During his May 2 General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis thanked the donors of Catholic Extension for their support of the Church in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the island’s devastation from last September’s Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
“In a special way,” the pope told the thousands gathered for the audience, “I greet the members of the Catholic Extension Society of the United States, with gratitude for their contribution to the work of rebuilding in Puerto Rico. In the joy of the risen Christ, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all.”
Catholic Extension has been providing financial support to the Church in Puerto Rico for 110 years, and has stepped up its efforts to raise funds following Hurricane Maria, which damaged infrastructure, residences, and an estimated 1,200 Catholic church buildings.
Following the audience, members of Catholic Extension and its president, Father Jack Wall, and vice-chancellor, Bishop Gerald Kicanas, unfurled a Puerto Rican flag in the presence of the Holy Father.
The flag, blessed by the pope, was then hand-delivered by representatives of Catholic Extension to Archbishop Roberto González Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 9. On that occasion, Catholic Extension also delivered funds raised through the Patrons of Puerto Rico program. These funds will support clergy, parishes and missions that serve the island’s poorest and hardest hit communities.
Since the hurricanes Catholic Extension has committed $1.5 million to the Puerto Rican Church’s pastoral and charitable work, and it will continue to support ongoing financial needs. Additionally, Catholic Extension, in partnership with Catholic Management Services, is providing consultation to Puerto Rican dioceses to help them access federal grants for the reconstruction of their damaged churches.
Catholic Extension’s meeting with Pope Francis had added significance because it took place on the 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood of Catholic Extension’s president, Father Jack Wall. Father Wall has led Catholic Extension, a papal society, since 2007. Last year the Holy See appointed him to a third five-year term as president.
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