Archdiocese Reaches Out to Puerto Rico With Prayers, Assistance After Quakes

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The Archdiocese of New York is reaching out to the Church and people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of a series of earthquakes, including the latest that struck the island over the weekend.

Cardinal Dolan, who spoke with Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez last week, said he assured the archbishop of “our prayers and closeness to him.”

“Although we try to respond with solicitude for people suffering anywhere in the world, the Archdiocese of New York feels a special closeness to the people of Puerto Rico, who have such strong ties to New York,” Cardinal Dolan said in a Jan. 10 letter to priests of the archdiocese.

In the letter, the cardinal asked the priests to consider taking up a second collection in their parishes or express support for Puerto Rico through another means.

“Given the unique relationship we share with Puerto Rico, I believe our people will respond generously if asked to show their support, as they have always done.”

The Archdiocese of New York has already arranged for a $50,000 contribution to be sent to assist in the relief efforts, and a $30,000 donation is being sent from archdiocesan Catholic Charities.

Caritas Puerto Rico is the lead relief agency in Puerto Rico, and any funds raised in the archdiocese will be forwarded to it. Cardinal Dolan asked the priests that any donations from parishes be sent by Feb. 5 to the archdiocesan Finance Office at the New York Catholic Center, 1011 First Ave., New York, NY 10022.   

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico with devastating effects in September 2017, the cardinal led a delegation of Catholic officials from the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn to San Juan a little more than a month later. At the time, the cardinal presented Archbishop Gonzalez, who as a young Franciscan priest served at two Bronx parishes (Holy Cross and St. Pius V), with assistance from the archdiocese totaling more than $700,000.

At least one person has died and one Catholic church was destroyed by the latest of a series of earthquakes to rock Puerto Rico.

A magnitude 6.4 quake shook people awake at 4:24 a.m. local time Jan. 7, less than 24 hours after a magnitude 5.8 temblor shook the island in the predawn hours of Jan. 6.

On Jan. 11, another quake registering 5.9 was the latest to rock Puerto Rico.

The continuous shaking has taken a psychological toll, said Father Enrique Camacho, executive director of Caritas of Puerto Rico, which is affiliated with Catholic Charities USA.

“Right now we are helping the people with emotional support,” Father Camacho told Catholic News Service Jan. 7. “What we fear is that we continue having these earthquakes. If we have bigger ones, the damage is going to be very, very, very bad.”

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered “prayerful solidarity” to the people of Puerto Rico in a Jan. 7 statement.

“The Church in the United States stands with you,” he said. “In our prayer, we recall in trust that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, offering himself to us and calling us to himself even in our darkest hour.”

The Jan. 7 earthquake sent people scurrying from their homes into the streets from Ponce, the island’s second-largest city, westward along Puerto Rico’s southern coast to the towns of Guayanilla, Guanica, Yauco and Lajas, all near the epicenter of the quakes.

Police in Ponce said a 73-year-old man died when a wall fell on him, reported El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper.

Immaculate Conception Church in Guayanilla was severely damaged, Mayor Nelson Torres Yordan told a local television station. Photos posted by El Nuevo Dia showed residents removing the church’s undamaged tabernacle to safety.

The Jan. 7 quake knocked out power to much of the island. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reported that all of its power plants went offline after its “auto protection” systems were activated.

The staffs of Catholic New York and Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

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