The U.S. bishops met in Baltimore today for the last meeting that will be led by outgoing president New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Among the main events of the day, what would have been a more or less perfunctrory status report on Catholic Relief Services from Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, chairman of the CRS board, and CRS President Carolyn Woo took a dramatic turn as the scope of the catastrophe in the Philippines became more clear this morning. A 30-mile wide swath of the central Visayas Islands was devastated by supertyphoon Haiyan on Nov. 8 and thousands are now feared dead. Survivors are without clean water, food and shelter, desperately seeking help and missing loved ones among the debris. Catholic Relief Services has committed $20 million in emergency aid for survivors and hopes that the funds will come from a second collection the agency asked U.S. bishops to take in their dioceses before the end of the year.
"Our goal is to serve 100K families, about a half million people," CRS president Carolyn Woo, told the bishops meeting for the U.S.C.C.B. fall general assembly on Nov. 11.
She said CRS was assembling assessment teams to head into the disaster zone, adding that the teams must be completely self-sufficient, "able to live in the field without any support," because little remains in the worst hit communities.
Bishop Kicanas said the collection could be taken in diocese the weekends of Nov. 16-17 or Nov. 30-Dec. 1. (You can donate online anytime.) The region had already been reeling, and CRS supplies inthe area already low, because of a 7.1 earthquake on Oct. 15.