Catholic Charities USA seeks better US disaster response

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, wants the federal government to do a better job of making sure people displaced by natural disasters get their lives back to normal.

Testifying Dec. 2 to the Senate Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery, Father Snyder said the federal government must be better at providing case management services so that support for displaced individuals and families doesn’t end too soon after a disaster hits.

“We firmly believe that if we are to avoid the travesty of hurricanes Katrina and Rita (in 2005), where we saw thousands of people, especially those living in poverty and already marginalized, left behind, we must invest in a system that responds early with a network that can deliver the diversified services necessary,” he said.

Catholic News Service in August reported on how Catholic Charities USA received a five-year federal contract to provide case management services for people affected by a pair of 2008 hurricanes.

Father Snyder said despite the contract the government has funded the program only through March 31, 2010. He expressed concern that the vital housing, food and other recovery services will end long before people’s needs are met and they can be resettled.

Father Snyder’s urged the subcommittee to pass legislation to fund a single national disaster case management program to respond to natural disasters; establish a lead federal agency to oversee and be accountable for such a program; establish a clear definition of disaster case management and related policies and procedures for government and private organizations; implement one database of information on people receiving and in need of services; and involve key stakeholders in all aspects of case management.

Papal ‘midnight’ Mass to begin at 10 p.m.

Pope Benedict XVI accepts the offertory gifts from children during the 2008 Christmas midnight Mass. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — As we mentioned in a story last week, Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas midnight Mass will end at midnight rather than begin at that hour.

The Vatican listed the 10 p.m. start time for the Dec. 24 Mass for the “Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord” in October when it published the schedule of papal liturgies for November 2009-January 2010.

As Christmas approached and people started checking their calendars, the Mass time started attracting attention and even a bit of concern. The Christmas Mass at the Vatican always began at midnight, even in 2004 — Pope John Paul II’s last Christmas.

But Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, assured the Italian newspaper Il Giornale that there was nothing to worry about.

“There is no alarm of any kind regarding the health of the pontiff,” he said. “It was a decision made almost two months ago. The choice of beginning at 10 p.m. was made to allow Benedict XVI to tire himself less and so that he could retire earlier given that he reads his (Christmas) message the next day.”

“Instead of beginning at midnight, the Mass will end at that hour,” Father Lombardi said.

At noon on Christmas Day, the pope will read his message and give his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).