Cardinal to travel to Sri Lanka for Tsunami anniversary


The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, will be travelling to Sri Lanka on Christmas Day to mark the anniversary of the tsunami and to inspect relief and reconstruction projects there.

He will be accompanied by Chris Bain, the director of the Catholic aid agency CAFOD, which has pledged £4.8m to partners in Sri Lanka.

More than 6,500 temporary homes have been completed by CAFOD's partner, Caritas Sri Lanka, throughout the country, with over 4,000 temporary houses in Batticaloa. In addition, CAFOD’s partners hope to have completed 400 permanent houses by the anniversary.

The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami killed more than 200,000 people in countries as far apart as Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Somalia. In Sri Lanka, over 30,000 people died in the tsunami and tens of thousands were made homeless.

The Cardinal’s visit will begin in the capital Colombo, where on Boxing Day he will join its Catholic archbishop, Oswald Thomas Colman Gomis, in handing over keys to new houses. He will then move on to Batticaloa, on the east coast - the focus of CAFOD’s relief work, and other sites affected by the disaster. He returns to Britain on 6 January.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said he wanted to thank the Catholic people of England and Wales whose generosity in donating to CAFOD’s tsunami campaign meant that the aid agency has this year managed its largest budget ever.

"The tsunami caused suffering across pacific Asia, and inspired an unprecedented level of compassion and generosity around the world,” the Cardinal said. “I'm travelling to Sri Lanka to see how reconstruction efforts have progressed, to join with the Church and people of Sri Lanka in marking the anniversary, and to hear the stories of those affected.”

The Cardinal will also learn about the peace process in Sri Lanka, amidst concerns that the recent elections have led to increased tensions across the island, as well as the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the majority Singhalese Buddhist community.

The Director of CAFOD, Chris Bain, said: "I am delighted to be able to show Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor the good progress which CAFOD and its partners have made in the year since the tsunami struck. Houses are being built across the region and people are back at work and making a living for their families."

As well as Mr Bain, the Cardinal will also be accompanied by his private secretary, Fr Mark O’Toole, and his Director for Public Affairs, Dr Austen Ivereigh.