Catholic Relief Services

Catholic US News

Bishops laud Catholic Relief Services for Philippines aid

New Orleans, La., Jun 14, 2014 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Relief Services’ chairman has affirmed the international aid agency’s strength and effective representation of the bishops’ conference, especially lauding its aid to the Philippines.

“I can confirm that CRS, as the overseas international aid, relief, and development arm of this conference – representing us – is strong and representing us well in the Philippines and around the world,” Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said June 11 in New Orleans.

Archbishop Coakley’s report to the U.S. bishops during their annual spring meeting focused on Catholic Relief Services response to last year’s Typhoon Haiyan. The storm pummeled the Philippines Nov. 8, 2013, killing more than 6,000 and displacing more than 4 million.

He was introduced by conference president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who recounted their visit along with CRS staff to the Philippines to meet with local leaders shortly after the storm struck.

Archbishop Kurtz explained the joint trip was both an act of solidarity with the Filipino people, and was to “bring to the public the extraordinary recovery work that’s been taking place, thanks in many ways to the wonderful generosity of people throughout the U.S., and to witness to the effective cooperation between our conference and CRS.”

He noted that typhoon recovery in the Philippines has been “assisted greatly by the tremendous generosity of the faithful,” noting that the diocese of the U.S. have given $21 million to the Typhoon Haiyan special collection.

Archbishop Coakley, who was appointed CRS chairman last November, said he is “pleased to report that CRS emergency responders were on the ground and working with the local Church – bishops, Caritas in the Philippines, religious communities – immediately after the super typhoon struck,” noting that the agency already had staff in the Philippines before the storm’s landfall.

“The first delegation from CRS headquarters and our board left the USA even before our November meeting finished, and arrived within a week of the disaster. The response was immediate.”

He affirmed the CRS team on the ground in the Philippines, saying they are “living and working, as the Holy Father and our Lord would want, with the poor, in solidarity with those on the margins, peripheries.”

Archbishop Coakley called CRS’ work “quite impressive,” noting that its Haiyan relief operations have targeted 60,000 households with an integrated package of emergency shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene, and household items; and that they aim to serve 100,000 households throughout a three year recovery plan, “focused on restoring communities, as well as restoring the capacity of local institutions.”

During their visit to the Philippines, he said, “we witnessed the efforts of our teams on the ground working to provide shelter, to restore water, to provide opportunities for income generation, where livelihoods have been lost; and to do this with extraordinary compassion, with extraordinary grace, and in order to give witness to the Gospel, the inspiration for all our actions.”

“We witnessed the extraordinary resilience and beautiful faith of the Filipino people … for me it was a first visit to the Philippines, and it was an extraordinary experience of a depth and quality of faith unlike any I’ve ever witnessed.”

He was followed by CRS’ chief operating officer, Sean Callahan, who drew attention to the agency’s mission of communion “in a world seemingly becoming more and more divided,” saying “we are called to be an instrument of communion and harmony, uniting the Church in this country and throughout the world with people of different communities and traditions, and calling for communion with our brothers and sisters, particularly those most in need.”

“When you think of CRS,” he told the bishops, “I hope you don’t think of a separate Catholic organization; rather, I hope you think how we, all of us, are saving, protecting, and transforming 100 million lives annually.”

The bishops were then able to ask questions of Callahan and Archbishop Coakley, with Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham asking for clarification on the use and distribution of the Typhoon Haiyan Special Collection: half of it had been designated for the Filipino bishops’ conference for recovery and the rebuilding of ecclesial infrastructure, and half was given to CRS for its humanitarian relief efforts.

Archbishop Coakley explained that “in a culture that is so very Catholic, the Church is the place people turn to for aid, for support, and to gather, and we recognized that because the Church plays such an important part in Filipino life, that it was very important that we dedicate some of the collection to rebuilding the churches.”

Thus, half of the collection was given to rebuilding churches “so that the life of the Church could go on there locally, and the other 50 percent went to CRS to channel our efforts there in providing… redevelopment programs, rebuilding the nation, those parts of the nation that suffered so terribly.”

Catholic World News

Vatican prayer meeting brings hope for Holy Land peace

Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2014 / 05:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ recent prayer meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents is a call for peace in the region that may show fruit in improving relations, according to a panel of observers.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., pondered at a June 6 panel discussion whether Pope Francis, through the meeting, is “building up a constituency of reasonable people who maybe will make sacrifices to work together.”

Held on Capitol Hill, the panel was sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ conference and Catholic Relief Services.

“We’ve had a lot of prayers, but never on this level,” said the cardinal, who has traveled extensively in the Holy Land and joined Pope Francis on his May visit to the region.

On Pentecost Sunday, June 8, the Pope and Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I met with Presidents Shimon Peres of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine at the Vatican, praying together, talking about peace and exchanging symbols that represent a move towards peace.

The evening’s prayer was divided into three parts, following the chronological ordering of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religious communities. Prayers were offered in Hebrew, English, Italian, and Arabic, praising God for creation, asking pardon for sin, and requesting the gift of peace.

Pope Francis and the two presidents planted an olive tree and spoke about the need for peace. The presidents, the patriarch, and Pope Francis also exchanged a sign of peace and gathered for a private discussion.

Sean Callahan, chief operating officer of Catholic Relief Services, said that while movement towards peace in the Holy Land has been “disappointing” in recent decades, this call for reconciliation and peace is a “great opportunity to re-look at where the situation is.”

Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., a professor of Ethics and Global Human Development at Georgetown University, said that while the United States’ position as a broker of peace in the Middle East is compromised because of its “entangled” political ties, the Holy See – and specifically Pope Francis – potentially has a valuable role in helping the region’s negotiations.

Fr. Christiansen remarked that in dealing with the international media during his trip to the Holy Land, the Pope dealt with “every challenge and every trap, and (has) come out clean.”

Ronit Avni, founder and executive director of Just Vision – a non-profit promoting a peaceful solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – commented that the Pope is excellent and choosing and using powerful symbols to teach a message, such as with “that iconic picture at the wall” during his May visit to the Holy Land.

However, while the meeting was powerful, Avni said that she did not expect its fruits to lead to an immediate end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“This is a marathon: I don’t see us being close to resolving this issue in the next few years,” she reflected.

Catholic US News

Shipping bill could cut aid to millions, Catholic leaders warn

Washington D.C., Jun 3, 2014 / 12:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Leaders of Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on the Senate to defeat a legislative provision which could reduce the number of U.S. food aid recipients by up to 2 million.

“According to the Administration this proposed change would increase the costs of shipping international food aid commodities by at least $75 million annually and result in at least two million people worldwide losing access to life sustaining U.S. food,” stated a May 28 letter to leading members of a Senate commerce committee.

The letter was signed by Catholic Relief Services president Dr. Carolyn Woo and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. bishops’ conference.

It was addressed to Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the committee.

The letter discussed Section 318 of H.R. 4005, which mandates that the percentage of food aid to be delivered on U.S. flag-bearing ships must increase from 50 percent to 75 percent.

Woo and Bishop Pates argued that the change would hike shipping costs and result in far fewer recipients of food aid, citing Pope Francis’ call to fight the “scandal of hunger” in opposing the measure.

“We know that using U.S. flagged vessels to transport international food aid is much more expensive than using vessels flagged by other nations,” they said.

Their letter cited Pope Francis’ December call to end the “scandal of hunger and the irresponsible use of the world’s resources,” and stated that global “food aid programs are a key component to answering the Pope’s call to help the hungry and we implore you to make the best use of these resources by not increasing cargo preference requirements on them.”

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), defended the measure by saying that a strong U.S. commercial fleet is necessary for wartime and emergencies.

“The secondary reason for food aid is food. The No. 1 reason is military readiness,” he told the Wall Street Journal in a recent interview.

Yet Woo and Bishop Pates maintained that international aid is more important than support of the U.S. shipping industry.

“We understand that some in Congress are motivated to increase cargo preference requirements to help support the livelihoods of U.S. mariners,” the letter said. “However, increasing assistance to U.S. mariners should not come at the expense of two million hungry people.”

Catholic World News

Remember suffering Syrians, CRS leader implores

Rome, Italy, Jun 1, 2014 / 04:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As agencies meet at the Vatican to discuss the Syria crisis, the head of Catholic Relief Services said that the Church cannot forget those who suffer and must advocate for peace as well as provide aid.

“The situation around Syria has not gotten better. There is no end in sight at this point,” Carolyn Woo, CEO and president of the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services, told CNA in Rome May 30.

She said the conflict has affected over nine million people, including 5.5 million children. About half of those affected are internally displaced and over two million are now refugees.

“Many of them are living in camps. Just imagine those situations,” Woo said. “Think of all the areas of need.”

A lack of security is a major problem that particularly endangers children and women. Access to medicine is also difficult. Children lack access to health care for minor issues and are not receiving an education.

“Can you imagine the trauma people have gone through?” Woo asked. “Families are just torn apart. The needs are profound.”

About 160,000 people have died since the conflict between rebels and Syria’s government began in March 2011.

“The most important thing to remember is that there is a human face behind everyone who suffers,” Woo continued. “It’s hard to identify with 9.3 million (people), but when you are with each child, you will see the human and the human suffering. And we just cannot abandon each other.”

“People in a conflict say ‘please don’t abandon us. Please don’t forget us,’” said the relief agency head.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the charitable and humanitarian action arm of the Pope, on Friday held a meeting on the Syrian crisis with 25 Catholic charitable organizations, including Catholic Relief Services. Scheduled to speak at the meeting were Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, apostolic nuncio to Syria Archbishop Mario Zenari, and Caritas Syria president Antoine Audo.

The meeting was held to evaluate Catholic agencies’ response to the crisis and to identify future priorities. The meeting will focus on collaboration between the agencies working in Syria and in nearby countries.

The various agencies report their activities to an information office based in Beirut.

Woo stressed both the difficulty of communication in a crisis situation and the importance of coordination to ensure that relief agencies supplement each other’s work, rather than duplicate it.

“Resources are so scarce and the need is so profound,” she said.

Catholic Relief Services is focusing on several areas of aid, including food provisions, non-food items like winter survival supplies, medical services, education and psychosocial care.

Woo called for more peace advocacy to complement the relief work, especially through engaging governments.

“It’s not just enough to work on the ground, because there will be no end (to the conflict),” she said. “It’s not enough just to advocate because people are dying on the ground.”

“In the end, the war is made possible because there’s a lot of money behind the war. If we stop the infusion of money and supplies, then the war on the ground will stop.”

Woo  said that war poses different problems for relief work than natural disasters, in which people come together and work to solve problems logically. It is easier to foresee and work towards an end to disaster relief.

“War is a completely different challenge. It brings out the worst in humanity,” she said.

“The difficulties are not just physical in nature,” she said, adding that it is hardest to accept the fact that “there are people whose interest is served by war.”

She also emphasized the need for prayer. “These things look so overwhelming and so big. Sometimes we can feel that we do very little, but you have to remember that the Holy Spirit is at work,” Woo said.

“War is the worst of humankind and it causes the best of humankind. It requires the best of everything you have, including your faith.”

She said Pope Francis’ example has demonstrated “the call for peace.” She noted his visit with Syrian refugees in Jordan, where he brought along Jewish and a Muslim companions.

Woo said that visit showed “peace and interfaith collaboration.”

She said she hoped the Cor Unum meeting will affirm and celebrate the work that has been done and convey that there has been some progress.

“A lot of our colleagues here have been working non-stop for three years, some of them under immensely difficult situations.”

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