Pope urges aid for Haitian quake victims

By  John Thavis, Catholic News Service
  • January 14, 2010
{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI prayed for victims of a massive earthquake in Haiti and urged the international community to provide generous assistance to the stricken population of the Caribbean nation.

The Pope made his appeal at the end of his general audience Jan. 13, some 12 hours after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Haiti, toppling buildings and causing widespread destruction.

A spokesman for Catholic Relief Services said the American charity was preparing for “thousands and thousands” of dead and injured people in the wake of the most devastating earthquake to strike Haiti in two centuries. Among those reported dead was Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince.

The Pope said he wanted to highlight the dramatic situation in Haiti following the “devastating earthquake, which resulted in serious loss of human life, a great number of homeless and missing, and enormous material damage.”

“I appeal to the generosity of everyone, so that our brothers and sisters receive our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community in this moment of need and suffering,” he said.

{mosimage}He said the Catholic Church’s charity organizations would immediately move into action to assist those most in need. In Canada, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and ShareLife, the charitable fundraising arm of the archdiocese of Toronto, launched emergency appeals to support humanitarian aid relief.

Development and Peace made a “first pledge” of $50,000 to Caritas Haiti, which operates 200 medical clinics in Haiti, to provide first-aid supplies, food, shelter and other basic necessities.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Haiti,” said D&P executive director Michael Casey.

All donations for Haiti collected by D&P will be sent directly to its partners in Haiti, Casey said. Donations can be made by phone (1-888-664-3387) and online (www.devp.org ) or by sending a cheque marked “Haitian Relief” to Development and Peace, 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd. W., 3rd Floor, Montreal, Que., H3G 1T7.

ShareLife is collecting donations through its web site (www.sharelife.org ) and by phone (416-934-3411 or 1-800-263-2595).

The Jesuit Refugee Service Canada is also organizing relief efforts and accepting donations at their web site (www.canadianjesuitsinternational.ca) and by phone (1-800-448-2148).

The Canadian government pledged $5 million in immediate emergency aid for shelter, medical services, food, relief items, security, water and sanitation services.

Haiti, the second largest recipient of Canadian development assistance in the Americas, is home to  about 6,000 Canadians. There are about 100,000 Haitian-Canadians in Canada, primarily in Quebec.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon said the government was in contact with “trusted humanitarian partners in the region” to identify humanitarian needs. Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella organization for Catholic charities, said it was mobilizing to provide immediate assistance. Humanitarian director Alistair Dutton was leading the emergency relief team.

“A priority for Caritas will be to assess the damage and our local capacity to provide aid to survivors of the quake,” Dutton said. “Caritas is experienced and prepared to respond to humanitarian disasters there as a result of the frequent hurricanes,” he said.

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