Pope shares grief for Brazilian landslide victims
By Linda Bordoni
Rio de Janeiro state government has confirmed 117 deaths from the floods and mudslides that swept away homes and cars in the city of Petrópolis. Survivors continue to dig and the number of people still trapped in the mud is unclear. Police estimate there are at least 116 people still missing.
In a telegram addressed to the city’s Bishop Gregório Paixão Neto, Pope Francis says he is close to the families of the victims and participates in the grief of all those who have been bereaved or have lost their homes and belongings.
Writing on the Pope’s behalf, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin says the Holy Father is “asking God, father of mercy, for eternal repose for the deceased, comfort for the victims for whom he wishes a speedy recovery and the serenity and consolation of Christian hope for all those affected by this painful ordeal”, and sends his apostolic blessing to those who are suffering.
Petrópolis was engulfed in floods and mudslides on Tuesday triggered by a storm described as “the most intense in decades”. Video footage showed buses sinking into a swollen river as its passengers clambered out of windows, scrambling for safety, some can be seen disappearing in torrential water.
The mountain city is a refuge for local people escaping the summer heat and for tourists. Rio police say about 200 agents are visiting checkpoints and shelters to identify the living.
Appeals for solidarity
Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, through Caritas, has launched an “SOS Petrópolis” campaign, asking for donations for families affected by the rains, and the Diocese of Petrópolis and city parishes have opened their doors to assist victims.
In a video message, Bishop Gregório Paixão Neto asked that priests and parishioners take in people whose houses have been destroyed or damaged.
“This moment is one of solidarity, and we of the Catholic Church are deeply united and in solidarity with all families,” he said, inviting the faithful to welcome relatives, friends and those who are in despair, looking for a place to stay. “I, myself, already have a family staying in my house,” he added.