IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, ReutersBy Dennis SadowskiWASHINGTON
(CNS) -- In Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, California and Mexico City, recovery
was slow and deep pain remained from a string of natural disasters as 2017 ended.
and earthquakes from August through December caused widespread destruction and
claimed hundreds of lives. Rebuilding in the affected areas will take years to complete.
responded with emergency aid and undertook fundraising campaigns to help people
of different walks of life who lost homes and livelihoods.
other place was harder hit than Puerto Rico, which was slammed in September by
Hurricane Maria, the 10th most intense Atlantic storm on record. Electrical
power was at 70 percent capacity and many communities continued to have no
access to clean water in mid-December.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of
Chicago visited the island in early December at the behest of Pope Francis. He
toured the island with representatives of Catholic Extension, the papal society that has supported the church in Puerto Rico for decades.
once-bustling town centers and business districts shuttered in cities large and
small, signaling a massive loss of income and livelihood. Collapsed buildings,
flooded homes and roofless structures offered testimony to the severity of the
official death toll in Puerto Rico stands at 64. However, data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that at least 985
additional people died in the 40 days after the hurricane, which is a higher death toll than in 2016, a year without such severe storms.Elsewhere,
Hurricane Harvey, swamped southern Texas and southwestern Louisiana as it ambled offshore
in the Gulf of Mexico for days in late August, dumping more than 50 inches of
rain on some communities. Catholic parishes and schools were among entities affected by flooding. The storm was the first major hurricane to make
landfall on the U.S. mainland since 2005 and caused nearly $200 billion
the back-to-back storms in the Caribbean: first Hurricane Irma followed by
Hurricane Maria. With winds topping 160 miles an hour, both storms devastated
entire islands. Irma also caused flooding throughout Florida.
Rico, the U.S Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, Guadeloupe,
Martinique, and Turks and Caicos were battered by the storms.
same time, earthquakes
of magnitudes 8.1, 7.1 and 6.1 jolted Mexico Sept. 7, Sept. 19 and Sept. 23,
resulting in 474 deaths and more than 6,300 injuries.
The temblors were followed in
October and December by wildfires in California, driven by hot winds and fueled
by hundreds of thousands of acres of dry timber, a consequence of a dry summer.
recent round of fires near Los Angeles followed by two months more than a dozen
wind-whipped blazes in California wine country that destroyed thousands of
homes in urban neighborhoods, causing 24 deaths and leaving hundreds of families homeless.
to the disasters, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities
USA, Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Relief Services mobilized to
raise funds to assist with emergency relief and long-term recovery.
collected $38.5 million for
hurricane relief and another $1.3 million for Mexican earthquake relief. Catholic Charities USA raised $24 million for disaster assistance. The Society of
St. Vincent de Paul also was on the scene in various locales coordinating
its response through parish and diocesan councils.Other donors included Catholic Extension, which provided $400,000 in immediate support to the church in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes, and the Knights of Columbus, which pledged $1.4 million for church repairs in Florida, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization earlier provided $100,000 to the Archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Mexico by the end of October had raised $900,000 for earthquake emergency aid.
Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency and a partner in the church's Caritas Internationalis
network, was on the ground providing disaster assistance.
The U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on Catholic
Home Missions made an emergency grant of $50,000 to the Diocese of Santa Rosa, California, to help with its response to the fires. In addition,
the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began collecting funds even as wildfires raged in
early December for families, parishes and schools affected by the fires in Los
Angeles and Ventura countries.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2017 was the seventh most
active hurricane season on record dating to 1851 and the most active season
Alan Betts, a Vermont-based
climate scientist who has studied global weather and climate for more than 40
years, outlined his concerns about future weather patterns during a Nov. 2
Catholic Climate Covenant webinar.
Betts long ago
concluded that earth is warming and that humans cause it because of their penchant
for burning fossil fuels in large quantities.
webinar and a September presentation at St. Michael's College in Colchester,
Vermont, Betts explained that a warming atmosphere holds more water vapor. More
humidity in the atmosphere means a higher potential for downpours.
At the same
time, the oceans are a storehouse for excessive heat. The Climate Special
Report released by 13 federal agencies Nov. 3 found that the oceans have
absorbed 93 percent of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gas warming since
the mid-20th century, leading to altered global and regional climate.
the oceans, the more intense the hurricanes, Betts said.
Catholic Climate Covenant and the Global Catholic Climate Covenant continued
efforts throughout the year to call on people to advocate for action to cut
carbon emissions, a leading cause of climate change.
climate-related actions, hundreds of Catholics from across the country joined
the two organizations during the April 29 People's Climate March in Washington.
sweltering heat -- the temperature reached 91 degrees at nearby National
Airport, tying a record set in 1974 for the date -- an estimated 200,000 people
walked from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to protest President Donald
Trump's environmental agenda.
administration has begun the process of dismantling environmental regulations
and rolling back the Clean Power Plan regulating carbon emissions from
coal-fired power plants in the name of creating jobs and boosting the U.S.
economy. Trump also followed through on a campaign pledge to begin the process
of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.
bishops issued several statements throughout the year calling on the president
to remain in the accord and keep the Clean Power Plan in place.
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Dennis Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Hannah McKay, ReutersBy Carol GlatzROME (CNS) -- With so much suffering, poverty and
exploitation in the world, missionary work must also include reaching out to
people whose hearts are closed to receiving immigrants and refugees, Pope
Francis told Jesuits in Myanmar.
"Unfortunately, in Europe there are countries that
have chosen to close their borders. The most painful thing is that to take such
a decision they had to close their hearts," he said during a private
audience Nov. 29 in the chapel of the archbishop's house in Yangon.
"Our missionary work must also reach those hearts
that are closed to the reception of others," he told 31 Jesuits from
different parts of Asia and Australia, who are based in Myanmar.
The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica,
published a transcript Dec. 14 from the private meeting in Myanmar and the
pope's private meeting Dec. 1 at the apostolic nunciature in Dhaka with Jesuits
based in Bangladesh.
In both meetings, the pope listened to and answered their
comments, concerns and questions, and the journal provided an English
translation of the original Spanish remarks.
A Jesuit's mission is to be close to the people,
especially those who are suffering and forgotten because "to see them is
to see Christ suffering and crucified," he said in his meeting in Myanmar.
His approach, he said, is to try to visit these places
and to "speak clearly, especially with countries that have closed their
"It is a serious issue," he said, commenting on
how that evening, they all would be sitting down to a full meal, including
dessert, while many refugees will "have a piece of bread for dinner."
He recalled visiting the refugees in Lesbos, Greece, and
how the children he was greeting were torn between shaking his hand and reaching
for candy that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was pulling out of his pockets.
"With one hand, they greeted me with the other, they
grabbed the candy. I thought maybe it was the only sweet they had eaten for
The situation of many of the refugees and stories they
have told him have "helped me to cry a lot before God," he said,
particularly when a Muslim man recounted how terrorists slit the throat of his
Christian wife right before his eyes when she refused to take off the cross she
"These things must be seen and must be told,"
he said, because news of what is happening does not reach most people, and
"we are obliged to report and make public these human tragedies that some
try to silence."
The Jesuits he met in Bangladesh thanked him for talking
about the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority being pushed from Myanmar's
Rakhine state and seeking refuge in Bangladesh.
"Jesus Christ today is called Rohingya," as
these people are their brothers and sisters, the pope told the Jesuits.
Just as St. Peter Claver ministered in the 17th century to
slaves subjected to horrible conditions, such shameful conditions people endure
still persist, he said.
"Today, there is much discussion about how to save
the banks. The problem is the salvation of the banks. But who saves the dignity
of men and women today?"
"Nobody cares about people in ruins any longer. The
devil manages to do this in today's world. If we had a little sense of reality,
this should scandalize us."
"The impudence of our world is such that the only
solution is to pray and ask for the grace of tears," he said.
Meeting the Rohingya refugees that same day at the
archbishop's residence in Dhaka, he added, made him feel ashamed. "I felt
ashamed of myself, for the whole world!"
When asked "why such attention" for the small
Catholic community in Bangladesh when he elevated their archbishop in Dhaka to
the rank of cardinal, Pope Francis said that in naming cardinals, he looks to
the "small churches, those that grow in the peripheries, at the
It's not meant to give them "consolation," but
is "to launch a clear message: the small churches that grow in the
periphery and are without ancient Catholic traditions today must speak to the
universal church, to the whole church. I clearly feel that they have something
to teach us."
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Editors: The full text in English can be found online at:
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IMAGE: CNS photo/Ritchie B. Tongo, EPABy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the thought of receiving a
blessing by text from Pope Francis could have millions of mobile users glued to their smartphones,
the Vatican spokesman said that isn't his style.
The spokesman, Greg Burke, issued a statement on Twitter
Dec. 13 saying that Pope Francis doesn't use the instant messaging platform
Reports of "the Holy Father using WhatsApp are false,"
Burke tweeted. "He does not send messages or blessings through this
The Pope Francis Foundation, a Catholic organization in
Corrientes, Argentina, announced Dec. 12 the launch of "Wabot-Papa Francisco,"
a chatbot that allows users to contact the pope and keep up-to-date with his
schedule, reported the Argentine newspaper, La Nacion.
The foundation said the chatbot would respond to users
queries through "texts, images, video, audio and documents," La Nacion
"You can also have a simulated chat with His Holiness.
Wabot technology allows the entire Catholic community or people of any other
faith to interact with the pope," the foundation said.
The pope, the organization added, "is a technological
man, he believes that technology can help many people and understands that it is
the future of communications."
In his message for the 50th World Communications Day Jan.
24, 2016, Pope Francis acknowledged that emails, text messages, social networks
and chats can be "fully human forms of communication."
However, he added, "it is not technology which
determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human
heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal."
Despite his favorable attitude toward new forms of
communication, the pope has also admitted that he is "a dinosaur"
when it comes to technology.
During a Google Hangout conversation sponsored by Scholas
Occurrentes in 2015, a young girl from Spain asked the pope if he liked to take
photos and upload them to a computer.
"Do you want me to tell you the truth?" the pope
asked. "I'm a disaster with machines. I don't know how to work a computer.
What a shame!"
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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, ReutersBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just like a plant needs sun and
nourishment to survive, every Christian needs the light of Sunday and the
sustenance of the Eucharist to truly live, Pope Francis said.
"How can we carry out the Gospel without drawing the
energy needed to do it, one Sunday after another, from the limitless source of
the Eucharist," he said Dec. 13 during his weekly general audience.
"We don't go to Mass to give something to God, but
to receive from him that which we truly need," the pope said. Sunday Mass
is the time and place Christians receive the grace and strength to remain
faithful to his word, follow his commandment to love others and be credible
witnesses in the world.
The pope continued his series of audience talks on the
Mass in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, which was decorated with a large Christmas
tree and a life-sized Nativity scene. A number of people in the audience hall
handed the pope -- who turns 81 Dec. 17 -- Christmas cards, notes and a
In his catechesis, the pope responded to the question of
why it is so important to go to Mass on Sundays and why it is not enough just
to live a moral life, loving others.
Sunday Mass is not simply an obligation, he said.
"We Christians need to take part in Sunday Mass because only with the
grace of Jesus, with his presence alive in us and among us, can we put into
practice his commandment and, in this way, be his credible witnesses."
"Just like a plant needs the sun and nourishment to
live, every Christian needs the Sunday Eucharist to truly live," he said
in summarized remarks to Arabic speakers.
"What kind of Sunday is it for a Christian if an
encounter with the Lord is missing?" he asked in his main talk.
Unfortunately, in many secularized countries, the
Christian meaning of the day has been lost and is no longer "illuminated
by the Eucharist" or lived as a joyous feast in communion with other
parishioners and in solidarity with others, he said.
Also often missing is the importance of Sunday as a day
of rest, which is a sign of the dignity of living as children of God, not
slaves, he said.
"Without Christ, we are condemned to be dominated by
the fatigue of daily life with all its worries and the fear of tomorrow. The
Sunday encounter with the Lord gives us the strength to live today with
confidence and courage and to move forward with hope," he said.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/David McNew, ReutersBy LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Six major wind-fueled wildfires in Southern California have destroyed more than 1,000 structures and forced the evacuation of 200,000 residents.After he surveyed the damage in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles, where the worst of the fires has raged, California Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters that the fires "may be the new normal." He declared a state of emergency for the area Dec. 6. U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency
for California Dec. 8. As of Dec. 12, officials had reported only one fatality.The Archdiocese of
Los Angeles has started a fund for victims of the wildfires that have raced
through the archdiocese and spread to locations in the
nearby Orange and San Diego dioceses.
"Friends, as the wildfires
continue, the needs of our neighbors continue to increase," said
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles on the archdiocesan webpage that hosts
the fundraising campaign, https://tinyurl.com/yaa4qlu2.
"In this season of giving, let us
open our heart to our brothers and sisters in need," he added. "Let
us keep praying for an end to the fires and let us keep praying for the safety
of our police, fire and emergency workers -- and all those who are in harm's
way."In a Dec. 8 statement from Washington, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked prayers for all those in danger, "both those whose homes are in the fire's path and those courageous first responders and firefighters who are putting their lives at risk."
The wildfires, which have stubbornly
resisted most efforts to be reined in by firefighters, have hit Los Angeles,
Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in the archdiocese.
This is the second set of wildfires to
have hit California this fall. Wildfires burned thousands of acres in the
Sonoma and Napa areas in the northern part of the state in October, killing 31,
scorching more than 128,000 acres and causing an estimated $3 billion-$6
billion in damage.
The Southern California series of wildfires
had passed the 150,000-acre mark within four days of their starting Dec. 4. As
of the morning of Dec. 8 local time, no fatalities had been reported despite
the density of population in the region.
Four counties have already declared a
state of emergency.
Archbishop Gomez on Dec. 5 called for
prayers for the well-being of families, firefighters and rescue workers
"facing devastating fires and high winds" in the wildfires.
"May God keep them all safe and put
an end to these fires!" the archbishop said in a message sent via social
media channels and posted on the archdiocesan news site, angelusnews.com.
On Twitter, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop
Robert E. Barron said the fires in Ventura County, which is in his pastoral
region, had alone forced 30,000 people to evacuate.
"Join me in praying for all the
evacuees, firefighters, officials, and everyone helping to subdue the
flames," he tweeted. About 1,000 firefighters were working to contain the
Called the Thomas Fire, it is the
biggest of the wildfires being stoked by dry conditions and high winds. Among
the evacuees in Ventura County were students and faculty at Thomas Aquinas
College in Santa Paula.
In a message posted on its website and
on Twitter, the Catholic college expressed "deep gratitude for the prayers
of its many friends and for the heroic firefighters who battled all of Monday
night (Dec. 4) to protect the Santa Paula campus."
The college canceled classes for the
rest of the week as roads had been closed and power was out in some communities.
"The college is hopeful that it will reopen in time for final exams next
week," the college said in a Dec. 5 statement.
Students from California who had
transportation were considering returning home for the time being; others
planned to remain at the homes of local friends and faculty.- - -Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.