From the Pope to parish priests, the Roman Catholic Church dedicated Sunday to relief efforts for those stricken by the Mexico City earthquakes. Special collections were taken at Masses throughout the Los Angeles archdiocese.
At many of the Masses, relatives of the quake victims were among the worshipers.
Those with relatives in Mexico City spoke of the pain and uncertainty caused by inability to communicate with them because of damage to the Mexican telephone system.
"I get tired of crying, it hurts so much," Verna Palase, 60, whose daughter in Mexico City is among the missing, said after Mass at Holy Cross Church in South Los Angeles. "I watch television all the time, and when they show the pictures, it hurts. But it is God's will."
'We Are Just Waiting'
Esperanza Villerma, 47, of Los Angeles, who attended the same Mass, said: "My whole family is there--my sisters, aunts and uncles. We are just waiting. All we can do is pray."
Newly installed Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, in one of his first official acts, asked that all 290 parishes in the Los Angeles archdiocese take a special collection at all Sunday Masses, with the money to be relayed directly to the archbishop of Mexico City.
Mahony, who has already sent $100,000 in relief funds to the Mexican archbishop, told pastors of Los Angeles parishes that "this direct approach from church to church will bring the funds to the hardest-hit areas most quickly."
In Genoa, Italy, according to news agency reports, Pope John Paul II prayed for those suffering "the appalling pain of the catastrophic earthquake" and urged relief organizations all over the world to speed emergency aid to Mexico.
Speaking to 15,000 people in a sports arena, the Pope prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe to give survivors "comfort, hope and, above all, the strength to rise up again and reconstruct with confident steadiness that which has been destroyed."
In New York, Cardinal John J. O'Connor said each of the 411 parishes in his archdiocese would take up special collections.
The appeals for aid were especially poignant at Catholic churches in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, where many parishioners were praying for missing or injured relatives.
'All Those in Anguish'
At Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in East Los Angeles, Father Antolin Torralba told worshipers that their faith requires them to love "all the people in Mexico, those suffering . . . not just because many of us are concerned with those in Mexico, have ties with them, but we must love all those who are in anguish."
At Our Lady Queen of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, where church officials estimated that they would raise more than $25,000 from Sunday's special collection, Father Luis Olivares dedicated the 9 a.m. Mass "to those people who have lost their lives, or those still waiting to be rescued or those who do not know if their families are alive."
One of those listening to Olivares was Lipia de Pomar, 58, a Peruvian resident of Los Angeles who said she has been unable to make contact with a daughter and son-in-law in Mexico City. "It's terrible not to know anything," she said.
"It is very painful; so many people are buried," said Lamberto Garcia, some of whose cousins are missing, as he and his family lit candles for them. "I don't know where so much punishment comes from," he said. "It must come from God. . . . "
Times staff writers Victor Valle, Mirna Alfonso and Rosalva Hernandez contributed to this story.