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Statement on the Emerging Crisis in Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON—In a November 2 statement, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions, called on Catholics and people of good will across the United States to remember those who continue to suffer in Puerto Rico and surrounding islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. 

 

The full statement follows:

 

“Since the immediate statements of His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, USCCB President, in response to the initial impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, it has become clear that the people of Puerto Rico face an unprecedented level of need as a result of those devastating storms. Meaningful action must address both the immediate and long-term needs of the Puerto Rican population. The Island is in the midst of a public health crisis, and food security, health care access, and sustainable alleviation of the island’s debt are challenges that must be resolved in a comprehensive way. These will require great effort and significant contributions of financial resources and material assistance.

 

In addition, the people of other islands in this region, including the United States Virgin Islands, also face dramatic consequences to their economies, which are predicated on an active tourist industry. The enormous and adverse impact of the storms for the livelihood of the Virgin Islands is evident.

 

In addition to these human costs, the Church in Puerto Rico’s physical plant, including parish buildings and schools, has been grievously damaged by the hurricanes. As the Archbishop of San Juan noted, virtually every church structure on the island has been affected by these storms. This need is particularly compelling considering the central role that parishes perform as natural centers in providing pastoral outreach to impacted individuals and families in times of crisis. Aid and financial resources are necessary to restore the physical settings where the Church heals through its ministries those most desperately in need.

 

The people of Puerto Rico have been facing serious problems for many years: economic upheaval and scarcity, persistent joblessness, and other social problems resulting from the financial crisis gripping the Commonwealth’s economy. They bear little responsibility for the island’s financial situation yet have suffered most of the consequences. Now, the recent devastation has made the circumstances, especially for those in need, unbearable.

 

As pastors, we share in the suffering borne by our brother bishops and the people they shepherd in Puerto Rico. We stand ready, through legislative advocacy as well as by means of the emergency funds set up in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, to support with compassion our brothers and sisters in such dire need. We urgently beseech all Catholics in the United States to join with all people of good will in supporting these crucial initiatives at this critical point in time for the people of Puerto Rico.”

 

Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane                                       Most Rev. Paul D. Etienne

Bishop of Venice                                                        Archbishop of Anchorage

Chairman,                                                                   Chairman,

Committee on Domestic Justice                                 Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions

and Human Development