The Church in Haiti has been “painfully hit” by the earthquake along with the rest of the country, the Holy See’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva has said. He endorsed a “human rights approach” to respond to the disaster and pledged the Church’s aid to help Haitians to “a life of dignity.”
Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi’s comments came in an address to a special session of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council about recovery efforts in Haiti.
Noting the destruction of the Haitian earthquake, he offered his delegation's condolences for all the victims.
“The images of the collapsed cathedral in the capital, which have gone around the world, symbolize the situation of the Church in this majority Catholic country,” he continued. “The Church also has been hard and painfully hit by the death of many of its members, the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince and many religious, priests and seminarians. Schools, hospitals and clinics run by the Church have been destroyed.”
He added that a great number of social and pastoral workers also died while serving the Haitian people.
The emergency shows the “need and value of respecting human rights,” Archbishop Tomasi continued. The right to life, food, water, health development, and decent work were among the other rights “already largely absent” from the country.
The earthquake calls on the international community to respond to the needs of the Haitian people and to place these human rights at the basis of a reconstruction plan, he stated.
However, Archbishop Tomasi advised, the aid should be distributed with the principle of subsidiarity to give the Haitian people the capacity to rebuild their infrastructure and to assume their political and social responsibilities.
The archbishop noted that Pope Benedict XVI had appealed to the world’s generosity and had asked the international community to show “practical solidarity” and “effective support” for the disaster victims.
“The Catholic Church will not fail to take immediate action through her charitable institutions in order to meet the people's most urgent needs,” Pope Benedict had said.
Speaking to the U.N. in Geneva, Archbishop Tomasi reported that many Catholic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have launched rebuilding programs. Caritas Internationalis has received $33 million for relief work and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has already delivered $25 million in aid, he reported.
Describing the Church as an “integral part” of Haitian society, he said the Church will continue to collaborate in rebuilding, in promoting basic human rights, and in advancing the health and education of the Haitian people in their “just aspiration to a life of freedom and dignity.”