ROME – Following the largest volcanic eruption in Guatemala in four decades, Pope Francis has sent $100,000 to assist in the emergency relief efforts being carried out in the central American nation.
The sum, which was characterized as an initial contribution, is intended as “an immediate expression of the feeling of spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement on the part of the Holy Father,” a June 19 press release stated.
The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development is responsible for the distribution of the funds, which will be given to the dioceses most affected by the volcanic eruption for assistance to people and the territory.
“The contribution, which accompanies prayer in support of the beloved Guatemalan population, is part of the aid that is being activated throughout the Catholic Church and which, in addition to various bishops’ conferences, involves numerous charitable organizations,” the release stated.
Guatemala’s disaster agency announced Sunday that search efforts would be permanently suspended in the towns of San Miguel Los Lotes and El Rodeo in the Escuintla municipality, because the zone is “uninhabitable and high risk.”
Search and rescue efforts followed the unexpected June 3 eruption of the “Volcan de Fuego,” or “Volcano of Fire,” one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes. At least 110 people have died from fallen ash and dirt and 197 are still missing, according to a June 17 statement from disaster agency CONRED.
In a June 5 telegram to Guatemala’s apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thevenin, Francis said he was “deeply distressed in hearing the sad news of the violent eruption” which so far “has caused numerous victims and enormous material damage which has affected a significant number of the area’s inhabitants.”
The pope expressed his support for the families “who weep for the loss of their loved ones,” and for the wounded and those who are working in relief efforts, asking that God would grant them “the gifts of solidarity, spiritual serenity and Christian hope.”
Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Escuintla have been active in providing emergency assistance for the displaced, including hot food, water, and other necessities. Three area Catholic Churches have also opened their doors to shelter victims. More than 1 million people have been affected by the eruption.
The three church shelters are located in Escuintla, Guatemala, near ground-zero for the volcano, whose eruption spewed ash clouds nearly 33,000 feet into the air. The Escuintla district, along with Chimaltenango and Sacatepéquez, are among the areas most affected by the blast, according to CRS.