VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 19, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- The special papal envoy who toured the hurricane-struck U.S. Gulf Coast says it’s vital that the United States not be “abandoned” as it rebuilds from the devastation.
Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes had met with inhabitants of the areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina to relay the spiritual closeness of Benedict XVI and concrete forms of aid from the Holy Father.
For four days the president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” traveled throughout the storm-ravaged areas, meeting with local Catholic communities and visiting the victims in their places of refuge.
“The personal presence of a special papal envoy has quickly found words of gratitude in the ecclesial and civil spheres,” the prelate told Vatican Radio on returning to Rome.
“As a matter of fact, it seems that the Vatican has been the only state in the world to have sent a state representative to the affected areas,” he added.
During his visit, Archbishop Cordes was able to meet with political leaders and local bishops.
“During the entire time of my visit, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, accompanied me,” the Vatican official explained. “I also encountered the directors of the local charity network. Caritas in the United States is called ‘Catholic Charities.’ From the first days of the emergency they provided $6 million in aid.”
The “Cor Unum” president was able to personally assess that “the stricken area is enormous and that volunteers are arriving to the affected districts from all parts of the United States. Reconstruction will certainly require months and years.”
Though he saw much devastation, Archbishop Cordes also said he witnessed “great humanitarian gestures.”
The papal envoy acknowledged his “personal fear” that the United States “might isolate itself and also be isolated when it comes time to reckon with the disaster.”
Call to communion
“In this dramatic moment, the United States should not be abandoned,” he asserted, reminding that it is not only a fundamental duty of “communion” toward the members of the Church, but also a demand of “human solidarity.”
“The weakness experienced in the United States in the face of this catastrophe also makes us sensible to set aside all attitudes of self-sufficiency,” he said. “Thus, through the misfortune of this event, hope might also arise in many citizens to see that the world is bigger than the United States.”
In a homily pronounced in the Cathedral of Baton Rouge on Sept. 11, four years after the terrorist attacks that shocked the world, the archbishop invited Catholics “to reflect on the religious dimension of these events, even of the saddest and most catastrophic.”
“I tried to explain to the huge assembly of people, some coming from New Orleans, that secularization deceives us, when we separate the faith, the depth of our faith from our daily lives,” Archbishop Cordes told Vatican Radio. “Nevertheless, our faith must enlighten every moment of our lives. God, in fact, is with us always, even in the darkest moments when we don’t understand him.”
“A believer must never doubt that God loves him,” he said, “and in this conviction we find consolation."