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Pope Francis prays for victims of Florida building collapse

June 26, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis prays before the tomb of St. Paul VI in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, Nov. 2, 2020. / Vatican Media/Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2021 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday offered prayers and condolences to all those affected by a deadly condominium building collapse in Florida this week.

Early on Thursday morning, the 12-story Champlain Towers beachfront condominium building in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed. As of Saturday morning, four people had been declared dead and 159 people were still unaccounted for in the collapse, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

In a June 26 message of solidarity on behalf of Pope Francis to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy Father wished to “express his deep sadness at the grievous loss of life” in the building collapse.

Pope Francis “offers heartfelt prayer that Almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died, comfort to those who mourn their loss, and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy,” the Vatican stated.

“With gratitude for the tireless efforts of the rescue workers and all engaged in caring for the injured, the grieving families and those left homeless, Pope Francis invokes upon the entire community the spiritual gifts of consolation, fortitude and perseverance in every good,” the message stated.

The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, transmitted the message to Archbishop Wenski.

Mayor Cava noted at a Saturday morning press conference that 127 people had been accounted for in the collapse.

The pastor at nearby St. Joseph’s Catholic parish, located just several blocks away from the condominium complex, told CNA on Friday afternoon that nine families from the parish who lived in the complex were still missing. Some of them were daily communicants, the pastor, Fr. Juan Sosa, said.

The total number of persons unaccounted for in the collapse, 159, had not changed in between Friday and Saturday morning, according to authorities.

Three other parish families who lived in the complex were either not present at the time of the collapse, or evacuated the building in time, Fr. Sosa said, and “for this, I am grateful,” he added.

“The entire community, however, is praying for those we do not know about,” he said. A Mass was scheduled to be offered at St. Joseph’s on Friday morning for all those affected by the collapse.

“May the Lord grant us much hope and peace at this time and always!” he said.

Mayor Cava on Saturday said that a fire in the rubble of the collapse has become an obstacle to the search and rescue team on site. The smoke has spread laterally in the rubble, she said.

“Our top priority now continues to be search and rescue,” she said. “Our teams have not stopped.”

Jackie Carrion, a senior staffer with the archdiocesan Catholic Charities, told Florida Catholic of the sadness at the scene at the collapse.

“I have worked hurricanes, but nothing like this: It is just a look of sadness you see on everyone’s face. It is heartbreaking,” she said.

The chairman of the Miami-Dade board of county commissioners, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, on Saturday urged continued prayer for the victims and the rescue teams.

“Your prayers have been extremely well-received. Please continue the prayers, they’re very important,” he said at the Saturday morning press conference.

On Friday, Archbishop Wenski also offered prayers for the victims and their families.  

A staffer for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami told CNA on Friday that the organization is accepting financial donations for families affected by the tragedy, is providing counseling, and is looking into temporary housing for residents who are homeless due to the collapse.

Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami reported in a Facebook post on Friday morning that members of the school community were among those still unaccounted for. Another post on the school’s page asked followers to pray a rosary on Monday, June 28, at 8 p.m. local time, in the Garrido Family Plaza.

“In times of such sadness, we must remain faithful to our heavenly Father and place our trust in Him,” the post stated. “Under the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and together as a Belen family, we will place all those affected by this tragedy in the hands of Our Lady of Belen.”

St. Patrick Catholic parish, located in nearby Miami Beach, also reported a parishioner missing in the collapse, Florida Catholic noted.


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Nuncio urges US bishops to unity in Christ

June 16, 2021 Catholic News Agency 3
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the US, addresses the USCCB’s 2020 Fall General Assembly.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 16, 2021 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

Following the Covid-19 pandemic the Church needs to dialogue with an aim of unity, and emphasize the importance of Christ, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said to the USCCB’s assembly on Wednesday. 

The assembly is taking place virtually via video conference. 

“I am firmly convinced that emerging from the pandemic, we need to be a Church that proclaims, with conviction, the basic kerygma and the person of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Pierre said June 16.

“And we need to be a Church that follows the method of Jesus, which is one of accompaniment and dialogue, a dialogue directed toward salvation.”

Archbishop Pierre said there was a need for unity in the Church in America, noting that while this is a challenge, it is one that has been met before in other trying times. 

“In response to the abuse crisis, it answered with a unified and concerted effort that showed care and compassion for the plight of survivors; it provided for the needs of the immigrant community; it stood in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world by providing material and spiritual closeness; it came to the rescue of those affected by natural disasters; it spoke with one voice in defense of the dignity of all peoples and against the scourge of racial inequality,” said Archbishop Pierre. 

“These examples point to the undeniable truth that unity is possible and that the Church in the United States has numerous experiences of it.”

The bishops, he said, have a particularly important role to play in ensuring that this unity is achieved. He noted that the four dimensions of dialogue described by St. John Paul II in the 1995 encyclical Ut unum sint “can be helpful to illumine the path towards greater unity,” even though they were not written with this particular situation in mind. 

Those four dimensions–the dialogue of charity, of conversion, of truth, and of salvation–all play a role in helping to better unite the Christian people. 

Archbishop Pierre highlighted the need for the Church after the pandemic to center its evangelical efforts on the saving work of Christ, pointing out that “Christianity offers more than an NGO or a social service organization.” 

“The Church offers salvation in the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. 

“What is often lacking in the process of evangelization, and we certainly need to evangelize and catechize now more than ever, is ‘beginning again from Jesus Christ,’’’ said Archbishop Pierre. ’

“The starting point, therefore, cannot be to shame the weak, but to propose the One who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist,” he said. 

“With respect to the latter, Holy Communion is not merely a ‘thing’ to be received but Christ Himself, a Person to be encountered.”

Archbishop Pierre stressed the need to center the Church on Christ, saying that “a Catholicism that confuses itself with a mere cultural tradition or which cannot distinguish itself from other proposals, including political or ideological ones that are based on certain values, will never be convincing to this generation or to new ones.”

“Jesus Christ is a Person, not a concept,” he said.


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