Monday, February 3, 2014

Archbishop Kurtz: Philippines Blog – Day 1

Note: This blog first appeared on the Archdiocese of Louisville's site.

By Arcbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the USCCB

I am in Manila after traveling here through Chicago and Tokyo yesterday. While my friends in Louisville are getting ready for Super Bowl kickoff, I am here on Monday morning at 7:30 a.m., ready and excited to being a full day in the Philippines.

We all made it in one piece and gathered last evening, a little after 11 p.m., which was Sunday at 9 a.m. in Louisville, to begin a journey and pilgrimage. Dr. Carolyn Woo, Executive Director of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Sr. Carol Keehan, CRS board member, are here along with Msgrs. Jenkins and Bransfield of USCCB and Don Clemmer of USCCB Communications. We are helped by a great CRS staff on the ground. Joe Curry is here permanently to oversee the work of CRS. Archbishop Coakley, of Oklahoma City, who was recently appointed chair of the Catholic Relief Services’ board, will join us in a day.

This is a photo from my hotel in the Philippines.

Today will include important conversations with Cardinal Tagle of Manila, Archbishop Pinto, the Philippine’s nuncio, and Archbishop Villegas, who is the president of the Philippine Bishops’ Conference. I first met both Cardinal Tagle and Archbishop Villegas when we were delegates in October 2012 for the Synod on the New Evangelization in Rome.

These two Church leaders will provide a helpful overview of the devastation and the priorities for humanitarian efforts, as well as the important work of helping to rebuild churches and the services of the Church. You might recall that the generous response of Catholics in the United States to a special collection late last year had a double purpose: helping with aid to the worst hit people and helping with Church rebuilding. Archbishop Pinto, the nuncio, also will be able to offer great insights into the needs of the Church and the cooperation with civil authorities here on the islands. (By the way, there are more than 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines!)

Tomorrow, we will begin to walk through the rubble of the Island of Leyte and see firsthand the way hope and help is being provided. I have heard that already more than 200,000 people have received shelter, water, sanitation, and positive relief. Overall, more than 4 million lives were touched by Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda here) with a million experiencing significant damage. About 1/2 million have lost their homes.

The Filipino people seem so resilient. In the hotel and in the airport I was able to speak with a number of people. It is hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a neighbor or relative affected. Already, I also can permanently see the great fervor and religious conviction of the Filipino faithful. I am told by Joe Curry of Catholic Relief Services that CRS has been here for some time and has experienced great cooperation with Caritas International and the local Church.

Yesterday (or I should say today in the United States), so many women and men religious have been honored and prayed for on the feast of the Presentation of The Lord. It is encouraging to see these examples of faithful and sacrificial love back home and to find the same zeal here in the Philippines.

In the Tokyo airport I spoke for some time with a young surgeon from Chicago who is visiting his Filipino grandparents for the next two weeks.

I suspect that his faithful life as a young Catholic professional will be replicated in my other encounters. He is fervent in his Catholic faith, lovingly loyal to his family, outgoing to all he meets, and very competent as a surgeon. I was very impressed, and this experience inspired me pray in union with all the Filipino families of the Archdiocese of Louisville who are so faithful and loving. Together, let us join in prayer and solidarity with our Filipino brothers and sisters.

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