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Catholic churches, schools lend aid after Japan earthquake

Japan Flag cracks earthquake

CHONRI510 | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 01/29/24

Japan, a nation accustomed to earthquakes, is still reeling after a level 7 quake hit the Noto Peninsula on New Year's Day, causing widespread destruction.

Catholic kindergartens in Japan are opening their doors to lend aid to victims of the earthquake that struck on New Year’s Day. Furthermore, Kanazawa Catholic Church, in the Diocese of Nagoya, has been set up as a support center. Located on the Noto Peninsula, Kanazawa Church is in an area most affected by the quake, but was able to avoid closing.

Asia News reports that the level 7 earthquake came early on January 1, killing 232 people and leaving widespread destruction in its wake. According to an earthquake scale from Michigan Tech, a level 7 earthquake is among the strongest ratings, which go as high as 8+. Many areas have been completely devastated, leaving communities to draw water from wells and use it sparingly for toilets, hand washing, and other essential needs.

The area of Wajima and Nanao reportedly suffered the most damage. Churches there serve small Catholic communities that do not even have resident priests. Fr Yoshihiro Kataoka, 41, parish priest in Kanazawa, has made an effort to visit these communities to check on them and provide them with Catholic ministry during this time of tragedy. He was, however, unable to reach the Wagima community due to the breadth of the destruction.

Even Catholic communities that suffered no casualties have been thrust into a dire situation. Umi no Hoshi kindergarten, for example, will need to completely rebuild after the earthquake damaged essential infrastructure. In Wajima, conditions are more dire, with the community preparing to completely rebuild its church after it was practically leveled. 

The Catholic Church in Nanao was not catastrophically damaged and has been able to resume church services. Bishop Goro Matsuura of Nagoya held Mass at the Nanao church on the first Sunday after the earthquake. Since then, Nanao’s St. Mary’s Kindergarten has been outfitted as a base to offer help. At the Mass, Bishop Matsuura commented: 

“Jesus today is right here, in our reality,” the prelate told them. “He does not give us instructions and encouragement from above, but he is with us and bears our sufferings.”

There is much work to do to repair the damages to the Noto Peninsula and there is no quick fix. It is estimated that it could take up to three months to restore running water, but power, and gas lines are already working again. The Kanazawa Church’s support center is working to remedy this lack of water, trucking in large tanks for sanitation and drinking. 

It has also been able to set up a “Jinnobi” restaurant, a word meaning “to relax.” While it is just a simple soup kitchen, it is providing hot meals to people who are in need. The restaurant will only be able to open on the weekends, but it will encourage interaction and community outreach. 

Bishop Matsuura has thanked all those who have donated to the recovery effort, but asks for continued prayers for those suffering through this unexpectedly strong natural disaster: 

“We have already received donations from many people and organizations and we will never be able to express our gratitude enough. We appreciate your prayers and support,” the bishop wrote.

Read more at Asia News.

CatholicismCharityJapanNatural disasters
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