Archbishop: Church "On the Scene" in Haiti

US, Irish Prelates Send Appeal for Aid

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ROME, JAN. 15, 2010 ( When an earthquake destroyed the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, Catholic Relief Services was in place to be the first and largest responder to the devastation that followed.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, head of the international humanitarian agency of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Catholic Relief Services, told Catholic News Service in an interview Wednesday that this is because the Church doesn’t «parachute in for a disaster.»

«We’re there anyway. We’re on the scene. We know the terrain. We’ve got the trucks. We’ve got the supplies,» he added in the video interview released today by the bishops’ conference.

The archbishop added that the U.S. government even called the agency and said, «How can we help?»

«There is no organization on the face of the earth that is closer to the people than the Catholic Church,» he affirmed. «We’re in place. We’re ready to go.»


The agency was asked by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum to coordinate aid for the estimated 3.5 million quake victims.

A Vatican communiqué affirmed Thursday, «The 300 plus on-the-ground personnel, who have long been active in Haiti, and the past experience, expertise and resources of [Catholic Relief Services] will enable prompt and effective coordination of the Church’s efforts, which, in the words of Pope Benedict, must be generous and concrete to meet the pressing needs of our Haitian brothers and sisters.»

Archbishop Joseph Serge-Miot of the Port-au-Prince Archdiocese was among those killed by the collapsed buildings. The cathedral and the seminary were destroyed, killing numerous priests and seminarians as well.

The apostolic nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auzas, survived the quake and has been sending information to the Pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, which goes immediately to the Holy Father, Archbishop Dolan affirmed.

«Rome itself has been very moved,» led by Benedict XVI, the prelate added.

Wednesday in his general audience, the Pontiff appealed to the «generosity of all people so that these our brothers and sisters who are experiencing a moment of need and suffering may not lack our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community.»

He affirmed that the «Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population.»


«There is a special urgency, and a special gravity here,» stated Archbishop Dolan. «We’re talking about a population that we know and love because there are so many Haitian Catholics in the United States.»

The archbishop of New York added that this natural disaster «is aggravated of course because Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.»

He said that he has been in contact with Catholic Relief Services from Rome, where he is gathered with other bishops for the 150th anniversary of the North American College.

The relief agency’s building is standing amid the rubble, and the aid workers are responding with «characteristic effectiveness and generosity,» the prelate reported.

Many of the hospitals and clinics have been destroyed, Archbishop Dolan said, so the people are «counting on us more than ever.»

«We’ve got to come through,» he added.

The archbishop urged: «We can’t give up. We can’t quit praying. We can’t quit responding as generously as we can.»

The U.S. bishops are urging all the parishes nationwide to take up a special collection at Mass Saturday and Sunday for the quake victims.

Catholic Relief Services committed an initial $5 million to the relief effort. It set up a special Web site to respond to increased online traffic after the disaster.

Through the Web page, it offers a way to send donations by mobile phone to the earthquake victims.


Cardinal Seán Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, joined in the appeal for prayers and material aid for Haiti, especially through Trocaire, the Irish bishops’ overseas development agency.

He affirmed: «Irish people have traditionally shown immense generosity in supporting relief agencies which give on the ground help to areas of devastation.  

«I ask — while appreciating these are difficult times at home — that we once again show such selflessness in this hour of need for Haiti.»

Other Catholic agencies such as Caritas and Aid to the Church in Need are working together to help the Haitians. Caritas reported today that it is partnering with the Catholic Relief Services to distribute food boxes to 50,000 people who fled to the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

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On the Net:

Video Interview:

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