- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 22, 2004

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, and other Catholics throughout the region yesterday prayed for an end to the suffering of the people of Sudan.

Last night, Cardinal McCarrick celebrated a “Mass for the Suffering People of Sudan” at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest, where those who attended prayed for relief for the Sudanese suffering from militia attacks, food shortage and disease outbreaks. They also prayed for justice and peace in the northern African nation, which has been in a state of civil war for the past two decades.

Cardinal McCarrick also asked pastors of the 140 parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington to lead similar prayers yesterday. The archdiocese is made up of Catholic parishes in the District and in Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles counties in Maryland.

“We have to look out for our neighbor across the street and we have to look out for our neighbor across the world,” Cardinal McCarrick said.

Yesterday’s Mass and prayers come two weeks after Ken Hackett, president of Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS), returned from Darfur, Sudan, where he spent 10 days meeting with authorities and making arrangements to provide help to the people. Mr. Hackett was the first chief executive officer of a U.S. relief agency to travel to Darfur.

Since February 2003, when militia attacks began in the Darfur region, 30,000 to 50,000 people have died, about 200,000 have fled to refugee camps in Chad, and an additional 1.2 million people have been displaced within the Darfur region, according to the archdiocese.

Many Sudanese reportedly are starving while others are succumbing to outbreaks of dysentery, malaria and hepatitis, according to CRS, the international relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops. Humanitarian aid is being hampered by several obstacles, including government restrictions, rebel attacks on aid workers and heavy rains.

CRS has committed $1 million to aid the people of Sudan. The services include distribution of nonfood items, water, sanitation, shelter, relief commodities, training programs and psychosocial support.

Sudan became a nation of its own in 1956. But the government changed three times and, by the mid-1990s, about 1.3 million residents had died because of war and famine. The early warfare erupted between black Christians from the south and Islamic Arabs in the north.

“We are hoping the United States would play a role in establishing peace in that nation,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “There is a suspicion that the [Sudanese] government allows the militia to destroy so many of the African people in Sudan.”

The cardinal said the archdiocese has sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, asking that “he do his best to establish peace” in that nation.

The cardinal also said President Bush has tried his best to help the Sudanese. On Sept. 6, 2001, Mr. Bush appointed John C. Danforth as special envoy for peace to Sudan, representing the U.S. government in ongoing peace talks to help settle the civil war.

Mr. Danforth, who as senator represented Missouri for 18 years, is now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

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