ASIA/INDIA - Cardinal Telesphore Toppo chairman of Catholic Bishops’ Conference in tsunami affected areas; to encourage traumatised fishermen resume daily activity Bishop of Kottar comes from the sea

Saturday, 29 January 2005

New Delhi (Fides Service) - While the work of assistance and rebuilding in the tsunami affected areas continues involving also various Catholic organisations, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, President of the Indian Bishops’ Conference arrived in Chennai, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu yesterday on a visit to the stricken people and he will also go to Chengulpet and Pondicherry. According to a Bishops’ Conference statement sent to Fides today, 29 January, the Cardinal will go to Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and the national Marian shrine of Velankanni, “Lourdes of the East”, where he will bless homeless families in nine different camps and preside an inter-religious prayer service.
It is estimated that at least 1,000 people, mostly pilgrims, died when the shrine was flooded by the December 26 tsunami. Velankanni shrine is visited by at least 20 million pilgrims every year, about half of them Hindus and Muslims.. Today, a month after the tragedy, the Shrine has resumed its activity. On 30 January Cardinale Toppo will go to Kerala.
Another Catholic prelate Bishop of Kottar Leon Tharmaraj is visiting Catholic parishes to instil courage and hope. The Bishop put his own life at risk travelling by sea to parishes along the coast in the tsunami ravaged Kanyakumari district to encourage fishermen suffering from trauma and still to afraid to venture into the sea for fishing. These people lost everything in the tsunami homes, boats and livelihood. The Bishop, accompanied by a group of diocesan priests, was warmly welcomed by the people. They visited a total of 44 coastal parishes of Kottar diocese with about a hundred thousand workers involved in fishing activities.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 29/1/2005 righe 30 parole 334)