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Support for Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of Springfield, Mass., and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, urged Members of Congress to support passage of the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017. An almost identical bill passed the House in 2013 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
 
In Sept. 27 letters to the House and Senate, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski asked representatives and senators to support the legislation, which would ensure the fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
 
The letters noted that the “legislation is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence, which recognizes the right of religious institutions to receive public financial aid in the context of a broad program administered on the basis of religion-neutral criteria.” The letters pointed to the 2017 Trinity Lutheran Church case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which provides a firm legal foundation for such assistance.
 
Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski explained that “houses of worship often play an irreplaceable role in the recovery of a community" after a natural disaster. 
 
“Discrimination that treats houses of worship as ineligible for federal assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, beyond being a legal violation, hurts the very communities most affected by the indiscriminate force of nature,” said Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski.
 
Links to each of the letters can be found here:
 
usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-of-Support-to-House-for-Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-of-2017.pdf
 
usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-of-Support-to-Senate-for-Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-of-2017.pdf
 
More is available at: usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-2017-Fact-Sheet.pdf 

 
  • Published in Nation

Collection requested for Hurricane Irma relief

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington has asked his fellow bishops throughout the country to take an emergency collection in their Dioceses during weekend Masses Sept. 23-24 to help those recovering from devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and the southeastern region of the United States.
 
"While emergency outreach was immediate, we know that the road to recovery and the rebuilding of communities will be long and additional support will be needed," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston in a statement issued Sept. 14.
 
The funds collected "will be used in the affected areas to support humanitarian aid, assistance with long-term efforts to restore communities after widespread destruction and for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church in U.S. and the Caribbean," he said.
 
Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged that his call "comes on the heels" of the emergency collection for victims of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas and Louisiana and held on for days before moving inland.
 
Harvey, too, "caused catastrophic damage and compelled us to respond," he said.
 
"Likewise, Hurricane Irma has been devastating and our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, especially the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and the southern U.S. need our help."
 
The earlier call for a collection came in an Aug. 28 letter from Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, as USCCB vice president, suggesting funds be collected during Masses the weekend of Sept. 2-3 or Sept. 9-10.
 
Hardly any place in the path of Hurricane Irma was left untouched. Its strength and size, with 120-plus-mph winds stretching 70 miles from its core, leveled entire islands in the eastern Caribbean, brought unprecedented flooding on Cuba's north coast, devastated the Florida Keys, snapped construction cranes in downtown Miami and targeted cities along Florida's Gulf Coast.
 
In the Keys alone, at least 25 percent of the homes were destroyed and 65 percent suffered significant damage, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long. "Basically, every house in the Keys was impacted," he told the news media.
 
In a Sept. 12 statement, the U.S. bishops' Executive Committee prayed for "the safety and care of human life" after two catastrophic hurricanes -- Irma and Harvey -- and they urged Catholics around the country to offer their prayers as well as financial support and volunteer help as they can.
 
Irma dwindled to a tropical storm as it neared the Florida-Georgia line early Sept. 11 and had died out over southern states by week's end.
 
"The Church is a channel for grace and solidarity in the wake of natural disasters as it offers solace and support in their aftermath," Cardinal DiNardo said Sept. 14. "However, as is so often the case, the Church itself in these regions is both a long-standing provider of aid and now is in need of tremendous assistance itself."
 
Many church structures "have been damaged and their resources depleted, which makes it even more challenging to provide assistance and pastoral outreach to those in need," he added.
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Hurricane Harvey

Catholic dioceses and charities are quickly organizing to help in the aftermath of a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall with winds of 130 miles per hour late on Aug. 25 into the Rockport, Texas area, northeast of Corpus Christi.
 
The hurricane, named Harvey, is said to be the strongest one to hit the United States in more than a decade and perhaps the strongest one to make landfall in Texas.
 
Catholic Charities USA, as well as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services, announced early on Aug. 26 that they're mobilizing to help an as-yet-unknown number of persons affected by the hurricane. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has a list of charities helping with the disaster listed on its website at txcatholic.org/harvey.
 
Because of safety issues, not many emergency teams have been yet able to respond to the aftermath. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared the state a disaster area, which will allow federal money to help in reconstruction. Catholic groups said they want to help with the immediate needs of the communities affected.
 
"We will be sending in rapid-response teams to help our impacted St. Vincent de Paul councils and we are coordinating nationally with the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta and (Catholic Charities USA)," said Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA.
 
In the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, Bishop Daniel E. Flores authorized a second collection to be taken up at the Diocese's local churches on the weekend of Aug. 26-27 to send to Catholic Charities in nearby Corpus Christi and "other places hardest hit by loss of power, storm damage, flooding."
 
It's been hard to communicate with other areas, said Bishop Flores in an Aug. 26 interview with Catholic News Service, so it's hard to gauge the extent of the damage. But he said his Diocese wanted to get a head start to quickly divert help where it is needed and as fast as possible.
 
If the Rio Grande Valley, where Bishop Flores' Diocese is located, was spared the major impact of Hurricane Harvey, then the Diocese had a duty to help their neighbors to the north, in the coastal areas of Corpus Christi and Galveston-Houston, which seemed to be hit hardest, he said. Hurricane Harvey seemed to enter near Corpus Christi and affected seven coastal counties in Texas and one Louisiana parish.
 
"We continue to pray for every for everyone affected by the hurricane and those who are at risk as the storms continue," said Bishop Flores in a statement.
 
Though the brunt of the hurricane's winds has passed and Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm hours after landfall, heavy rains and "catastrophic flooding" are expected for days, said the National Hurricane Center.
 
"We have to remember … the families affected by flood damage in the next few days in other parts of the state will be in need of relief," said Bishop Flores. "We will assess better how we can help as we get further information about the needs from the (Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops) and Catholic Charities."
 
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is the head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, an area declared in a state of disaster.
 
In an Aug. 26 statement published by the Archdiocese, he asked for prayers "for all of those affected by the storm and in need of assistance during this natural disaster."
 
Powerful winds and heavy rainfall have impacted many lives and homes throughout Galveston-Houston, said the cardinal, and many in the southern counties of his archdiocese have already suffered substantial property damage and losses.
 
Many homes in these communities are currently without power. “Several forecasts anticipate additional storm damage and flooding in the coming days, along with high winds and tornado activity," Cardinal DiNardo said.
 
Up to 250,000 have been reported without power in Texas, a number that's expected to rise.
 
San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said in a statement that the Archdiocese pledged its support to recovery efforts that will start after the rain and wind subside.
 
"My thoughts and prayers are with the people of the dioceses of Corpus Christi and Victoria, as well as the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, as they cope with the damaging effects of Hurricane Harvey," he said. "The people of San Antonio have opened their arms to welcome evacuees of this historic hurricane, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese has been assisting and will continue to assist in a variety of ways those impacted by this natural disaster."
 
Bishop W. Michael Mulvey, of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, said he was grateful to the bishops who reached out to him and to his Diocese. He said the true damage throughout the Diocese still is not known, and officials are waiting for conditions that will allow a better assessment of the damage.

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo asked for prayers for emergency personnel and volunteers who are out and about in dangerous conditions and also "for those residing in our Archdiocese, in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, be safe, and may God have mercy on those affected by Hurricane Harvey."
 
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Catholic Relief Services commits $5 million to Hurricane Matthew response in Haiti

BALTIMORE, Md.--Catholic Relief Services is committing an initial $5 million to help Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean recover from Hurricane Matthew, the powerful storm that has left hundreds dead and devastated communities in this nation still recovering from the earthquake that struck in 2010.
 
“Haiti in particular has once again been struck by a tragedy,” said Sean Callahan, CRS chief operating officer. “This commitment shows that we will continue to stand with its people, offering our hand in friendship to help and support them in this time of dire need.”
 
The funds will be used to continue and expand relief work that began even before Matthew hit on Oct. 4 as CRS staff pre-positioned supplies in areas where the storm was expected to make landfall.
 
Based on the most critical needs -- still being determined as teams are reaching areas cut off by the storm -- CRS’ response will include:
 
+ Emergency shelter materials: tarps, ropes and blankets and construction of temporary shelters using local materials that are cost-effective and easy to assemble.
+ Drinking water, hygiene kits, hand-washing stations to prevent diseases outbreak. The area is still reeling from a cholera outbreak in the months following the earthquake and there is a high-risk for another outbreak.
+ Cash to families to cover their most immediate needs.
+ Living supplies, including kitchen utensils and buckets.
 
CRS teams rode out the storm in towns like Les Cayes, Dame Marie and Jeremie on Haiti’s southwest peninsula that took the hardest hit. Once it passed, they immediately began assessing damage and distributing pre-positioned supplies to help residents recover from the 140-mph winds, storm surges and as much as 40 inches of rain.
 
“We have seen roofs blown off houses, damaged homes and waters flooding the streets, but we still don’t know the full scale of the damage. We will be doing all we can to reach the most affected areas as quickly as possible,” said Chris Bessey, CRS country representative in Haiti.
 
The $5 million represents an initial commitment to the recovery of Haiti, along with the Dominican Republic, Cuba and other countries affected. It will be augmented by more funds, from both public and private sources. Rebuilding destroyed homes and restoring lost agricultural fields are expected to take years.
 
High population density, severe deforestation and decaying infrastructure make Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.
 
It was a hurricane that first brought CRS to Haiti in 1954 when Hazel left widespread damage and more than 1,000 dead. The agency has been at work in the country ever since.
 
For information on How to Help CRS relief efforts from Hurricane Matthew, visit
crs.org.
 
 
 
  • Published in World
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