The disastrous March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan has elicited a major show of solidarity from bishops worldwide.
The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, sent a letter to the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, Archbishop Leo Jun Ikenaga of Osaka, to express support in the wake of the disaster.
Archbishop Dolan stated, "The first news reports of the preliminary estimates of suffering, loss of life and physical damage challenge our ability to grasp the reality of such a massive event."
The death count is currently over 5,300, with 2,400 people injured and almost 10,000 still missing.
The prelate assured the Japanese archbishop "of the prayers and solidarity of the bishops and faithful in the United States at this difficult moment."
He noted that Catholic Relief Services, the humanitarian agency of the U.S. bishops, has already been in touch with Caritas in Japan.
"They are already studying the situation with the goal of being as helpful as possible in responding to the tragedy," Archbishop Dolan affirmed.
The president of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, sent a similar letter to Archbishop Ikenaga offering "deepest condolences following the devastating earthquake and tsunami."
He stated, "I wish to assure you on behalf of myself and the bishops and people of Australia that since the first moment we heard this news that you and your people have been consistently in our prayers."
The prelate sent an assurance "of our ongoing prayer support and any practical assistance you might need."
He encouraged the Australian Catholics to offer prayers and practical support to the people of Japan.
The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales is likewise encouraging the faithful to pray for the victims of the earthquake with the publication of a prayer that can be said for the people of Japan.
In Ireland, the bishops' conference also distributed a prayer for the people of Japan, encouraging people to use it in parishes, schools and at home.
Cardinal Seán Brady, archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, encouraged the faithful to pray at Mass for the victims.
He added, "I encourage everyone, through prayer and friendship, to express solidarity with the Japanese community living here in Ireland."
At the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, a continuous prayer campaign is taking place to "offer moral and spiritual support to the courageous Japanese nation," a communiqué reported.
It added, "Given the horror of the nuclear tragedy that the Japanese archipelago is facing, after the earthquake and the tsunami, all Masses celebrated in Lourdes from March 16 to March 20 are being dedicated to the intentions of the inhabitants of Japan."
The communiqué requested that "during this period the persons who pray the rosary, transmitted from the Grotto of Massabielle every afternoon on the Web page of the Lourdes shrine, pray intensely for the victims of this catastrophe that has deeply affected humanity and before which we feel impotent."