August 5, 2004
My Brother Bishops,
I have followed very closely the horrible situation in Sudan where for decades our brothers and sisters have experienced tremendous suffering because of war and hatred.
Bishop John Ricard, Chairman of our Bishops' Committee on International Policy, called me from Darfur in Western Sudan while visiting camps where tens of thousands of people were huddled under plastic sheets to protect themselves from the driving rains and wind. They are only a small fraction of the millions of Sudanese who have been driven from their homes and brutalized by conflicts in this country. World leaders have called this the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world."
The people of Darfur told Bishop Ricard about how armed groups rode into their villages, killed family members, and drove the people from their homes and lands. They live in a state of perpetual fear and do not have enough food or water to keep themselves and their children alive. Bishop Ricard met one young mother who was stooped over two of her children who were sick and weak and who will probably die.
Despite current efforts by international relief agencies to help bring an end to violence and meet basic needs, the suffering continues. More assistance is urgently needed.
Catholic Relief Services, working with the Church in Sudan and other Catholic agencies from around the world, is responding to this crisis, but they need your prayers and your help. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people hang in the balance.
This is a time for prayer, solidarity and assistance to the suffering people of Sudan. I urge you to consider asking Catholics in your diocese to offer special prayers for our brothers and sisters in Sudan on the weekend of Sunday, August 22, 2004, or another weekend of your choosing. I also invite you to consider asking parishes in your diocese to take up a special collection, at a convenient time in the near future, for the millions of Sudanese who are suffering. Catholic Relief Services will ensure that the funds go to the Sudanese people who are most in need. I have learned that other religious groups (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) will undertake other efforts to help address the crisis in Sudan on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 across the United States.
Let us join our prayers and sacrifices with our brothers and sisters in Sudan as they cry out for peace. We pray for the intercession of St. Bakhita, native of Darfur and the first Sudanese saint, that the conflict might end and the rights and dignity of each an every person might be respected. Let us work together to help end this terrible tragedy.
Fraternally yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
Bishop of Belleville