Father Dariusz Dogondke admitted that rebuilding the Catholic Cathedral of Annunciation in Iskanderun, south Turkey, will be a long process. But now, he underscored, “the most important thing is to help those in the community.”
“We have some people sheltering in church buildings that survived the earthquake,” he said. “From what I’m hearing, it’s about 100 people, but news that reaches me is still very limited. There is no water, electricity; the situation is very dire in Iskanderun.”
With the 19th-century cathedral lying in ruins, along with many of the homes of his parishioners, Father Dogondke is left with a community of people who are accustomed to serving others who now have nothing left themselves.
“Some of my parishioners now went to live with their families in other cities or in hotels hundreds of miles away,” the priest said, adding that there are no prospects that the situation will improve anytime soon in Iskanderun.
“In less than two minutes, some were left with nothing,” Inés San Martin of Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States told OSV News.
Humanitarian needs in Turkey and Syria are desperate, especially in Syria that has suffered a bloody civil war for almost 12 years. Following the Feb. 6 disaster that left many cities and villages in northwestern Syria completely ruined, the United Nations announced Feb. 14 a $397 million humanitarian appeal to aid its people.
“The Syria effort brings together the entire U.N. system and humanitarian partners and will help secure desperately needed, life-saving relief for nearly 5 million Syrians — including shelter, health care, food and protection,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters as the appeal was launched.
Meanwhile, Catholic organizations also are putting millions of dollars into aid efforts.
The U.S.-based Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) raised $200,000 in an online fundraiser that aims to collect $250,000.
The Caritas network has already started distributing supplies in cities and villages devastated by the earthquake. Mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits and food baskets are among the items most needed by the people whose houses were turned into ruins.
“We’re going to be facing a really difficult situation and a really long-term response,” said John Coughlin, emergency response team leader for Caritas Internationalis.
U.S. Catholics urged to aid, pray for quake victims in Turkey, Syria
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.
According to The Associated Press Feb. 15, the death toll had risen more than 40,000 and thousands more 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.
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.
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.
>> How to help
CNEWA, an agency of the Holy See, is looking to aid over 2,000 families in Syria’s Aleppo and Hama regions by providing bedding, food, medicines, infant formula, diapers and clothing. Donations can be made online at 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 to shelter displaced victims while ensuring access to food, clean water and hygiene supplies.