Haitian bishop views 'human restoration' as Church's top priority
Bishop Saturné stressed that the Church's "humanitarian work has to go hand in hand with pastoral support."
By Antonia von Alten
YORK—Five years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, the local
Church has suffered a series of brazen attacks on Church properties. Between
November 2015 and February of this year there were more than 20 robberies of religious
communities, a bishop reported.
an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need,
Bishop Launay Saturné of Jacmel said that "we are calling on the state
authorities to ensure that human rights are guaranteed.” He credits a silent
march of hundreds of men and women religious and regular clergy last winter,
March 9—on a day when all religious communities kept their doors closed—with having
an impact: crime against Catholic properties have declined since.
2010 earthquake destroyed much of the Church's pastoral infrastructure in the
island nation. Since then, however, many chapels and churches have successfully
been rebuilt, the bishop reported, adding, however, that many structures remain
unstable and require major repairs. In many places, Mass is still being said in
makeshift settings, such as tents.
the earthquake, the situation in Haiti was difficult; after the earthquake it
was catastrophic. And even today by no means all the damage has been repaired.
There is still a great deal to do,” the prelate said. However, he stressed, “even
if the church buildings themselves have been destroyed, the faith of the
Catholics has not been destroyed."
Church is very concerned about the fact that many Haitians, especially young
people, continue to make their way to the Dominican Republic, on the eastern
side of the island, looking for economic opportunity. "The young people
are crucial to the future of our country,” said the bishop, who also stressed
that Haiti’s neighbor is far from welcoming to the newcomers--even threatenting mass deportation. Last month Pope Francis urged the bishops of
the Dominican Republic to provide pastoral and humanitarian care to the Haitian
Earlier this year, marking the anniversary of the earthquake that claimed
230,000 lives, Pope Francis said that “there can be no
true rebuilding of the country without the restoration of the human person in
his entire fullness." Proclaiming that the Haitian Church wants “to make
these words of the Pope a living reality,” Bishop Saturné stressed that the Church’s
“humanitarian work has to go hand in hand with pastoral support.” Key to this "human restoration"
is education, he said, calling more kindergartens and schools, as well as for
greater access to the nation’s fairly extensive network of schools and universities,
but many of which are too expensive for many ordinary Haitian young people.
“We need to support the young people
financially, so that they can attend these schools and universities. It is
shocking, for example, that although we have a university in Jacmel, many young
people cannot afford to attend it,” the bishop said. Almost 90 percent of Haiti’s 9 million people are
Christians, two-thirds of them Catholic.
ACN photo: Bishop Saturné