WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops’ conference is sending a delegation to Africa to express solidarity with the Church there, and to bring aid offered by Catholics nationwide.
A press release from the conference announced today that Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah, began their visit three-day visit to Zimbabwe today.
On Friday, they will go to South Africa, where they will be joined by the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and will remain until Sep. 6.
The prelates plan to visit Church officials and projects aided by the conference’s Pastoral Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.
The trip organizer, Patrick Markey, affirmed: “As we saw clearly during Pope Benedict’s recent trip to the Cameroon and Angola, the Church in Africa is not only growing rapidly. It is also fully alive and rich in vocations.”
Markey, the executive director of the conference’s Office of National Collections, continued, “The Church in Africa also faces many challenges and for that reason Catholics in the [United States] have so generously responded to a call from the bishops to give them a hand.”
The African fund collects money from the dioceses nationwide, and aids with education, lay ministry training, and continuing formation of priests and religious.
Catholics have sent over $7 million to Africa through this fund since 2005.
The communiqué reported that Bishop Wester, who is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration, will lead a delegation to assess the plight of refugees, particularly women and children, in the two African countries.
All three prelates are involved with Catholic Relief Services, and intend to observe the humanitarian work of this organization in Africa, in particular the effort to fight HIV/AIDS.