I have been in Rome for the past week for ceremonies and meetings related to the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Pontifical North American College, where I was both a student and Rector. The news of the horrific earthquake in Haiti has shocked and saddened everyone. The Holy Father today offered the following words this morning during his weekly audience.
“My thoughts go in particular to the population hit just a few hours ago by a devastating earthquake which has caused serious loss of human life, large numbers of homeless and missing people, and vast material damage.
“I invite everyone to join my prayers to the Lord for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who mourn their loss. I give assurances of my spiritual closeness to people who have lost their homes and to everyone who, in various ways, has been affected by this terrible calamity, imploring God to bring them consolation and relief in their suffering.
“I appeal 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. The Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population”.
I have asked Bishop Dennis Sullivan, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, to send a letter to all priests of the Archdiocese asking that they lead their people in prayer this weekend in a special way for the people of Haiti, and for the Haitian community in New York who may have lost loved ones during the earthquake. There will also be a special collection at all Masses this weekend, and the money raised will be sent to Catholic Relief Services for the relief of the suffering in Haiti. Catholic Relief Services has been first on the scene, and has already been providing assistance wherever it can.
As followers of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, we are called to respond whenever there are people in need. However, I believe many of us feel a special urgency today, given the tremendous devastation that has occurred, as well as the large Catholic population in Haiti and the large Haitian community here in New York as well.
I met today with Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes, President of Cor Unum, the Holy Father’s charitable outreach agency, and with the Haitian Ambassador to the Holy See. I assured them both of the prayers of the people of the Archdiocese and told them that the Archdiocese would make every effort to be of financial assistance as well.
We are very blessed here in New York to sponsor the cause for canonization of Venerable Pierre Toussaint. Pierre Toussaint who was born in Haiti in 1766 before being brought to New York as a slave. He eventually became a free man, and would have been a rich man had he not given most of his money away. Toussaint was known for his tremendous acts of charity and his deep faith. I hope that many people will join me in saying a special prayer to Venerable Pierre Toussaint asking for his intercession with Our Heavenly Father for the safety, support, and comfort of the people of Haiti at this time.
UPDATE: Catholic News Service did a video interview with me Wednesday evening. They’ve posted it online here.