IN an appeal this week from the Vatican Pope John Paul II called on the world community to come to the aid of earthquake victims in Iran, where more than 50,000 are believed to have died in the north of the country.
The Pope said that the need now, in the aftermath of the disaster, was for "a real and generous demonstration of solidarity with our brothers" in Iran. At the same time officials in the Vatican announced an aid package to be sent to the stricken area.
Some towns, such as Roudbar and the lakeside settlement of Manjil in the Caspian region of Iran, have been almost entirely destroyed. The number of dead is unlikely ever to be known exactly and thousands have been left homeless throughout the provinces of Zanjan and Gilan.
In a statement from the Westminster archdiocese, Cardinal Basil Hume appealed for prayers on behalf of those who had died or lost relatives in the earthquake. And he expressed the hope that Catholics in the United Kingdom would "contribute in whatever way they could to aid organisations assisting with the rescue operation".
Christian Aid announced £25,000 towards the provision of relief supplies, to be sent to Iran via the Red Cross. And the Catholic aid agency CAFOD said that it would work alongside organisations in this country and abroad in raising funds for the victims of the disaster.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie, urged "christians and nonchristians alike to give as generously as they can" for the thousands who were "homeless, orphaned and in desperate need of our help". Dr Runcie was speaking as the acting hair of Y Care International, the YMCA development agency.