Pope Benedict XVI has announced he will send Archbishop Paul Cordes to the United States to express solidarity with the victims of Hurricane Katrina which ravaged the Gulf Coast. Cordes is president of the Holy See’s global charities agency Cor Unum, which means one heart.
Pope Benedict, speaking at the midday Angelus on Sunday, Sept. 4, said in these days, we all feel saddened because of the disaster caused by the hurricane in the United States of America, especially in New Orleans.
The pope added that he is praying for the deceased and their relatives, for the injured and for the people who have lost their homes, for the sick, children and the elderly. He also extended his blessing to all those involved in the difficult operations of rescue and reconstruction.
Condolences and offers of help poured in from around the world. Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland, speaking on behalf of his country’s Catholics, extended to the American people our deepest sympathies at the terrible loss of life your country has experienced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Writing to Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop William O’Brien, president of the Canadian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, extended the sympathy of the Canadian bishops. Archbishop O’Brien recalled that much of the area affected was once part of the Diocese of Quebec and that many of our Acadian people found refuge in that area in time of their expulsion from their homeland in the mid-18th century.... For many Canadians, that part of your vast land evokes profound emotion.
In response to requests from the U.S. government for blankets, first aid kits, water trucks and food for the victims, Stavros Cimas, environment commissioner for the European Union, said the union was ready to contribute to U.S. efforts aimed at alleviating the humanitarian crisis caused by Katrina. In a press statement, NATO also announced it had received a similar U.S. request for emergency assistance, including a half million prepared meals.
Among other offers of assistance by foreign governments, Israel offered to send a field hospital and forensic experts, and it proposed Sabbath prayer for the victims. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dispatched a delegation of health and defense ministry officials to confer with their U.S. counterparts.
Out of recognition for the unprecedented cost of the disaster and the political burdens it places on President George W. Bush, the Israeli government had decided to postpone a formal request for development aid for the Negev and Galilee as part of the Gaza settlement withdrawal.
In Louisiana, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, gathering with other religious leaders and Governor Kathleen Blanco, offered prayers for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We are so overwhelmed we do not know how to respond, Archbishop Hughes said. We know all things work together for good, the Times-Picayune reported the archbishop saying; If God is for us, who can be against us? The archbishop also visited evacuees housed in shelters in Baton Rouge, where he himself had to take refuge.
From Washington, D.C., Bishop Skylstad asked U.S. dioceses to take up a special collection for the victims of the hurricane. Most of the affected dioceses, Skylstad said, are Home Mission dioceses, which struggle to survive under the best of conditions.
Meanwhile Catholic Charities USA worked with Homeland Security and diocesan Catholic Charities agencies in the devastated area to move relief supplies and equipment. The mission of Catholic Charities USA, said a spokeswoman, Shelly Borysiewicz, is to rebuild lives: our niche is long-term disaster response. Typical C.C.U.S.A. disaster response programs include temporary housing or housing assistance and mental health counseling, she explained.
The U. S. bishops’ conference also announced that Catholic schools around the country were accepting students displaced by the massive storm.
Dioceses are offering tuition-free attendance, free books and backpacks and whatever else students need to begin their studies away from home. Relatives living thousands of miles away who are taking in nieces and nephews from the Gulf Coast area are finding their local Catholic schools have agreed to help the storm’s victims. Routine concerns about cost, paperwork and even class size have been put aside.
Sister Glenn Anne McPhee, the U.S. bishops’ secretary for education, said, Throughout the country there are efforts to bring stability to the students’ lives by providing them with educational opportunities so that their schooling will be as little interrupted as possible.
The National Religious Retirement Office announced it was attempting to help relocate elderly religious displaced by Katrina. Sister Janice Bader, coordinator of the effort, exlpained the office would serve as a clearinghouse to link religious in need of housing with communities offering hospitality for the displaced.
Readers wishing to learn more or to donate to the victims of Hurricane Katrina through Catholic Charities USA can do so on the World Wide Web at: www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/news/katrina.cfm.
America Extends Subscriptions Suspended by Katrina
Because of disruptions by Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Postal Service has suspended service for all offices in some zip codes until further notice. Subscribers in these areas will therefore not be receiving America by mail for an indefinite period. Access to America on the Web (www.americamagazine.org) is not affected by this. When service is restored, these mail subscriptions will be extended by the length of the suspension. The zip codes currently affected are:
365xx-366xx Mobile, AL
369xx-393xx Meridian, MS
394xx Hattiesburg, MS
395xx Gulfport, MS
396xx McComb, MS
700xx-701xx New Orleans, LA
Pope Declares Full Visible Unity’ as Ecumenical Goal
Sending greetings to a symposium of Catholic and Greek Orthodox scholars meeting in Assisi, Italy, on Sept. 5-7, Pope Benedict XVI once more underscored the importance he attaches to Christian unity. Seen as particularly urgent in our time, the pope wrote, is the search for full visible unity among all the disciples of Christ, and for this reason, there is a need for a more profound spirituality of greater reciprocal love.
Referring to the topic of the meeting, The Eucharist in the Eastern and Western Tradition, the pope urged forthright exchange among the participating theologians: Dialogue and confrontation in truth and charity...will certainly make the common faith emerge, as well as those theological and liturgical aspects peculiar to the East and West, which are complementary and dynamic for the building up of the people of God.... To achieve the full communion of Christians must be the objective for all those who profess faith in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, faithful and shepherds alike.’
British Cardinal Criticizes Iraqi Constitution
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has urged the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, to intervene with the Iraqi government to remove a clause from the draft Iraqi constitution that could deprive Christians and other religious minorities of their rights.
The archbishop of Westminster made the representation after a protest by Iraqi church leaders to an article of the draft that reads, No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam. Although Church leaders do not question that Iraq will be an Islamic state, nor object to Islam being considered one source of legislation among others, he wrote, they are most alarmed by the phrase that excludes legislation contrary to sharia, that is, to Islamic law.
The problematic provision, the cardinal contended, was a real threat to religious freedom and to hopes for stable democracy in a self-governing Iraq.
New Greek Patriarch Elected for Jerusalem
The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem elected Metropolitan Theophilos of Thavorio (Tabor) on Aug. 22 to replace the deposed Patriarch Irenios, who had been dismissed earlier this year following a scandal over the sale of land belonging to the patriarchate. Theophilos, 54, was ordained a bishop by Irenios only last January.
The Jordanian government acted quickly to confirm the election. Under canon law, the election must be confirmed by the civil authorities of the territory of the patriarchate, which includes Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in addition to Jordan. Two-and-a-half years passed before Israel gave its approval to the election of deposed patriarch Irenios.
Solidarity Marks Jubilee
Poland celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Solidarity labor movement on Aug. 31 with a conference attended by more than 20 presidents and prime ministers. We broke quite a few of the bear’s teeth, said the former Solidarity leader and Polish president Lech Walesa, speaking of the Gdansk shipyard workers’ strike that inaugurated the movement. The bear is the traditional icon of the former Soviet Union.
The current Polish president, Aleksandr Kwasniewski, declared that Walesa and Solidarity made a great contribution to the democratization of Europe. He continued, Without August 1980...Ukraine’s Orange Revolution would not have been possible.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Solidarity’s achievement as a work of historical justice. In a tribute to the union, he wrote, Not only did [Solidarity] bring about unimaginable political changes in Poland, setting the Polish people on the path to freedom and democracy, but it also indicated to other nations of the former Eastern bloc the possibility to repair the historical injustice that left them on the other side of the Iron Curtain.