The apostolic nuncio for Haiti has announced that the reconstruction of churches destroyed by the January earthquake should start early next year. However, he emphasized that the Church’s first priority must be helping the disaster victims in a “chaotic” situation further hampered by corruption and selfishness.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza spoke about relief work in Haiti during a visit to the international headquarters of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Germany.
“First of all we have to look after the faithful, and then take care of the churches, which have to be built structurally better and safer,” he commented. As many as 70 percent of the buildings in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince were devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Thanking the charity for its support in the disaster and for its promise to support church reconstruction and educational programs, Archbishop Auza explained the situation in Haiti.
“The people are still traumatized. The parishes have been scattered, and over half the churches are destroyed,” he said.
Parish organizations built up over decades have dissolved after the disaster. While help is being provided, he said the situation is still “chaotic,” he told ACN News. “People have simply scattered. Some now live in camps, while others have moved out into the provinces. Others again have come into the city in search of work,” he added.
Schools will be a priority in reconstruction, the nuncio said, as this is an area where the Church takes her responsibilities “very seriously.” The Church provides over half of the schools in Haiti and according to the archbishop these are better than the state schools.
“For the Catholic Church, education and a Christian upbringing are the key to the true development of the country,” he remarked, lamenting a lack of funds for educational buildings and staff.
Archbishop Auza said that a lack of progress in reconstruction is due not only to lack of infrastructure and the collapse of government administration, but also widespread corruption. A selfish mentality still prevails, he reported.
The nuncio thanked ACN for its “indispensable assistance” in supporting pastoral work in Haiti, saying such work is needed to put people “back on their feet.”
ACN has received more than $5.1 million in donations for Haiti.