CUBA - In the Archdiocese of Camagüey Holy Mass being offered on the ruins of the chapel in Jiquí after Hurricane Irma
© Aid to the Church in Need

In September 2017 vast areas of Cuba were struck by Hurricane Irma. The island was pounded by winds gusting up to 250 km an hour, torrential rainfall, tidal surges with waves of up to 30 feet and widespread flooding. At least 10 people lost their lives and there was extensive damage across wide swathes of the country. And while hurricanes are no rarity in this region, Hurricane Irma was more powerful than anything people here have experienced for decades. 

Needless to say, many of the Catholic dioceses in the country have also suffered from this natural disaster, and many of the people have been forced to stand helpless at the sight of their damaged homes and churches.

In the archdiocese of Camaguey, for example, one chapel was completely destroyed, three churches were left in danger of collapse and five other churches and chapels suffered severe damage. The hurricane raged for nine hours, and thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes.

Just as soon as the worst of the hurricane had passed, Archbishop Wilfredo Pino Estevez was out, examining the scene of the devastation. In the town of Esmeralda, which was particularly hard hit, he found the church totally destroyed. “It was painful to see our church razed to the ground", he said, “with the benches tossed hither and thither and the holy pictures and statues smashed." Although it was still raining heavily, he stood on the spot where the Church had once been and spoke to a married couple there. The woman, whose name was Ismaela, said to him, “Well, Bishop, the chapel may have collapsed, but not the Church." For of course the Church is not merely a building of stone, but the living Body of Christ, which no storm can destroy, even if the buildings collapse.

Now the time has come to start rebuilding. Archbishop Wilfredo is concerned above all for the people who have been left homeless and consequently he has asked The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) to help him purchase 6,500 corrugated steel roofing sheets. 5,000 of them will be given out to those who need them, so that their families can once again have a roof over their heads. The rest he intends to use to repair the damage on some of the churches and chapels. We are planning to help him with a grant of $52,000.

The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929

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