VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II has urged humanitarian aid for the more than 300,000 Congolese left homeless by Africa’s worst volcanic eruption in 25 years.
A telegram sent in the Pope’s name to Church leaders in Goma, Congo, said Pope John Paul was praying that those deprived of shelter, food and water would receive the necessary assistance from international agencies.
The telegram called the eruption a “terrible drama” for people of the region.
At a noon blessing last Sunday, the Pope said, “I assure you of my spiritual closeness to the populations stricken by the Nyiragong Po volcano … which in recent days has resumed its activity with unheard of violence.’
UN officials estimated that 45 people were killed when the volcanic eruption sent up to two metres of lava flowing in a path that overran several villages before cutting through Goma. The eruption filled the air with ash and released toxic gases, polluting water supplies.
Aid workers outside Goma were trying to set up food and water distribution points for the displaced after molten lava literally divided the city and swept through homes on January 17. The city’s cathedral was destroyed by the flow.