News of the human tragedy unfolding in Haiti is heartbreaking, and it calls all of us to action to help the people impacted by the earthquake.
We pray for those who have perished, for the injured, for the displaced and for relief personnel who are courageously working to assist the people of Haiti during this difficult and sad time. We ask God to bless Haiti and to be merciful in their hour of need. The destruction has devastated a poor nation of people who cry out now for the help of the world community. The Archdiocese of Boston will do its part in assisting our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
As I mentioned to the people at a meeting at the Cathedral on Wednesday, it had only been two weeks since we had gathered there with so many members of the Haitian community to mark the January 1 Haitian independence day celebration with the Mass and the “Te Deum”. We had no idea that 12 days later we would be coming together again reacting to one of the most terrible crises in the history of the Haitian people – this terrible earthquake whose epicenter was so close to the capital of Haiti, which is the most densely populated part of the country.
The initial reports are saying there are many, many casualties, many deaths, as well as wholesale destruction of neighborhoods and even historic buildings – the government buildings, the Presidential Palace, and the cathedral have been destroyed.
Among the thousands of people who have lost their lives was Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince. He was a friend of mine and his death will be a great loss to the Haitian church.
In the last couple of years, Haiti has been afflicted by very terrible tropical storms that resulted in flooding, much death, and disaster. This, on top of everything that Haiti has been through, is a very devastating blow.
The fact that there is not the kind of infrastructure or resources that would be needed to deal with the necessary rescue or relief efforts compounds the severity of the situation. We hope that, as soon as possible, measures will be taken to improve the country’s ability to adequately respond to these crises.
The meeting at the Cathedral was organized by State Representatives Marie St. Fleur and Linda Dorcena Forry. Over the course of the evening, there were probably about 2,000 people who attended. The governor, the mayor, senators, many public officials, the head of Catholic Charities, the head of the Red Cross, and many representatives of different churches and civic organizations all were part of it.
I was able to announce that we will be taking up a collection in the parishes of the archdiocese to help the Haitian people. The money we collect will be turned over to Catholic Relief Services, which has a very good track record of working with natural disasters in Haiti. In our initial contact with Catholic Relief Services, they told us they have already committed $5 million to relief efforts in Haiti.
It was also a time for us to pray for victims and loved ones. At this point in time, one of the most difficult problems is that of communication. So many people are anxiously waiting to hear how their families have fared through the earthquake. Some people have been able to make contact. Others have not. It may be a long time before some of them are able to get any kind of assurances. The uncertainty is a very terrible anxiety for people.
Certainly, the Haitian people have suffered very much in their history and have always done so with great courage and dignity. I know that they will suffer this latest tragedy with the same determination and ability to rebound. We just hope everyone will be able to work together closely and that the international community will be generous in coming to the aid of the Haitian people.
We look forward to sending a team down from our Catholic hospitals. We will do whatever we can to bring relief to the people of Haiti and to their families here in Boston.
The meeting was a very moving experience and I think it was an important moment for people to be able to be together and to feel the solidarity of the whole community that was gathered to express a desire to help. People are still looking for ways to be able to do that.
There were reports on the military ships and hospitals that are being sent there. Certainly, the rescue efforts might have to be the first priority, as well as just the basic needs – food and water for the survivors. But, we hope that there will be long term solutions to the problems that Haiti faces that will come out of this.