Statement on the Emerging Crisis in Puerto Rico and the Response by the Catholic Church

November 2, 2017 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—In a November 2 statement, Bishop Frank J.Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice andHuman Development, and Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, Chairmanof the USCCB Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions, called on Catholics and peopleof good will across the United States to remember those who continue to sufferin Puerto Rico and surrounding islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The full statement follows:

"Since the immediate statements of His Eminence DanielCardinal DiNardo, USCCB President, in response to the initial impact ofHurricanes Irma and Maria, it has become clear that the people of Puerto Ricoface an unprecedented level of need as a result of those devastating storms.Meaningful action must address both the immediate and long-term needs of thePuerto Rican population. The Island is in the midst of a public health crisis,and food security, health care access, and sustainable alleviation of theisland's debt are challenges that must be resolved in a comprehensive way.These will require great effort and significant contributions of financialresources and material assistance.

In addition, the people of other islands in this region,including the United States Virgin Islands, also face dramatic consequences totheir economies, which are predicated on an active tourist industry. Theenormous and adverse impact of the storms for the livelihood of the VirginIslands is evident.

In addition to these human costs, the Church in PuertoRico's physical plant, including parish buildings and schools, has beengrievously damaged by the hurricanes. As the Archbishop of San Juan noted,virtually every church structure on the island has been affected by thesestorms. This need is particularly compelling considering the central role thatparishes perform as natural centers in providing pastoral outreach to impactedindividuals and families in times of crisis. Aid and financial resources arenecessary to restore the physical settings where the Church heals through itsministries those most desperately in need.

The people of Puerto Rico have been facing seriousproblems for many years: economic upheaval and scarcity, persistentjoblessness, and other social problems resulting from the financial crisisgripping the Commonwealth's economy. They bear little responsibility for theisland's financial situation yet have suffered most of the consequences. Now,the recent devastation has made the circumstances, especially for those inneed, unbearable.

As pastors, we share in the suffering borne by ourbrother bishops and the people they shepherd in Puerto Rico. We stand ready,through legislative advocacy as well as by means of the emergency funds set upin the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, to support with compassion our brothersand sisters in such dire need. We urgently beseech all Catholics in the UnitedStates to join with all people of good will in supporting these crucialinitiatives at this critical point in time for the people of Puerto Rico."

Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane                         Most Rev. Paul D. Etienne

Bishop of Venice                                            Archbishopof Anchorage

Chairman,                                                       Chairman,

Committee on Domestic Justice                Subcommittee on Catholic HomeMissions
and Human Development                 

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To learn more about relieffor the people of Puerto Rico, please visit: https://www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/emergency-collections-and-disaster-relief.cfm.

Bishop Dewane letterof October 12, 2017 to all membersof Congress urging "meaningful action" in helping to "alleviate the intenseburden in Puerto Rico, particularly for the most vulnerable.": https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/letter-to-congress-on-puerto-rico-2017-10-12.cfm.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice andHuman Development, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, Subcommittee of Catholic HomeMissions, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands,U.S. House of Representatives.

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