Vatican envoy holds solidarity mass in Japan

Tokyo – A close adviser of Pope Benedict XVI held mass at Tokyo’s Saint Mary’s Cathedral today in a show of support from the Vatican for the victims of the massive March 11 tsunami.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum delivered a message of support during an afternoon ceremony attended by 13 Japanese bishops, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan.

Cor Unum, which means One Heart in Latin, oversees the Vatican’s worldwide charity operations.

Cardinal Sarah, who arrived in Tokyo yesterday on a five-day visit, also toured the tsunami-hit city of Iwaki, 180km northeast of the capital, officials at the bishops’ conference said.

He was scheduled to travel to the northern city of Sendai to hold another mass tomorrow before meeting local authorities and Catholic volunteer groups.

A 9.1 magnitude earthquake and a huge tsunami battered Japan’s northeastern coast in March, leaving 25 000 people dead or missing. In the aftermath, the Vatican sent $150 000 (R1 million) in emergency aid to the country.

Japan is predominantly Shintoist and Buddhist, with only 1.5 percent of the total population, or less than 2 million people, Christians. Less than half a million are Catholic.

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