Retired New Orleans archbishop praises worldwide outpouring of aid

By Ruta Tumenaite
Catholic News Service

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- The people of the United States have helped so many in the world that it is good to see other nations responding generously to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, said retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte of New Orleans.

"The United States has responded to so many needs around the world, most recently to the terrible tsunami in South Asia, and now those whom we have helped in the past are coming to help us at this moment; for that we are very appreciative," Archbishop Schulte said in an interview Sept. 6 in Vilnius.

The archbishop visited Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in early September as part of his responsibilities as a member of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. He said he planned his visit to Lithuania before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Aug. 29.

Archbishop Schulte and New Orleans Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes were evacuated to Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Baton Rouge, La.

"For the first 24 or 48 hours we had been completely isolated: no telephone service, no cell phones working, no electricity," Archbishop Schulte said. When it became apparent that he could do little to help, he said he went ahead with his trip.

His visit coincided with an international outpouring of help to the hurricane victims.

The Lithuanian bishops appealed to their faithful to change roles with their American donors.

"In the eyes of the great natural disasters we always reflect on the weakness of man and the significance of God's help and brotherly love," the bishops wrote in their letter, issued Sept. 6.

"During the times of revival, the U.S. faithful communities have helped generously our church and assisted greatly our recovery from the Soviet oppression. Let us witness Christian solidarity by offering even a small grain to the people of Louisiana and all the southern area, who are lacking housing and even food", the bishops wrote.

In Ireland, the Dublin Archdiocese set up a special bank account for donations that will go toward providing people with vouchers for basic needs when they start returning to their homes.

In a letter scheduled to be read at all Masses in the archdiocese Sept. 10 and 11, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said: "My thoughts go to the situation of the poorest people who in a few months' time will return back to homes either no longer there or badly damaged. Please do not let this opportunity slip by, but help make Christmas for the poorest of the victims just that little bit happier by our Christ-like generosity."

The money raised will be in addition to $1.3 million already committed by the Irish government to the disaster-relief effort. Additionally, 30 Irish army soldiers, disaster relief logistic specialists, were being sent by the government to help in the United States.

Bishops in Canada and Scotland also urged donations for the Gulf Coast victims. The Mexican government sent a ship laden with relief supplies, and an army convoy crossed into Texas, marking the first time the Mexican military aided the United States.

Bishops in the West African nation of Ghana expressed solidarity with Katrina's victims and urged churches to hold special collections Sept. 11 or 18. They recalled the famine that struck Ghana in the 1980s and the substantive donations made by Americans to alleviate the suffering of Ghanaians at that time.

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Contributing to this story was Cian Molloy in Dublin.

Copyright (c) 2005 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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