US bishops’ chief to visit Yolanda-hit areas

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Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz (Photo: CNA)

MANILA, Jan. 31, 2014— More leaders of the Catholic Church from other countries are coming to the Philippines to visit and help areas decimated by Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas. 

Following the visit of Vatican’s Cardinal Robert Sarah to Leyte, a ranking American prelate will travel to Eastern Samar and Leyte next week to see recovery efforts in the wake of the typhoon. 

The delegation will be led by Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and officials of the Catholic Relief Services. 

Two months after the typhoon, where millions of people have been displaced, Kurtz said its disastrous effects “numb the mind”. 

More than 1.1 million homes have been damaged, more than half of them totally destroyed. The death toll is more than 6,200 with more than 2,000 still missing. 

“Numbers like that overwhelm everyone. That’s why on the eve of the Super Bowl, I’m packing sneakers to join a delegation with CRS to meet with Filipino church leaders and people from Samar and Leyte,” Kurtz said. 

“I’ll visit Palo, just south of the city of Tacloban, and I’ll walk through rubble to let people know that the Catholic Church in the United States cares and will help,” he said. 

The USCCB head will be accompanied by CRS Chairman of the Board and Oklahoma Archbishop Paul Coakley, Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, President of Catholic Health Association, and Carolyn Woo, President and CEO of CRS. 

While there is no specific date yet as to when the church officials are going to Leyte and Samar, they are expected to be in the country from Feb.2 to Feb. 7. 

“I and others are visiting personally so that we can wrap our hearts and minds around the situation. This firsthand look will enable us to adequately convey to fellow Catholics the spiritual, physical and emotional extent of the damage,” said Kurtz. 

According to him, the Filipino diaspora in the US, more than 4 million people, make up the second largest Asian-American community in the US. 

“They agonize for their homeland. This trip reflects solidarity of the church in the US with Filipinos on both sides of the Pacific. Catholicism’s liturgies and devotions are integral to the Filipino community,” he added. 

The international humanitarian arm of the Catholic community in the US has earlier pledged to raise P2.2 billion for the recovery of areas ravaged by the typhoon. 

The CRS said its aid efforts have now shifted from emergency assistance to long-term recovery and stability programs. 

The agency committed to assist 100,000 families or 500,000 people with shelter, living supplies, water, sanitation, and livelihood. 

“Of all who can help, Americans stand first in line. We understand solidarity. We’re can-do people who walk with people in need. That is part of the message I hope to deliver on Super Bowl Sunday when I land in the Philippines,” Kurtz said. 

“As people at home participate in our sports tradition and root for the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos, I’ll check the score from an ocean away and immerse myself in another US tradition: showing support for people in desperate need,” he said. 

Cardinal Sarah, the President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum who visited Tacloban City last Jan. 28, earlier said that Pope Francis is considering a trip to Leyte, a home to more than one million Catholics. 

During a Mass at the La Libertad Mission Church in Palo town in Leyte, one of the hardest-hit areas, he told the churchgoers: “I would not tell you the date but the Holy Father has been telling me ‘I might be also going there.’” (CBCPNews)

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