The Puerto Rican bishops’ conference issued a message of hope to Puerto Ricans after Hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed much of the U.S. territory this summer. In the letter, published on Sept. 27, the bishops of Puerto Rico said that the destruction “fills us with pain and suffering, especially when we see so many tears, and so much anguish in the faces of our people.”
On Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma passed through northern Puerto Rico, though it did not directly impact the whole island. However, on Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria directly hit the island as a Category 4 storm, leaving at least 16 dead. The hurricanes have left much of the island without water and electricity, and have led to widespread shortages of gasoline and food. Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, told local media that these storms are “Puerto Rico's biggest catastrophe...in terms of damage to infrastructure.”
Reuters reported that the storms had left an estimated $30 billion in material losses. The Puerto Rican bishops praised the faithful for maintaining “...order and respect for neighbors, the law and the property of others.” They added that the two massive hurricanes show the urgency of the need to address climate change. “We understand that we cannot act as before and continue like this,” they said.
The bishops noted that the only way for the island to “be reborn” is by clinging to the “love of Christ.” “From his cross and his pain, our hope is reborn,” they wrote. The bishops’ conference also recommended that the Puerto Rican people adopt three attitudes: “to rebuild, rediscover, and have a reunion with Jesus.” The bishops stressed that as people rebuild houses, churches or roads, they also need to repair “the damage that does not allow us to grow as a people and to progress as a nation.”
“Let us overcome the barriers, selfishness and divisions that may exist between us, and unite to rebuild our homeland, which shines with the beautiful, noble and Christian values that live in our hearts, and spring from our identity,” they said. “Jesus comes to meet us, calms the storm and give us confidence. He invites us to walk towards Him, takes us by the hand and will not let us sink, so that we can say: 'Everywhere we are pressed, but not crushed.'”
The bishops promised to provide financial aid to the most affected dioceses and offered prayers for the victims of the storm. They also thanked local authorities and rescuers for their work. “In these days, where basic resources are scarce, especially light and water, let us enter into personal and community prayer with the Lord,” they said, and urged everyone to continue their “gestures of solidarity with those brothers and sisters in need.” The full press release in Spanish can be found here.
This article was originally published by ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.