The bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) stand in solidarity with islands devastated by Hurricane Irma, and called for Catholics to unite in prayer for all the people affected. They are also appealing for “physical assistance” through local church communities and dioceses.
“The images of destruction and devastation brought to us through the media are indeed vivid and must move us into action as we seek to be united with our brothers and sisters in moment of need” said the bishops of the English, Dutch and French speaking territories. The statement from the AEC Secretariat was issued September 14, five days before Category 5 Hurricane Maria barreled through part of the Caribbean last week.
It said solidarity can be shown at various levels: through prayer, to let those affected know and feel the power of solidarity in prayer; through donations, of water, non-perishable food items, mattresses, bed linen and blankets, clothes etc.
“Church communities can also organise monetary collections which can be sent through the diocese to the bishops in various places that are affected to assist in the rebuilding process.”
The statement said the region can look to more long-term help after the emergency aid has stopped. It gave the example of young people preparing for exams. “In the past, churches and families have provided accommodations for these students as they prepare for exams next May/June.”
The bishops are petitioning for the International Monetary Fund to offer countries affected relief through an immediate moratorium on all debt payments.
Despite the destruction Irma has left behind, the statement said the human spirit cannot be crushed and faith in God will always lift up the faithful and give hope. Quoting from St Paul the statement continued, “We are afflicted in every way but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed…(2 Cor. 4:8–9).
Inspired by those who have gone before, strengthened by the intercession of the Blessed Mother and filled with the grace of God, Catholics were urged to be a sign of hope and strength for one another. – LPG