WASHINGTON – Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has been asked by the Vatican to coordinate the Church’s relief and recovery efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican office that promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving and distributes the money the pope designates for charity, made the request.
“The past experience, expertise, and resources of CRS 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,” it said.
CRS has made an initial commitment of $5 million in aid, an amount that John Rivera, the agency’s communications director, said would last barely a week.
Because conditions in the earthquake zone are treacherous and needs were still being assessed, CRS was sending a few additional staff as well as relief supplies through the neighbouring Dominican Republic, said Pat Johns, the agency’s director for staff safety and security.
Catholic religious orders quickly mobilised people and resources as well.
The Camillian order was operating the only hospital in the Port-au-Prince area not destroyed in the earthquake, the Vatican missionary news service Fides reported Jan 14.
Camillian Father Efisio Locci, director of health and development for the Order of St. Camillus, Order of Servants of the Sick, told Fides the hospital was full and “in need of practically everything”.
The Rome-based Knights of Malta sent a medical team to assist with medical care in Haiti. Under the auspices of the order’s emergency relief programme, Malteser International, doctors and other medical experts from France and Germany were deployed.
The Jesuits in the U.S. were organising relief efforts through Jesuit Refugee Service and the Jesuits’ French-Canadian Province, of which Haiti is a part.
Elsewhere, Catholic agencies had pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid.
A magnitude seven earthquake struck Haiti just 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. The poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere relies heavily on international aid.