Pope to send envoy to U.S. to show solidarity with Katrina’s victims

By Catholic News Service

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- As a sign of his personal solidarity, Pope Benedict XVI is sending the Vatican's top humanitarian aid official to visit the populations stricken by Hurricane Katrina.

Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," was to travel to the Gulf Coast region Sept. 10 or 11, his office said. Details of his mission were not immediately available.

"Cor Unum" is responsible for promoting and coordinating Catholic charitable projects around the world, and Archbishop Cordes was expected to meet with church-run agencies involved in the Gulf Coast region.

The pope announced the move at a Sunday blessing Sept. 4 at his residence outside Rome. For the second time in a week, he expressed his deep concern at the tragedy and asked for prayers for the victims.

"In a special way our hearts turn to all those suffering the devastating consequences of Hurricane Katrina in the United States," the pope said, speaking in English.

"As the extent of this tragedy unfolds, I ask you to join me in praying for the victims, their loved ones and all those affected. May the grieving families experience the consolation of God's presence and rescue workers be assured of our deep concern and support," he said.

The pope said he was praying for all those affected by the hurricane and its aftermath: the dead and their families, the injured, the homeless, the sick, children and the elderly. He offered a special blessing to all those involved in relief and rebuilding efforts.

In Canada, the president of the Canadian bishops' conference offered sympathy, prayers and solidarity for those affected by the hurricane.

The president, Archbishop Brendan O'Brien of St. John's, Newfoundland, also urged Canadians to pledge financial support, either through the Canadian Red Cross or through Catholic Charities USA.

"Please convey our thoughts and especially our prayers to our brother bishops, not only but particularly in the ecclesiastical provinces of New Orleans and Mobile," Archbishop O'Brien wrote to Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "We remember them and their people, especially those who are victims of the hurricane and those involved in relief efforts."

Cardinal Keith O'Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, also wrote Bishop Skylstad to offer prayers on behalf of Scottish Catholics.

Cardinal O'Brien also wrote of Scottish Catholics' solidarity "as you begin to rebuild your shattered communities. We pray especially that grieving families are consoled in their loss and that those involved in rescue and reconstruction operations are given the strength they will need to complete their arduous tasks."

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

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