WASHINGTON – Parishes across the United States have been asked to take up a second collection Jan. 16-17 to help ease “the terrible suffering of our brothers and sisters in Haiti” after a magnitude 7 earthquake.
Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of Catholic Relief Services, said in a Jan. 13 letter that the funds collected will help “respond to immediate emergency needs for such necessities as water, food, shelter and medical care, as well as to the long-term need to rebuild after widespread destruction, and to the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the church in Haiti.”
Archbishop O’Brien made a similar request to priests and pastoral life directors in the Archdiocese of Baltimore Jan. 13.
The Jan. 12 quake “has already claimed thousands of lives,” including that of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, and “has left millions without the basic necessities of life,” the letter from Cardinal George and Archbishop Dolan said. “Our faith compels us to pray for and reach out to our brothers and sisters in their time of suffering.”
CRS, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency, “is already mounting a major emergency response to this severe disaster and has committed an initial $5 million to fund relief efforts which are likely to go on for some time,” Cardinal George and Archbishop Dolan said.
The two leaders noted that the national collection for the church in Latin America is scheduled for the following weekend, Jan. 23-24.
“This collection is vitally important for our ability to respond to the pastoral needs of the church in Haiti and other parts of Latin America in the weeks and months ahead,” they said. “We urge that you use both of these opportunities to express our solidarity and our loving support for our brothers and sisters in Haiti and ask you not to substitute one collection for the other.”
In a video interview with Catholic News Service in Rome, where he was participating in events surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Pontifical North American College, Archbishop Dolan urged Catholics to “pray and sacrifice for these people who now need us more than ever.”
He said that after hearing news of the earthquake, he went to St. Peter’s Basilica to pray in front of Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” which depicts Mary holding the body of Christ after the crucifixion.
“Haiti is the broken and bloody body of Jesus in the arms of his Blessed Mother and crying out to the world for aid and assistance,” he said. “And (the disaster is) aggravated by the fact that Haiti is already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.”
The New York archbishop said the situation carries “a special urgency and gravity” because Haitians are “our neighbors,” the country is “highly Catholic” and many Haitians already live in the United States.
“We can’t let them down now,” he said. “We have to respond as generously as we can.”
Archbishop Dolan said all the funds collected in his archdiocese would be routed through CRS because “they don’t parachute in” when a tragedy occurs. “They’re already there, they know the terrain,” he said. “They are always your best source of hope and help.”
Many U.S. dioceses also announced their own special collections for the people of Haiti.
In Canada, Development and Peace, the official development and aid organization of the Catholic Church in Canada, has launched an emergency appeal to support humanitarian aid to the devastated country. The agency has committed a first pledge of $50,000 to Caritas Haiti, which operates 200 medical clinics in the country.