Vatican Representative Surveys Hurricane Damage - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/12/05

Vatican Representative Surveys Hurricane Damage

Pope Benedict sent a special envoy to Biloxi to check out the devastation firsthand. Archbishop Paul Cordes is the Vatican's top humanitarian aid official.

Biloxi Bishop Thomas Rodi accompanied him on a tour of storm-damaged neighborhoods and churches.

Bishop Rodi greeted the Archbishop and other Catholic dignitaries at the Diocese Headquarters on Popps Ferry Road. A caravan tour of the damage began in the Eagle Point community. Visitors got a close up look at a waterfront neighborhood badly battered by the storm.

A stop at St. John's on Bradford Street in Biloxi gave the archbishop some sense of the damage to area churches.

"Someone said, why don't you get the parishioners together and clean up the church. Their homes are destroyed. They have to take care of their families. And then we will get all this re-built. But we have to take care of the people first," said Bishop Rodi, as he showed the damage inside St. John's.

The people of East Biloxi are hurting from the hurricane. Archbishop Cordes saw the massive piles of storm debris enroute to St. Michael's. Hurricane Katrina tried her best to wipe away the familiar "fisherman's church".

"A landmark here in Biloxi. That we were always very proud of. And will be proud of again. But it will take a long time to rebuild all that we have lost. Yes, the cross still remains. Jesus is still with us," said Bishop Rodi.

The archbishop said his visit was quote, "A sign from Pope Benedict that he would like to be close to you, to share his compassion."

The archbishop also shared some words from St. Augustine, saying the disaster reminds us that God is not on the same level as us. At this time we must recognize that God is greater than us and we must never give up home in Him.

"If you only look at the damage, then you will get into depression. But on the other side, seeing people here and the helpers, there is hope for the future. It will take much time. It will take much time," said Archbishop Cordes.

Many prayers have no doubt been said before, during and now after the hurricane. A visit from the pope's envoy sends a message that the world cares about you. There is hope amid despair.

"We are called to trust in God's love. Even in the darkest of moments. And that was a powerful message to us. A reminder that God is with us," said Bishop Rodi.

In the wake of the storm, the archbishop's message was: While we may not understand God's purpose, we should never underestimate His goodness.

By Steve Phillips

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