Church leaders offer prayers, Mexicans pitch in after earthquake

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Jasso, Reuters

By David Agren

CITY (CNS) — Mexican church leaders offered prayers and urged generosity after
an earthquake struck the national capital and its environs, claiming more
than 240 lives — including at least 20 children trapped in a collapsed school.

magnitude 7.1 earthquake Sept. 19 added to the misery of Mexicans who suffered
a magnitude 8.1 earthquake 12 days earlier. That quake left nearly 100 dead in
the country’s southern states and left thousands more homeless.

join the pain and grief of the victims of the earthquake, which occurred today …
in various parts of our country,” the Mexican bishops’ conference said in
a Sept. 19 statement. “Today, more than ever, we invite the community of
God to join in solidarity for our brothers who are suffering various calamities
that have struck our country.”

have responded to the earthquake with acts of solidarity. The telephone system
was overwhelmed and traffic snarled as power outages affected traffic lights. In
hard-hit neighborhoods, people poured in, armed with buckets and shovels to
help clear rubble from collapsed buildings, where people were trapped.
Others were quick to donate food and drink to those assisting.

again we are witnesses to the people of Mexico’s solidarity,” the bishops’
statement said. “Thousands of hands have formed chains of life to rescue,
feed or do their small part in the face of these emergencies.”

chapters across the country opened collection centers to help those harmed by
the earthquake. In Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera asked all parishes
in the impacted areas, along with priests religious and laity to “collaborate
with the authorities in order to assist people that have been affected and show
Christian solidarity,” said an article published in archdiocesan newspaper
Desde la Fe.

in Puebla and Morelos, south of the capital, reported widespread damage to
churches. Caritas Mexico, the church’s aid organization, reported at least 42
people dead in Morelos and 13 deaths in Puebla, where a dozen churches also

was widespread in parts of Mexico City, where at least 27 buildings collapsed, said
President Enrique Pena Nieto.

private school collapsed in Mexico City, trapping students ranging from
kindergarten to junior high school. The Associated Press reported at least 25
students and teachers died, with others remaining unaccounted for.

often happens in disasters, authorities expected the death toll to rise,
because people could have been trapped in buildings when they collapsed.

his general audience Sept. 20, Pope Francis prayed for victims and rescue
personnel, invoking Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico.

this moment of suffering,” he said, “I want to express my closeness and prayers
to the entire Mexican population.”

Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City expressed his sympathy to the relatives
of those who had lost loved ones in the earthquake. He urged parishes, religious
and the lay faithful to work with government authorities to “aid people
who have been affected and demonstrate Christian solidarity.”

quake epicenter was in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. Earthquakes usually
affect Mexico City as much of it is built on a former lake bed and buildings
sway in the soft soil, even though the epicenters are in distant states. That
phenomenon allows an earthquake warning to sound, giving people approximately a
minute to evacuate their buildings. The alarm did not sound Sept. 19, however.

totally frightened me,” said Pedro Anaya, a small-business owner.

decided to help, joining the hundreds of people hauling away debris from a
collapsed apartment building in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.

saw that my family was OK so I came to help,” he said.

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to this story was Barbara Fraser in Lima, Peru.

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