In Haiti, the Church Responds to the Earthquake

September 02, 2021
The ruined Port-au-Prince cathedral

After burying the victims of the earthquake that struck Haiti, the Catholic Church must now come to the aid of the affected population, as well as take an inventory of the many destroyed or damaged churches.

200 churches were destroyed, and more than 150 damaged, and nearly 100 schools were damaged in the recent earthquake that struck Haiti.

“The damage is significant. The Catholic Church is on its knees in the same way as the population of the great South,” deplores Fr. Loudger Mazile, spokesperson for the Conference of Bishops of Haiti, who adds that “for the moment, temporary shelters are being manufactured for the celebration of Mass and the other sacraments. But churches that were not affected by the earthquake are being avoided by the faithful, due to strong aftershocks.”

For now, no official aid has been mobilized to help clear the areas where buildings have collapsed, which is evidence of the disorganization of state services on the island.

“At the local level, individuals have come to help the church with the clearance. The authorities have made promises, but there is not a systematic clearing operation. The Church will need help to clear the schools in order to facilitate the reopening of classes, and at the same time to clear the churches,” insists Fr. Mazile.

Not to mention the religious heritage contained in the destroyed or damaged churches, and which must be recovered before looters swarm in: “The Church will need help to collect and preserve her objects. For now everything is operating in emergency mode in order to find food, water, and medical care.

“We have a history, an identity that we cannot forget. We are going to try to organize ourselves in the great South in order to preserve the cultural goods which identify the community,” declares the priest, and he specifies that, in the destroyed churches of the communities of the English, of Cavaillon, and of Anse-A-Veau that collapsed, there were objects that were a century old, even two.

The Haitian Bishops' Conference plans to make an inventory and assess the damage in order to plan the reconstruction of places of worship. This will be done, as far as possible, identically, explains Fr. Mazile, who recalls that, during the earthquake that hit the island on January 12, 2010, the Church had already spent fifty million dollars towards reconstruction.

Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the earthquake of August 14 were the latest blows dealt to a poor and battered population, who have always been able to count on the Catholic Church to come to their aid.