The Tragedy in Haiti

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.

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7 Responses to “The Tragedy in Haiti”

  1. Irene says:

    One can also contribute online at the CRS website. The donate button is at

  2. Mary Jeans says:

    80% of Haitians are Catholic – Where is the Catholic Church? Why have they not made a “public statement”? Where is the leadership? Where is the Pope? Does this event not deserve a public televised prayer? My family of 10 grew up to be good catholics…..but I don’t know anymore, the insensitivity is just becoming too great. Is your schedule too hectic to make a public statement?

  3. James says:

    Here is a link to the USCCB’s release.

    Archbishop Dolan has made a beautiful statement which was linked above and other bishops have been doing the same. I don’t think it took an earthquake for the Church to start helping in Haiti. The Church has been active helping the people of Haiti for years.

  4. Irene says:

    Mary Jean- I think its great that you want to support the Haitians as a Catholic. The Catholic Church is stepping up pretty big time on this one and there are a lot of ways you can help the effort. Just google “Vatican Haiti”; it’s all over the news. As the the Archbishop’s blog says above, the Pope immediately issued a public statement of support, urged the world to pray for Haiti and is sending concrete relief to the country through Caritas International. He is also urging the rest of the world to do the same. Here in the US, Catholic Relief Service, a charitable agency of the Catholic Church, (the subject of this blog posting) has been supporting development in Haiti for a long time, and is now engaged in a massive relief effort for the earthquake victims. You can donate to this Catholic effort by going to Or, when you go to Mass tomorrow, as the blog above explains, the second collection in all the churches will be for support to Haiti.

    In addition to praying and sending financial support, Catholics United successfully led a campaign to get the President to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians here in the US illegally. That allows them to continue working and sending money home. You can follow Catholics United at

    Hope this gives you some ideas on how to get involved as a Catholic. The Haitians need all the help we can give them.

  5. MarkA says:

    Probably not the top priority for right now, but the Catholic Church must also make a denunciation of Pat Robertson and his completely idiotic statement the other day. If we have any intelligence and/or dignity we must.

  6. Vincent says:

    Your Excellency,

    I am afraid that so many people in Haiti will not be able to receive the Sacraments. So many people are dying and there is a lack of priests there. I just worry for them. Please send priests to Haiti.

  7. Joan Carroll says:

    Jan 24, 2010: CNN covered Archbishop Dolan at the funeral for the archbishop of Haiti and an other vicar. They had coffins and professionaly arranged flowers. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few prayers over the remains of ordinary Haitians being unceremoniously picked up by front end loaders and tossed into garbage trucks. It would make a world of difference to onlookers, both in Haiti and worldwide via CNN. The cost would be minimal, and need not even involve ordained priests. Even though the numbers of dead in Haiti are much, much larger, after the World Trade Center New Yorkers, many of them Catholic, demonstrated the importance of showing respect to human remains.