(Left) A woman prays during a Jan 12 Mass in Port-au-Prince, near the ruins of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. The Mass marked the one-year anniversary of the earthquake. CNS photo
PORT-AU-PRINCE – In front of a national cathedral that lay in rubble, Catholic leaders marked the anniversary of Haiti’s deadly earthquake by praying for its victims and calling for reconstruction of this tattered Caribbean country.
“This tragedy took everything ... and sickness and death are still hitting” Haitians, said Cardinal Robert Sarah, the papal envoy, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and the main celebrant at the Mass. “We call on the international community ... to develop the country, to develop Haiti.”
Throughout the earthquake-torn capital, Haitians flocked to churches for prayer services on Jan 12, the anniversary of the earthquake.
Thousands attended the morning service outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Haiti’s prime minister, presidential candidates and musicians sat in tents flanked by choirs and scores of residents.
Among the dead was Port-au-Prince Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, remembered at the Mass as a man who loved life and suffered alongside poor Haitians. The appointment of his successor, Bishop Guire Poulard of Les Cayes, 69, was announced at the Mass as well as at the Vatican.
The earthquake began a year of suffering that ended with more than 3,600 dead from a cholera epidemic, 810,000 earthquake victims still living in makeshift camps and rubble from collapsed buildings at nearly every turn in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Cardinal Sarah read a telegram from Pope Benedict XVI, who told Haitians he hoped international financial aid and volunteer assistance would continue, but also that “the Haitian people will be the chief protagonists of their present and their future”.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio to Haiti, told Catholic News Service the Haitian Church has dozens of planned projects, including the construction of new churches.
The pace of reconstruction in the country has disappointed Haitians and drawn criticism that the international community has not moved fast enough with the billions of dollars pledged by foreign governments and citizens.
That frustration was apparent at the Mass as comments that international aid agencies move more quickly drew applause. - CNS