WASHINGTON (OSV News) – Reacting to “heartbreaking scenes” of death and destruction in Turkey and Syria, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international policy committee urged U.S. Catholics and all people of goodwill to pray for the victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the two countries Feb. 6 and to give generously to those in need.
By Feb. 9 in Turkey and Syria, the death toll had risen to almost 20,000 combine and close to 53,000 others were injured.
“I join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in praying for the souls of the departed as we mourn the loss of so many lives,” Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said in a Feb. 8 statement.
“We pray for those injured and the many others suffering, and we also pray for the safety and protection of emergency personnel working to save lives and tending to those in need in the wake of this disaster,” he said.
Rescue workers were still “trying to free people from rubble and those alive are facing freezing conditions as they try to salvage their belongings and seek shelter,” Bishop Malloy said. “In a region that has experienced much conflict and hardship, these heartbreaking scenes call out to us to provide aid and assistance to our brothers and sisters in need.”
The bishop urged U.S. Catholics “to give generously” to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) to support their efforts to provide emergency humanitarian relief.
“I also call upon the U.S. government to provide much-needed assistance and to work in conjunction with Catholic aid organizations to deliver effective assistance to those most in need,” he said.
CNEWA, an agency of the Holy See, is looking to aid over 2,000 families in Syria’s Aleppo and Hama regions — already long ravaged by conflict — by providing bedding, food, medicines, infant formula, diapers and clothing. Donations can be made online at https://cnewa.org/work/emergency-syria; by phone at 800-442-6392; or by mail to CNEWA headquarters, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022.
CRS, the U.S. Catholic Church’s overseas relief and development agency, also is accepting donations through its website, crs.org. CRS is partnering with Caritas Turkey, Caritas Syria and Caritas Anatolia — members of Caritas Internationalis, a global confederation of Catholic relief organizations — to shelter displaced victims while ensuring access to food, clean water and hygiene supplies.