U.S. Bishops Urge Bipartisan Efforts for Gulf Coast

Oppose Paying Hurricane Costs by Cutting Services to the Poor

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WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The chairmen of two U.S. episcopal entities urged Congress to put aside differences and work in a bipartisan spirit to help revitalize the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.

In an unprecedented joint letter, the chairmen of the Hurricane Relief Task Force and the Domestic Policy Committee called for relief programs, with a special priority for the poor.

«The waters of Katrina and Rita have receded, leaving our country and the Congress to face the urgent and enormous national task of recovery and rebuilding,» they wrote. «How we meet this challenge will be a test and an important sign of what kind of a nation we are and wish to be.»

The two prelates are Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the task force, and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, chairman of the episcopate’s Domestic Policy Committee.

They said they will oppose «any effort to pay for the costs of Katrina and Rita by cutting services in essential programs that serve the basic needs of low-income or vulnerable people.»

The pair also expressed deep concern about «sweeping efforts to ignore or set aside federal wage, environmental and civil rights protections.»

«First claim»

The letter to Congress was sent Oct. 19. At a time when Congress is making funding decisions and policy choices in rebuilding the Gulf Coast, the bishops said they wanted to emphasize several points based on a recent statement of the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee.

«The needs of the poor and most vulnerable must have first claim on our common efforts,» they stated. «The poor and vulnerable cannot be left behind again.

«Each step of the way, the response to this disaster and plans for future recovery must be judged by how they touch the lives of ‘the least among us.'»

The bishops’ statement also warned: «It would be wrong to cut essential food, housing and health care for the poor while the rest of us make no real sacrifice and, in fact, benefit from recent tax cuts.»

The U.S. episcopate’s Administrative Committee issued the statement «Hurricane Katrina: Reaching Out, Renewal and Recovery in Faith and Solidarity,» and appointed the task force chaired by Archbishop Fiorenza, on Sept. 14.

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