15 January 2010

Desperate situation in Haiti

'Bottlenecks and infrastructure damage have been holding up aid efforts in Haiti, where a devastating earthquake has left as many as 45,000-50,000 dead' reports the BBC about the earthquake in Haiti last Tuesday.

The overwhelming tragedy wrought by the few brief seconds of the earthquake’s duration is poignantly summarised by a photo taken in the rubble of the cathedral in Port-au-Prince: Jesus hangs on the Cross in the midst of his people. (H/T to Fr Tim Finigan).

I have often wondered how priests and religious seem to survive disasters such as this, though there are often individual casualties. But Father Finigan shows that it is otherwise in Haiti, qhoting Papal Nuncio Archbishop Bernardito Auza:

I have just returned this morning. I found priests and nuns in the streets, without homes. The Rector of the seminary survived, as did the Dean of Studies, but the seminarians are under the rubble. Everywhere, you can hear cries from under the rubble. The CIFOR - Institute of Studies for the Men and Women Religious - has collapsed with the students inside, participating in a conference. The nunciature building has withstood the earthquake, without any injuries, but we are all amazed! So many things are broken, including the Tabernacle, but we are more fortunate than others. Many family members of the staff were killed, their homes destroyed. Everyone is calling for help. We will have problems of water and food before long. We cannot enter or stay inside the house much, as the earth continues to shake, so we are camped in the garden.

Father Finigan further quotes Mgr John Dale, National Director of Missio for England and Wales:

Haiti’s loss at the moment is made even more difficult because so many clergy, Religious and seminarians are amongst the dead and so cannot give the pastoral care that is so urgently needed at this time.

Missio has always supported the Church in Haiti, helping it to grow and develop in its own distinctive way. We will remain in the country, helping it to rebuild and find hope. Missio is not an emergency aid organisation, but just as we have been present for the Haitians in the past, we will be there for their future as they try to reconstruct their homes and lives. In the present, the people of Haiti are in our thoughts and prayers. We pray for those who died and may those who survived the earthquake be given all the comfort, strength and help that they need.

Among the countless victims of the earthquake in Haiti on 12 January was Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot who died instantly when he fell off a balcony when the quake struck.

The Vatican-based Agenzia Fides carries a report that quotes the Papal Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, extensively. (I tried to copy and past the report but for some reason each time I attempted this Internet Explore simply closed down.


I phoned the CICM missionaries (also known as the Scheut Missionaries and, in the USA, Missionhurst) here in the Philippines this morning to ask if their missionaries in Haiti were safe. A message they received yesterday from their Superior General said there were no reports of any casualties. but their headquarters in Port-au-Prince were destroyed.

In the May-June 2007 issue of Misyon, which I edit for the Columbans in the Philippines, we carreid an article, Witnessing to Hope in Haiti, by two young Filipino priests, Fr Andrew Labatoria CICM from Zarraga, Iloilo, and Fr Edito Casipong CICM of Victorias City, Negros Occidental. We're in the process of putting all our back issues online but haven't reached that issue yet. Please remember them in your prayers.

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