An 8.1-magnitude quake on Sept. 7 caused 98 deaths and hundreds of injuries in Chiapas and Oaxaca (Diocese of Cuernavaca), while a 7.1-magnitude tremor on Sept. 19 resulted in more than 360 deaths and thousands of injuries in Mexico City, Morelos, and Puebla (dioceses of Cuernavaca and Mexico).
The Rev. Frank Hebert, an American priest who serves as rector of Christ Church in Mexico City, told TLC by phone that he had seen a wide cross-section of Mexican society responding to the quake.
“One of the things that’s pretty amazing is to see the way that people all over have been coming together,” he said.
In addition to disaster aid rendered by the government, charities like the Red Cross, and churches, individuals have also pitched in on their own volition. They go to the donation centers that have formed throughout the city — practically on every street, Hebert said — and then bring supplies to hard-hit rural areas that have struggled to recover from the quakes.
“People are just privately deciding to drive out to small towns in the states of Puebla and Morelos,” he said.
“The quick response of civil society, institutional forces, and of the international community has given us the opportunity to rediscover the innate goodness of humanity,” the Rt. Rev. Carlos Touché-Porter, Bishop of Mexico (Mexico City) wrote in a Spanish-language pastoral letter to the diocese. “It is comforting and exemplary to see so many people risking their wellbeing, and even their lives, trying to save others, without asking and without caring about the nationality, socioeconomic condition, religious conviction, political persuasion, or sexual orientation of those who need help. It is clear that they are seeing others with the eyes of God, and in doing so seeing others with as much dignity and value as they have themselves.”
Touché said congregations in the Diocese of Mexico were offering economic, material, and spiritual assistance, and that the diocese is evaluating how to help. “Especially, we are concerned about our brothers and sisters in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tabasco who were affected by the first earthquake as well as our brothers and sisters affected by the second one, not only in the geographical area of the Diocese of Mexico, but also those in the Diocese of Cuernavaca.”
Hebert echoed this concern, saying that Mexico City received a great deal of media attention after the quakes but is better prepared to recover. After a devastating earthquake killed tens of thousands in 1985, the city developed a larger pool of resources and improved building codes. His church made it through the quake unscathed and hosted a private school, which did suffer some damage, in the parish hall.
Touché said only two churches were damaged in the Diocese of Mexico — the Cathedral of San José de Gracia and the Church of San Mateo in Tecalco in the State of Mexico. They are closed until technical studies can be completed.
“Nevertheless, religious, pastoral, and social services will continue in the respective parish halls. Up until now, we have not received report that any of our members or friends have been victims of either of the two earthquakes,” the bishop wrote.
“[T]his painful experience reminds us of our human fragility and our powerlessness in the face of natural disasters; but above all we are reminded of our total dependence upon God in every moment of our lives, and we are invited to renew our confidence and faith in Him.”
Hebert said he hopes the attitude that emerged right after the earthquakes persists through rebuilding: “Pray that this spirit of cooperation and volunteerism continues and that people don’t get discouraged, because this is going to be a long process.”