Nuclear Accidents Continue at Power Plant

SAITAMA, Japan, MARCH 14, 2011 ( Bishop Marcellino Taiji Tani of Saitama is affirming that life is a gift from God, as his country suffers from the effects of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.

The death count is already at 1,800, with thousands missing after Friday's quake some 80 miles off the coast of Sendai, north of Tokyo, which sent a 33-foot tsunami inland.

As one of the consequences of the natural disaster, there have been a series of nuclear accidents in the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. An estimated 200,000 people were evacuated due to possible partial nuclear meltdowns.

Today, an explosion at one of the reactor buildings injured 11 people.

Bishop Tani assured Fides that "the Church in Japan will respond to the tragedy."

"Of particular concern to us is the situation of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima," he said. "But we must take courage, with the help of the Holy Spirit."

The prelate reported that on Sunday, the faithful throughout the country dedicated time at Mass to remember the victims, the wounded and the displaced.

"As a Christian community, we are ready with prayer and solidarity," he added.

Bishop Tani continued: "This sad event reminds us that life is in the hands of God and that life is a gift from God.

"It will be a challenge for all of us to practice and witness to the commandment of love and brotherly love, in this time of Lent."

Solidarity campaign

Also on Sunday, Caritas began a solidarity campaign to raise funds to aid the victims. Father Daisuke Narui, executive director of Caritas Japan, told Fides, "Our work is to show love and solidarity especially to the people most vulnerable, such as the elderly, migrants and homeless."

"Currently we are called to give a testimony to unity and closeness to all human suffering," he said. "We already know that the response by the faithful to our appeal will be very generous."

The priest reported: "The priority now is to gather information from affected areas, but it is difficult because telephone and power lines are still down.

"The diocese most affected is that of Sendai, but we have not received any reports from the director of the diocesan Caritas, and this is of great concern. For this reason we are assessing the possibility of an impromptu mission there."

He affirmed, "I believe in Japan currently, marked by the economic crisis, struck by the social phenomenon of depression and suicide, this painful event may be an opportunity to spread the values of the Gospel, that is, the fraternity of all men and women, the building of common good, the recognition that every person has the dignity of a child of God and is important in the eyes of God."

He concluded, "If, with our work and our witness, we can communicate that, then from this evil will come good."

Some 6 million households are without electricity and running water. Tent camps have been set up to house displaced persons.

On Sunday, Benedict XVI expressed his closeness to the people of Japan "who are dealing with the effects of these calamities with dignity and courage."

He continued: "I encourage those who with praiseworthy readiness are preparing to bring help. We remain united in prayer. The Lord is near!"