Pope prays for disaster victims in Philippines, China, Iran

A woman mourns in the earthquake-stricken village of Varzaqan, near Ahar, Iran, Aug. 12. Two earthquakes — magnitude 6.4 and 6.3 — killed at least 300 and injured more than 3,000 people Aug. 11. (CNS photo/Arash Khamooshi, ISNA via Reuters)

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics around the world to pray and offer material assistance to flood victims in the Philippines and China and to people affected by an earthquake in northwestern Iran.The natural disasters have caused death and injury and left thousands of people homeless, the pope said Aug. 12 after reciting the Angelus in the courtyard of the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo.

“I ask you to join me in prayer for those who lost their lives and for all the people so harshly tried by such devastating calamities. May these brothers and sisters of ours not lack our solidarity and support,” the pope said.

Flooding caused by days of torrential rains forced more than a quarter million people from their homes in parts of Manila and provinces surrounding the Philippine capital. The government said Aug. 7 that at least 50 percent of metropolitan Manila was under water, displacing an estimated 270,000 people. News reports Aug. 13 said more than 90 people had lost their lives and more rain was expected.

In China, Typhoon Haikui brought heavy rains and flooding to Jiangxi province in the eastern part of the country. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced.

In Iran, two strong earthquakes struck Aug. 11, leaving at least 300 people dead and 2,000 injured. The quakes destroyed entire villages in the northwest.

In his main Angelus address, Pope Benedict spoke about the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus tells the people, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

The pope said Jesus had fed the crowds with the miraculously multiplied loaves and fishes but wanted them to realize that their real hunger was for nourishment that would help them live well in this world and give them eternal life.

“We need to ask ourselves if we really feel this hunger, the hunger for the Word of God, the hunger to know the real meaning of life,” the pope said. Encountering Jesus and being nourished by him, believers find “the path to life, justice, truth and love.”

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