|2005 Statement on Collection for Asian Appeal|
To date 1.1 million euro has been received from 69 parishes.
Bishop Michael Smith
Statement on Collection for Asian Appeal
As the full horror of the loss of life and devastation caused by the tsunami to unfold it was obvious that major help was needed. A couple of days after the disaster, I wrote to the priests asking them to offer an opportunity to the faithful in the Diocese to contribute to the relief effort. The response in this Diocese, as in all parts of the country, was extraordinarily generous. Not for the first time Irish people opened their hearts to their brothers and sisters in need. It was given with great generosity and unconditionally. In many of the Letters of St. Paul we find him reminding his new converts that a central dimension of living the faith was willingness to reach out to help those who were in need. This is put very beautifully by Jesus in His parable of the Good Samaritan. It was the one who showed kindness and pity to the person attacked, robbed and left half dead who was truly a neighbour, even though he was different in race and creed.
To date 1.1 million euro has been received from 69 parishes. Of this $900,000 has been sent to Archbishop Pennacchio, Nuncio to Thailand, Burma and Malaysia; $125,000 has been sent to the Nuncio in Sri Lanka and a further $125,000 to the Nuncio in Indonesia. A further $250,000 will be sent to Archbishop Pennacchio in the days ahead. During his time in the Nunciature in Dublin in the late 1990s Archbishop Pennacchio, then counsellor in the Nunciature, attended many ceremonies in the Diocese and was known to a number of our priests. It was because of these personal ties that it was decided to send the support directly to him. Being Nuncio to three of the countries affected by the devastation he was in a position to respond directly to the areas of greatest need.
In a letter from Cardinal Kitbunchu in Bangkok expressing thanks for the support received from the Diocese and for 'being with us in our difficult time', he speaks of the 'great devastation of life and property', the worst ever experienced by his country. However he also states that 'we are consoled and encouraged by the compassion and solidarity of our friends worldwide which makes us feel that we are not alone'. In a statement accompanying his letter, based on that passage in the Book of Ecclesiastes that speaks of a time for everything, there is a strong message of hope. There has been much time for mourning and for searching but now they are seeking to find time for building and for planting. The help they have received from many quarters, including from this Diocese, will be used in this building and planting.
In a similar vein, Archbishop Ranjith (Nuncio in Indonesia) wrote to me upon his return again to Jakarta from Aceh on 3 February. Fearing that the number of dead could go over 250,000 in Indonesia alone, he speaks of the terrible situation facing the survivors, most of whom are still living in tents. He says that the problem is compounded by the precarious political and military situation. He is focusing on projects relating to the welfare and education of children in the afflicted areas. Specifically, the generous donation from the Diocese will be going towards "the rebuilding of schools and the granting of scholarships to children from poor homes".
Archbishop Zenari (Nuncio in Sri Lanka) has written from Columbo, expressing the deepest appreciation of all who are benefiting from the monies raised here. Projects in Sri Lanka are still at the early stage of development. Where the Church and local Religious are working actively with the Government and international NGOs to provide for the immediate needs and plans for future re-structuring in the affected regions.
Little information has been available on what happened in Burma (Myanmar) beyond the fact that it too and its people suffered from the tsunami. Archbishop Pennacchio in his capacity as Nuncio to that country has met with the Bishops in Burma and given help. The Church in Burma has strong links with Ireland through the work of the Columban priests and sisters. Bishop John Howe is a good example of those links. A native of Galway, he went to Burma in 1941. He was imprisoned for three years by the Japanese forces of occupation during the war. In 1961 he was appointed Bishop of Myitkyina. The following year a new military Government in Burma expelled all missionaries who had come to the country after 1948. This meant Bishop Howe could not leave until his successor, a native Burmese priest, was appointed in 1977 for, if he left on holidays, he would not have been allowed to re-enter the country. Ho continued his missionary work in the Philippines, including keeping up contact with Burma, until he retires to Dalgan Park, outside Navan, remaining there until after his death in 2000. Indeed, Irish priests, sisters, brothers and lay volunteers have worked in all the countries affected by the tsunami.
Finally, I would like to express my own personal thanks and appreciation to all for the great support and generosity given to those who have suffered so much. Special thanks to the priests for facilitating and encouraging the appeal. Similarly I am very grateful to the many lay people who organized fundraising events in their parishes, schools, workplaces and homes. In late 1998 Honduras and especially its capital Tegucigalpa was devastated by Hurricane Mitch. There was a very generous response from the people of the Diocese to this disaster and the money received was sent directly to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa. Since then the Diocese has continued to support his work of rebuilding the loves of many. He has rebuilt a township to house people who lose everything in the floods, naming one of its streets "Mullingar Street" in recognition of the help he received and is receiving.
It is hoped that the Diocese can continue to support the rebuilding efforts in South East Asia over the coming years. One possible option is that schools in this Diocese may be able to 'adopt' schools in affected regions with a view to providing ongoing support and dialogue. In doing so we will have done 'no more than our duty' before the Lord.