Helping Victims and Rebuilding in Haiti

A senior clergyman in Haiti has announced that work rebuilding churches should start in early 2011, but said the Church’s first priority must be helping the victims of the earthquake.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio for Haiti, said, “First of all we have to look after the faithful, and then take care of the churches, which have to be built structurally better and safer.”

His comments came during a visit to the international headquarters of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Königstein, Germany.

The nuncio thanked ACN for the charity’s support in the wake of the disaster and “the promise of help in the reconstruction of churches, chapels and seminars and to support educational programs in Haiti.”

Up to 70 percent of the buildings in the country’s capital Port-au-Prince were devastated by the earthquake on January 12th.

Describing the current situation in the country, the nuncio said, “The people are still traumatized. The parishes have been scattered, and over half the churches are destroyed.”

He went on to say that parish structures which were built up over decades have dissolved following the disaster.

Archbishop Auza said, “People have simply scattered. Some now live in camps, while others have moved out into the provinces. Others again have come into the city in search of work.”

The Church was providing aid for those made homeless by the quake, said the nuncio.

He said, “Of course, help is being provided, but the situation is still chaotic.”

Archbishop Auza described how, after providing aid for those affected by the earthquake, the next challenge for the Church is rebuilding.

He told ACN that schools will be a particular priority.

He said, “Education is of immense importance for the Church, especially since she is the provider of over half of all the schools in the country.”

“This is an area in which the Church takes her responsibilities very seriously.”

He also said that the lack of progress after more than six months is not only due to lack of infrastructure and the collapse of government administration, but widespread corruption.

The nuncio said a selfish mentality still prevails in many after the earthquake, which is holding back a new beginning for the country.

Archbishop Auza hoped that better and more effective education might help overcome selfish attitudes.

He said, “For the Catholic Church, education and a Christian upbringing are the key to the true development of the country, especially since the Church schools have always been better than the state schools in Haiti.”

He added, “The Church is endeavoring to provide an education to as many children as possible, but in the country especially there is a lack of funds for buildings and staff.”

To date ACN has received more than $5.1 million in donations for Haiti.

Archbishop Auza concluded by saying, “Your charity is supporting our pastoral service, and is thus providing indispensable assistance, since it is above all a renewed and strengthened pastoral outreach that is needed to put people back on their feet.”

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