U.S. Bishops’ President Sends Message of Support to Haitian Church, Committee Chairmen Outline Concr
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“I express the ongoing concern and support of our Conference for the Church and people of Haiti,” Archbishop Dolan said. “As we all gather to prayerfully remember the dead, as well as those still grieving and suffering, we call on the Lord’s unfailing presence, to strengthen us all and the bonds of communion and solidarity that have bound us together in the wake of this tragedy.”
Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans is traveling to Haiti for the commemorative Mass and will personally deliver Archbishop Dolan’s message. Also traveling with the U.S. bishops’ delegation are Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine, representing the board of Catholic Relief Services, and Patrick Markey, executive director of the USCCB National Collections office.
In remarks commemorating the first anniversary of the earthquake that killed almost 300,000 Haitians, three USCCB chairmen — Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, Archbishop José Gomez, coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles, and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami— urged the United States and the international community to “recommit” to the reconstruction of Haiti.
In his remarks, Bishop Hubbard, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, acknowledged that progress on rebuilding the devastated nation has been slow, but added that recovery from natural disasters was often a long and arduous process, even in rich nations. “Our own nation has seen the results of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and has learned that it takes time to fully recover from these catastrophes,” said Bishop Hubbard.
“Recovery and rebuilding in Haiti is particularly challenging, since Haiti suffers from grinding poverty and its effects, which makes a natural disaster that much harder to overcome.” Bishop Hubbard urged the introduction of legislation which would provide long-term development assistance to the beleaguered nation. “Congress should re-introduce legislation similar to the Haiti Empowerment, Assistance, and Rebuilding (HEAR) Act introduced in the last Congress.
This legislation would provide a framework to guide long-term, comprehensive assistance to Haiti,” he said. Bishop Hubbard also urged the U.S. and Haitian governments to "redouble their efforts to build capacity within Haiti and among Haitians so that committed funds can be used well and bring about real change in Haiti.” Archbishop José Gomez, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, cited a number of migration policies the United States should adopt to re-unify families and to continue the flow of remittances to Haiti.
These policies would include the reunification of families of medical evacuees to the United States; permitting in 55,000 Haitians who have been approved to legally reunite with their families in the United States, and a re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti, so that Haitians who arrived after the earthquake could receive protected status.“The adoption of these basic migration policies would keep families together and ensure that remittances, crucial to a country with little income generation, continue to flow to the stricken nation,” he said.
Archbishop Gomez also expressed concern about Administration plans to resume the deportation of criminal aliens to Haiti. “At a minimum, we should do no harm to Haiti. Deporting Haitians back to Haiti at this time, especially those with criminal backgrounds, could further de-stabilize the country.” In a collection taken up immediately after the earthquake, U.S. Catholics contributed more than $85 million to the reconstruction of the Church in Haiti and to immediate and long-term needs of the Haitian people.
This funding is currently being used to provide food and shelter for Haitians in need and to help re-build devastated churches and houses of formation. Archbishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the USCCB Haiti Advisory Group urged proper recognition and inclusion of the Church in the entire recovery and rebuilding effort. “The Church remains the one functioning network in Haiti that is able to get things done. The Haitian government and the international community ignore the Church to the detriment of the overall goal of helping Haitians help themselves.”
The three chairmen expressed their solidarity and affirmed that the Church in the United States will remain a source of support for the Church and people in Haiti. “We cannot and will not turn our backs on our brothers and sisters in Haiti,” said Archbishop Wenski. “As people of faith, we begin by remembering the dead and praying for those still recovering. At the same time, we will continue to provide support and caring to the Haitian people, and to remind our government of its role in working toward a strong and prosperous Haiti.”
Full text of letter from Archbishop Dolan to Archbishop Kebreau follows. Dear Archbishop Kebreau, On this first anniversary of the tragic earthquake that struck Haiti, I express the ongoing concern and support of our Conference for the Church and people of Haiti. As we all gather to prayerfully remember the dead, as well as those still grieving and suffering, we call on the Lord’s unfailing presence, to strengthen us all and the bonds of communion and solidarity that have bound us together in the wake of this tragedy.
Together with Catholic Relief Services and the many, many Church partnerships between our countries we remain united in prayer and steadfast through the difficult months and years ahead. We have achieved much so far and we will continue our dedication in fraternal love and support. United in prayer, we call upon our Mother of Perpetual Help: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for Haiti and for all of us your children; that the light that shines from your Son, Jesus, Our Lord, shine in the darkness, renewing our hope and urging us all to work towards a new Haiti where peace and justice and the love of God shall reign.
Faithfully in Christ, Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan Archbishop of New York President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops