Home-Missions Panel to Aid Hurricane-Hit Areas

Exception Allows Funds to Go to Non-Mission Dioceses

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WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Home Missions will give more than $3 million in hurricane relief to both mission and non-mission dioceses affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Bishop Peter Sartain, chairman of the committee, announced the unusual decision, the U.S. bishops’ conference reported. What makes the action extraordinary is that the committee is not an emergency-assistance agency like Catholic Charities.

The committee’s grants normally go to support ongoing programming and personnel in some of the poorest dioceses in the country that rely on outside help all year round, regardless of natural disasters. About 90 such home mission dioceses receive grants from the committee.

The committee does maintain a $200,000 emergency fund specifically to assist mission dioceses affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. But the home mission committee’s guidelines do not permit it to use this money to help non-mission dioceses.

The catastrophic effects of the hurricane are mostly confined to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Biloxi. A number of other dioceses from Texas to Alabama to Tennessee also face substantial costs in offering relief to refugees from the devastation.

For this reason, Bishop Sartain and the home mission committee sought permission from the bishops’ Administrative Committee, which met last week, to distribute emergency funds to affected dioceses in the most equitable way possible.

Approval to this exception to home-mission guidelines will enable the committee to assist such non-mission dioceses as New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Mobile as well as the mission dioceses in the impacted area.

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