Japanese bishops boost recovery aid

TOKYO -- Japanese bishops have decided to boost church support for recovery and reconstruction efforts in the two dioceses most severely affected by March's massive earthquake.

Developed during the bishops' June 13-17 plenary assembly, the aid package calls for the country's remaining 14 dioceses to participate in reconstruction assistance for the church in the Sendai and Saitama dioceses, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

The decision formalizes a policy of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan in effect since late May of having a coordinated nationwide earthquake relief effort within the church.

The bishops' conference has established an Office for Reconstruction Assistance to coordinate communication with the various ecclesiastical provinces, religious orders and mission societies in the region.

Financial assistance will be spread over three years beginning this year. The bishops' conference will send $373,000 annually to the Sendai Diocese. The Saitama Diocese will receive about $124,300 per year.

Sendai and Saitama also will be exempt from their normal contributions to the bishops' conference for three years. The remaining 14 dioceses are being asked to make up the shortfall of funds to support the conference's operation.

The bishops also agreed to facilitate the assignment of priests from around Japan to the Sendai region. The country's three archbishops will oversee Japan's ecclesiastical provinces and work with the Japanese Conference of Major Superiors to form a "support desk," which will be available for consultation on clergy assignments.

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