USCCB president calls for national collection for hurricane relief

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Bishop William S. Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has called on all 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States to participate in a national collection for hurricane relief, with donations going to Catholic Charities USA.

Bishop Skylstad, who heads the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., said officials of the USCCB had not been able to reach most of the bishops in the affected area as of Aug. 30, because of problems with power and communications systems. But he said a request for a national collection had been received.

"Millions of people are in need of assistance and Catholic Charities will be among the primary responders," he said in an Aug. 30 message to his fellow bishops. "Catholic Charities USA, working with the local diocesan Catholic Charities, has a professional and well-developed system of reviewing the needs and providing help where it can accomplish the most good."

Bishop Skylstad said Hurricane Katrina had caused devastation and destruction "in many dioceses," but that Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were hardest-hit. "As the storm proceeds north through Tennessee and Kentucky even more people will be affected," he added.

"The media coverage has made it abundantly clear that the needs will be great, and long-lasting," the bishop said. "At this time there is the possibility of more hurricanes coming in the next several weeks. I therefore ask you to please consider taking up a collection in your diocese for the relief of the victims of the hurricanes of this season."

Bishop Skylstad said each diocese's "collections or gifts should be sent as soon as possible" to Catholic Charities USA, based in Alexandria, Va.

"In your name I offer our fraternal support to our brother bishops at this tragic time," he added. "I urge you to invite your priests and people to remember in prayer our neighbors who have lost and suffered so much."

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