I pray for you,” Pope Francis told the Turkish people reeling from earthquakes that killed over 46,000 people in Turkey and neighboring Syria, according to figures updated Feb. 19.

During a meeting with Ufuk Ulutas, Turkey’s new ambassador to the Holy See, the pope wrote a message to the “noble Turkish people” and said his thoughts and prayers are with them “in this moment of so much pain.”

Two 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes struck southern Turkey Feb. 6. Ten days after the quakes, at least 40,000 people were reported dead in Turkey and another 6,000 in Syria.

Via the papal almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, Pope Francis sent 10,000 thermal shirts to earthquake victims in southern Turkey Feb. 15. Over 6.3 million people in the region are believed to be sleeping in temporary lodging, such as tents and shipping containers in below-freezing temperatures.

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, prefect of the Dicastery for Eastern Churches, was scheduled to travel to Turkey and Syria Feb. 17-21 to express the pope’s closeness to those affected by the earthquake, the Vatican said Feb. 16.

The archbishop was scheduled to meet with Catholic relief organizations and religious congregations working on the ground as well as the leaders of Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim communities in the region. In Damascus, Syria, the archbishop planned to visit a mosque hosting people left homeless after the earthquake.

The dicastery said in a statement that Archbishop Gugerotti’s trip aims “to encourage all those working to confront the emergency,” and to express “the need to establish better coordination” among relief efforts that will be needed in the coming months.

Photo: A man rides his bike past the destroyed Cathedral of the Annunciation Feb. 14, 2023, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Iskenderun, Turkey. (OSV News photo/Umit Bektas, Reuters)

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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