The Croatian bishops’ conference is donating over $1 million in emergency aid to victims of the country’s December earthquake.
The money will go to help the most in need in the Diocese of Sisak and the Archdiocese of Zagreb, after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck eastern Central Croatia on Dec. 29.
According to the conference’s secretary general, Fr. Krunoslav Novak, the bishops will approve further monetary assistance at an upcoming meeting. The bishops are also setting up temporary housing for those whose homes were destroyed, in partnership with Caritas Croatia and the Order of Malta.
“The church will not leave its faithful, even when the spotlight goes out, when new worries come,” Novak told Croatian Catholic radio station HKR.
Last week’s earthquake, and its foreshocks and aftershocks, killed at least seven people, among them a 12-year-old girl, and injured 26 others.
On Monday, Catholic bishops visited several of the towns most-damaged by the earthquake in the Sisek diocese.
Cardinal Josip Bozanić, archbishop of Zagreb, and his auxiliary bishops, together with the local bishop Vlado Košić, prayed for victims in front of the parish church of the town of Žažina.
The church was severely damaged in the earthquake, and the parish organist, Stanko Zec, was found dead in its rubble.
Cardinal Bozanić said during the visit that he and the other bishops were there “to show solidarity” and “to witness to the closeness of Bishop Košić to the faithful entrusted to him and all the inhabitants of this area who suffered from the earthquake.”
“Furthermore, we are here to pay tribute to all those who came so quickly to help those in need,” he added. “I especially emphasize our young people. These days, a wave of solidarity has manifested itself in our people.”
The cardinal encouraged the local people to consider what God might be trying to tell them through this disaster. “Maybe this is also a sign that encourages us to look to the future with greater hope,” he said.
Bishop Košić said Dec. 30 that many people had been left homeless by the earthquake, and asked Catholics to pray and fast that residents would be spared further suffering.
An estimated 86% of Croatia’s four million-strong population is Catholic.
“We lost the cathedral and about a dozen other churches, not counting the chapels, which were destroyed by the earthquake, and many were severely damaged,” he said.
“We pray for the strength to endure all this faithfully and that in this tragedy we all remain brave and in solidarity.”
Bozanić said Jan. 4 that while the damage to churches is great, they can be repaired. He asked that greater consideration be given to victims. “What the people here are experiencing in the days of the earthquake is what we must put first, and people need help,” he said.