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L'Osservatore Romano, Italian Edition 22.1.2010

1. One week after the earthquake, what is the situation?

The situation continues to be tragic with the number of lives lost increasing. Among these were the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, and a number of priests, religious, seminarians. It seems that 30 seminarians are still unaccounted for. Thousands have been buried in mass graves. But, even in the midst of death, survivors are still being recovered. I was impressed by one survivor, who said that she prayed for hours under the rubble, for God to spare her life. She is an only daughter and did not want her parents to suffer the loss of their only child.

After initial coordination problems due to the widespread destruction of the infrastructure, it seems as if essential supplies, such as water, food, medicine, are beginning to reach those in such desperate need. The short-term focus must be to provide basic necessities, save lives and prevent disease, and thus give hope to the survivors.

2. What has been the response of the Church’s charitable agencies?

Following the appeal of Pope Benedict for the mobilization of the Church’s agencies, the response has been immediate and continues unabated. We have heard of local Churches as far afield as Russia, Corea, Taiwan, and ecclesial organizations, such as the national Caritas (Germany, Austria, Ireland, France, Italy, to name but a few), the Order of Malta, St. Vincent de Paul, Cross International Catholic Outreach, Jesuit Relief Services, sending personnel and concrete assistance.

Our Pontifical Council Cor Unum is in daily contact with Catholic Relief Services (“CRS”), the international relief and development agency of the US Bishops, whom we have asked to coordinate the Church’s relief efforts. CRS has long worked in Haiti with over 300 staff. It has been holding ongoing on-site meetings with the Haitian Episcopal Conference, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Auza, and several foreign Catholic charitable agencies, now operating in Port-au-Prince, to assess and respond to the disaster. 12 sites have now been jointly determined as distribution points for further provision with security and operational assessment already undertaken. Personnel and supplies from neighboring Santo Domingo and other nations continue to arrive through a variety of Catholic aid organizations.

3. What are the immediate needs?

The Apostolic Nuncio in Haiti is keeping us informed. He has been out on the streets of Port-au_Prince, visiting the survivors to bring the consolation of the Holy Father and a word of hope, rooted in our faith in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus the Lord. Individuals, governments, and agencies are pouring money into Haiti, and this is good and must continue. But they need the hope that does not disappoint and this comes from trust in God. It has been impressive for me to hear hymns of praise coming from the hospitals and survival camps. We must continue to pray and intercede for our suffering brothers and sisters.

Families have been broken and there are thousands of orphans. Many have lost their homes and are fleeing to the villages in search of shelter. Archbishop Auza writes to us, asking for such basic necessities as a radio for communication, an ambulance. “The need is endless,” he says. He wants donations through Cor Unum to be used for medicines, water and food. Many priests and religious are coming to the Nunciature, looking for these things for their people.

4. What are the long-term needs?

Like the Good Samaritan, the Church shall stay with the people long after the earthquake is not the lead story in the news and people are no longer rushing to help. To this end, we are pleased that governments and institutions are looking to provide aid on an extended basis. Just two days ago, an international donors conference was held in Santo Domingo, “United for a better future for Haiti,” exactly for this purpose. This morning, the President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Mr. Luis Alberto Moreno, who was in Santo Domingo and Haiti these days, is coming to meet with me. I shall impress upon him the need to care in for the Haitian people – the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere – in the short and long-term.

So, even though the situation remains tragic and concrete help continues to be needed, we can already see good emerging. Nations, organizations, individuals are being moved to give of themselves spiritually and materially to help the poor and suffering. It is a sign that God never abandons the cry of the poor.