Haiti’s most senior Church leader has spoken of his “deepest gratitude” for the help given by a leading Catholic charity in the wake of the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country.
In a letter sent earlier this week, Archbishop Louis Kébreau, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Haiti, thanked Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) for $70,000 in emergency aid and $100,000 for destitute diocesan seminarians.
Sent within a week of the catastrophe on January 12th, the aid packages prioritized help for the Haiti capital, Port-au-Prince, which was worst affected by the quake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale.
Archbishop Kébreau, who is Archbishop of Cap-Haïtien, wrote: “With this letter, I would like to express my deepest gratitude on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Haiti and also the seminarians…”
“True love is compassionate. Your kind gesture gives us the strength and hope to build and unite our efforts to carry on…”
His letter coincided with another message sent to ACN by the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti giving a brief progress report on how the charity’s money has been spent.
The nuncio, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, explained that the aid package contributed to a wide-ranging emergency relief program including the provision of rice and beans for destitute people and aid to “relaunch commercial activity” with hand-outs distributed through local parishes.
In the meantime, aid is being sent through the bishops’ conference to help more than 200 seminarians who were stranded after seminary buildings collapsed. At least 26 seminarians died in the quake including 10 from the Montfortian order who were killed when their minibus was crushed by falling debris.
In his message, Msgr. Kébreau said the seminarians were now receiving ongoing medical aid and counseling.
As well as Port-au-Prince, where the majority of the aid is being spent, emergency support is also going to the nearby dioceses of Jacmel, Cap-Haitien and Hinche, with other plans underway for aid in lesser affected regions including Jérémie, Les Cayes and Fort-Liberté.
The nuncio went on to stress the “huge task” of reconstruction, which will take years – even decades – to complete.
These messages of thanks come amid new reports indicating that the scale of devastation was much worse than previously estimated. Haiti President Rene Preval announced on Mon, Feb. 22nd, that the final death toll was expected to reach nearly 300,000 – far higher than originally estimated.
Outlining longer-term projects, the nuncio referred to plans to help pay school fees for children from Port-au-Prince to attend Catholic schools in the Diocese of Les Gonaives, which was much less affected by the quake.
Help has also gone towards providing equipment for a temporary chancellery for the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, where the archbishop’s house and offices were reduced to rubble as well as the cathedral.
ACN project coordinators are planning a visit to Haiti in April to assess medium and long-term priorities to help the Church, with guidance provided by the nuncio and Archbishop Kébreau.
Despite the enormous burdens, Archbishop Kébreau’s message to ACN was optimistic. He wrote: “My messages are with you [ACN]. God is love, truth and justice and He wants us to create a new civilization, one of love.”