Pope prays for victims of Sendong

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Consistent with the theme of salvation, Benedict XVI asks for comfort on their behalf

MANILA, Philippines – In his annual Christmas message, Pope Benedict XVI prayed for flood-stricken victims in southern Philippines who observed the feast of Jesus Christ’s birth amid a death toll that has risen to over 1,200 so far. (See related story)

“May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods,” Benedict said in his Christmas Urbi et Orbi, which literally means “To the City and to the World.”

The Pope delivered this message on Sunday, Dec 25, 2011, with the theme of “salvation” for all, especially for countries enduring famine, conflict, and other hardships.

“Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, on this Christmas 2011, let us then turn to the Child of Bethlehem, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, and say: ‘Come to save us!’ Let us repeat these words in spiritual union with the many people who experience particularly difficult situations; let us speak out for those who have no voice,” the Pope said.

In affected provinces in Mindanao, at least 108,798 families or 695,195 persons spent Christmas reeling from the disaster wrought by tropical storm Sendong, according to data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

The death toll due to Sendong has climbed to 1,236 as of Sunday afternoon, said the NDRRMC.

A week before Christmas, Benedict also conveyed a message of support for the flood victims in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Dumaguete, and other areas in southern Philippines.

“I would like to assure my closeness to the populations of southern Philippines, hit by a violent tropical storm. I pray for the victims, many of whom are children, for the homeless and for the many who have been dispersed,” he said in a message after his weekly Angelus in St Peter’s Square. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com