Vatican envoy brings message of Pope's solidarity to devastated U.S. Gulf Coast

Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, head of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, is in the U.S. Gulf Coast this week to express the solidarity of Pope Benedict XVI and the worldwide Church with victims of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the region nearly two weeks ago.

On Saturday, Archbishop Cordes met with Bishop Robert Muench of Baton Rouge, LA, and Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities U.S.A--which has been assisting with a massive Catholic-based relief effort--to offer support and concrete assistance from the Vatican.

On Sunday, the group celebrated a special Mass in the cathedral of Baton Rouge remembering victims of the hurricane, as well as those who died in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC. That event took place four years ago.

Later in the day, the Holy See delegation - which included Washington DC's Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick - held a series of talks with local bishops of the region and with Louisiana State governor, Kathleen Blanco. They also visited many of those displaced by the catastrophe currently staying in Baton Rouge.

Today, the Archbishop will head to Biloxi, Mississippi, to get a first hand look at devastation in that town before traveling to Washington DC to meet with federal authorities tomorrow. 

According to the Vatican, the delegation will return to Rome on September 14.

An official Cor Unum statement said that, "The papal envoy's mission, apart from bringing a sign of Benedict XVI's spiritual and material closeness, also aims to encourage the Catholic institutions involved in relief efforts during the emergency, to contribute to promoting and preparing the way for reconstruction."

According to the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, the aim of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum  is to express "the care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ."

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