Task force distributes $10 million to Katrina-stricken dioceses

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — More than $10 million was distributed by the U.S. bishops’ Hurricane Recovery Task Force to the two dioceses hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina two years ago.

The “Rebuild Church, Rebuild Hope” collection approved in June 2006 by the bishops distributed $6,175,103.41 to the Archdiocese of New Orleans and $4,116,735.60 to the Diocese of Biloxi, Miss., according to Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, retired archbishop of Galveston-Houston and task force chairman.

The bishops of the two dioceses had previously agreed on a 60-40 division of the funds raised through the collection, Archbishop Fiorenza said in a letter dated Aug. 8; the letter, addressed to the U.S. bishops, was released Aug. 31.

The first national collection to support hurricane relief and recovery efforts generated more than $130 million, Archbishop Fiorenza said.

The $10 million in funds was raised in a collection in U.S. parishes last year on the weekend closest to the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

“While the needs of the dioceses of the Gulf Coast region affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita remain great, I believe that the task force has completed the mandate given to it,” the archbishop added.

In his role as task force chairman, Archbishop Fiorenza argued against a cut in federal aid to the poor to pay for hurricane cleanup costs.

In the Biloxi Diocese, with only 70,000 Catholics, church-owned structures sustained more than $70 million in damage. All but five of the 433 church-owned structures in the diocese were destroyed or severely damaged.

In the New Orleans Archdiocese, estimates made a year after the hurricane pegged uninsured flood damage to buildings that the archdiocese had then been trying to reopen at $52 million. Buildings whose reopenings had been delayed still further sustained another $70 million in uninsured flood damage.

In his report to the bishops last year, Archbishop Fiorenza said, “While some of the dioceses affected by Katrina and Rita are reporting significant progress in rebuilding and recovery, extraordinary needs remain throughout the region.

“Donor intent has understandably concentrated on humanitarian relief, which remains critically important; however, ‘bricks-and-mortar’ projects … are placing exceptional burdens on the dioceses involved.”

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