VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II ushered in the New Year with prayers for the families and victims of the December 26 earthquake and tsunami that swept through parts of southern Asia and Africa.
The Pope celebrated a special unscheduled Mass at midnight on December 31 in his private chapel with intentions specifically dedicated to all those affected by the disaster, said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
The Pope also prayed for those engaged in relief efforts, the papal spokesman said.
The United Nations estimated about 5 million people were without proper shelter and nearly 2 million were in urgent need of food and water after a series of powerful tsunamis hit 12 Indian Ocean countries.
The death toll continued to climb to more than 150,000 people, but the United Nations said the true number of those killed in the disaster might never be known because many bodies were washed out to sea.
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