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Diocesan Faithful Respond to March Collection to Aid Japan

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Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Raleigh have donated more than $195,000 in a special collection taken up in March to aid the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The 9.0 earthquake was the largest to hit Japan and one of the five largest in the world since record keeping began in 1900. The Japanese government estimates more than 25,000 people are dead or missing with more than 125,000 buildings destroyed or damaged. The situation has been magnified with the crippling of a major nuclear power plant in the impacted region.

The money donated by Diocesan faithful to aid in relief efforts in Japan was sent to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' international humanitarian and development organization operating in more than 100 countries and territories. CRS is forwarding US donations to its counterpart, Caritas Japan, which is in the midst of the first phase of relief work expected to last about three months. CRS reports this phase includes working with parishes and religious congregations to provide shelter to those whose homes were destroyed. Caritas Japan has also opened a soup kitchen that offers food and water for those living at the shelters. They’ve sent volunteers into the tsunami-affected areas to help clean up houses owned by senior citizens. And they’ve opened centers in two cities to coordinate the logistics of working with hundreds of volunteers who’ve offered to help.

CRS says the second phase, the rehabilitation phase, will begin when evacuees move from shelters to temporary housing. This is the longer, more costly phase of the recovery effort, usually lasting several years. Caritas Japan will focus on setting up temporary homes and helping people move into them and provide ongoing psychological support and mental-health assistance where needed.

In an interview with Caritas Internationalis -- the umbrella network of Catholic charitable organizations throughout the world -- Bishop Isao Kikuchi, president of Caritas Japan, responded to all the expressions of solidarity and support the organization has received. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you, our friends in the Caritas confederation, and through you, to all the good people who showed their willingness to support Japan during the time of this disaster with prayers, messages and donations,” he said. “The tremendous response reminds us that we are not living in solitude, but solidarity,” Bishop Kikuchi said.