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 CNS Story:

POPE-HAITI (UPDATED) Sep-8-2008 (310 words) With photos and graphic. xxxi

Pope prays for Haitians as they battle to survive series of storms

By Catholic News Service

CAGLIARI, Sardinia (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers and requested international aid for the people of Haiti, battered by four hurricanes in the space of three weeks.

Speaking during a visit to the Italian island of Sardinia, the pope said he was following events in Haiti, where the storms have left at least 500 people dead and hundreds of thousands without basic necessities. One million people have been affected by the storms.

"I am praying for the victims, unfortunately numerous, and for those without homes. I am close to the entire nation, and I hope that the necessary aid will reach the country as soon as possible," he said.

The pope, who had just finished celebrating Mass at a Marian sanctuary, entrusted the protection of the Haitian people to Mary Sept. 7.

After being struck by Hurricanes Fay, Gustav and Hanna, Haitians were hit Sept. 7 with downpours from Hurricane Ike. Swollen rivers caused new flooding that sent residents to their rooftops, and 61 more people were reported dead Sept. 8.

The flooding and mudslides have isolated many towns, and relief supplies have not always been able to get through. The storms have also ruined crops and threatened to create a long-term food supply problem in Haiti.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international aid agency, has been providing emergency supplies, including water purification kits and food rations, to those in need. CRS, one of the largest humanitarian agencies in Haiti, has been working with other agencies in Haiti to provide relief.

Caritas Haiti also has been assisting in relief efforts on the ground. Caritas said it plans to build shelters and will rebuild 500 homes.

Caritas Haiti and CRS are affiliates of the international umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies, Caritas Internationalis.

END


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