Pope Francis’ appointment of a Haitian cardinal is itself an appeal for Haiti not to be forgotten. The Pontiff has not forgotten Haiti and its sufferings after the earthquake of four years ago, and he wants to ensure that people do not forget the needs of the island.
This was the reflection offered to ZENIT by Haiti’s Cardinal Chibly Langlois, 55, who was in Rome this week to take possession of the church assigned to him as cardinal, Saint James in Augusta, in the central Via del Corso of the Eternal City.
ZENIT: How did you receive the news of your appointment?
Cardinal Langlois: I learned that I was appointed Cardinal through the congratulations that came to me by phone from friends and by e-mail. It’s the first time that a Haitian Cardinal is appointed. Many in my country wondered why we had never had a Cardinal. It’s true that we are far away and we are small, but they always said, we’ll have to wait for the moment … and that moment has arrived.
ZENIT: Had you met the Holy Father before the Conclave?
Cardinal Langlois: No, I did not know him and I had not met him before, but I like him a lot, the way he presents himself and how he wishes to orient the Church today, and also the way he gives answers to expectations in the Church and in society in general.
ZENIT: What are the current concerns of the Church in the Caribbean area?
Cardinal Langlois: There is the concern to build a Church that must continue evangelizing, assuming her responsibilities, so that the Good News becomes the culture; that Christians are reinforced in their faith and become missionaries, because in our days we stress that we must follow the line of the document of Aparecida. That line has been reiterated by Pope Francis: all Christians must feel that they are missionaries of the Church.
Evangelization is a concern for everyone, especially for me. We need men and women who are convinced and who feel truly called to build a Church in order to go ahead with evangelization in the country.
There is also concern about the economic situation because needs exist, so we must organize ourselves on the financial plane to be able to carry out many works. We are concerned about the social situation, the reconstruction of the nation, because there is too much poverty and many people who cannot work to earn their living. We also want the country to come out of underdevelopment.
ZENIT: How did people handle the tremendous earthquake that lacerated Haiti?
Cardinal Langlois: Our generation wasn’t accustomed to such strong earthquakes. We had to have the population understand and clarify for them that it was a natural disaster. There were those who didn’t want to understand this, [and saw it] as if it was a sort of curse, as if God was to blame. And people who did understand, including the need to recover. There are difficulties with being able to drink, to eat, to clothe oneself; many people are still living in tents.
ZENIT: How is Haiti as regards vocations?
Cardinal Langlois: In Haiti, thank God, we have many vocations – in the dioceses, in religious communities, men and women. However, it’s necessary to work to have more charity.
ZENIT: Did you receive aid from the Church after the earthquake?
Cardinal Langlois: We received aid from sister Churches throughout the world, also on the social plane. Many organizations arrived although, sadly, the aid has not always been well channeled. Most of the NGOs organize themselves to distribute aid, but a plan is lacking and often there is a duplication of services. However, we must thank the international community and the different organizations that help Haiti in this very difficult situation. I must say, however, that this aid isn’t sufficient; there is much work to be done, in reconstruction, for instance. There are many churches that are destroyed or need to be restored – more than 100. Time has been wasted; there are people who are impatient to have a place for religious functions. In this connection, sister Churches can help in the reconstruction, with their Catholic proximity to Haiti and its Church. There are Churches, such as those of Germany and France, that are helping us to reconstruct and to concretize the dreams and objectives we have in this connection.
ZENIT: Does the danger exist that Haiti will be forgotten?
Cardinal Langlois: Yes, the risk does exist, but I think that the appointment, for the first time, of a Haitian Cardinal is understood as an appeal for Haiti not to be forgotten. I think that one of my missions is to remind people that we exist. Pope Francis hasn’t forgotten and he wants people not to forget Haiti.[Translation by ZENIT]
Cardinal Chibly Langlois was born in La Vallee, diocese of Jacmel, on November 29, 1958. He did his ecclesiastical studies in the capital of the country. He received priestly ordination on September 22, 1991. He obtained his Licentiate in Pastoral Theology from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Fort-Liberte on April 8, 2004. He received episcopal ordination on June 6 of the same year. Benedict XVI moved him to the diocese of Les Cayes on August 15, 2011. At present he is president of the Haitian Episcopal Conference, a post to which he was elected on December 15, 2011. Pope Francis elevated him to Cardinal in his first Consistory of February 22, 2014, and he has just been appointed member of the Justice and Peace dicastery.