On January 16, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum spoke with ZENIT about the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude quake that hit the country Tuesday, and destroyed its capital of Port-au-Prince. In order to know what the Church has been doing, here is a portion of that interview.
ZENIT: What is the immediate need?
Cardinal Cordes: ....Benedict XVI has called on all people of good will to be generous and concrete in their response in order to meet the immediate needs of our suffering brothers and sisters in Haiti (General Audience, Jan. 13, 2010). It is important that we are giving tangible help through the charitable agencies of the Catholic Church. Much is being organized and encouraged in this regard throughout the world.
ZENIT: What is being done concretely by the Holy See/Pontifical Council Cor Unum?
Cardinal Cordes: ....Several Catholic organizations have already begun working, offering especially personnel with expertise at this stage (e.g. the national Caritas of Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Austria, the Order of Malta). Cross International Catholic Outreach is at work through its office in Port-au-Prince. We are receiving daily updates from them all.
Whenever a situation like this arises, it is the custom for one agency to coordinate relief efforts. To this end, in the hours following the earthquake, our Pontifical Council was in direct contact with Catholic Relief Services. We asked that it coordinate the response at this stage in view of the 300 plus staff it has in Haiti, its long history of over 50 years in the country, as well as its expertise in dealing with similar disasters worldwide and its resources. The President of CRS has assured us: "We stand committed and ready to inform and coordinate the response of the Church in whatever way possible so that her response may be an effective sign of God's love."
ZENIT: How much does people's faith help them through a catastrophe such as this?
Cardinal Cordes: Our Pontifical Council Cor Unum had already planned that the next meeting of the Populorum Progressio Foundation would take place in Santo Domingo this coming July. The foundation, established by Pope John Paul II, is to help the indigenous peoples of the Latin American and Caribbean countries. In the past, we have given much help to Haiti and we shall continue to do so. Of course, our spiritual closeness is of primary importance. We shall be certain to celebrate the Holy Eucharist on that occasion with bishops coming from different countries of Latin America and the Caribbean....Without faith, this tragedy would turn into a complete disaster. That is why it will be essential for our brothers and sisters to pray together; experience Christians worldwide sharing their burdens as members of God's family; know the compassion of our Holy Father.
ZENIT: Will good come from this tragedy?
Cardinal Cordes: This is a disaster that has caused immense loss of life and suffering. Many years will be needed for the nation to be rebuilt physically and the people to recover in their spirits. For this reason, the Church must remain present even as others move away.
But already we see good rising from the ruins. The eyes of the world are being open to the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, whose long suffering was all but forgotten. This tragedy shows that we depend on each other and must care for our suffering brothers and sisters, just as we did during the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. So we must ensure that the necessary assistance now being shown to Haiti continues in the long-term....
Let us continue to remember the people of Haiti with our prayers and assistance.