4 March 2011
Dear priests, lay pastoral workers and parishioners
We have all been affected deeply by the terrible events in Christchurch. The earthquake has taken lives, injured people, and destroyed property, including the homes and workplaces people depend upon to supply their most basic human needs.
The response of the people of Christchurch and surrounding Canterbury towns to the need they see all around them has been stunning and humbling, as has the response of people from around New Zealand and overseas. Bishop Barry Jones is insistent that any Catholic response must not be seen as a means of promoting the Church or the work it is doing. Along with so many others, Catholics are involved in group responses and are taking action as individuals and at parish and neighbourhood levels.
Some Catholic groups who have organised themselves to meet a specific need have recognised that presenting themselves as a church group can act as a barrier to some people for accessing their help. It is vital that Catholics are there where the need is greatest and available to everyone.
The season of Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday. The Lenten Appeal is an initiative of the New Zealand Catholic bishops who entrust it to Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand. The bishops' Lenten Appeal is an opportunity for the people of the Church to pay special attention to the most vulnerable and impoverished people in our world, and to do what they can to help them through their prayers and donations.
In recent days it has been suggested that all of the funds from the Lenten Appeal be donated to the people of Christchurch. Some schools have said that they will not be contributing to the Lenten Appeal as they want to give all their funds raised to Christchurch. We fully understand why people would think this way. People like ourselves – our Kiwi family – are suffering and their need is in front of us day after day. Our hearts ache for them because there seems to be so little that any of us outside Christchurch can do. But as your bishops we ask you to think very hard about choosing to ignore the needs of people overseas who are much poorer than anyone in New Zealand, and who do not have the kind of infra-structure and government support which are available to the people of Christchurch to assist them back to normality.
As your bishops we have decided with Caritas that 25% of the Lenten Appeal or $200,000, whichever is the greater, be given to the most vulnerable people of Christchurch, in collaboration with Bishop Jones and his diocesan advisers. This is in addition to the special appeal which Caritas is running for Christchurch. We will support Caritas in carrying this out. We urge you to give generously to the Lenten Appeal which begins next week, knowing that you will be helping your fellow Kiwis without neglecting the very substantial needs of impoverished communities overseas.
The Pontifical Council Cor Unum in Rome is sending us US$50,000 to assist the people of Christchurch. We are very grateful for the assistance of the Holy See.
Yours sincerely in Christ
Archbishop of Wellington
Bishop of Auckland
Bishop of Dunedin
Bishop of Christchurch
Bishop of Palmerston North
Bishop of Hamilton