On Thursday morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Haiti. They have just completed their "ad limina" visit during which, the Pope called on them to work for change in Haiti.
The Holy Father mentioned John Paul II's visit to Haiti 25 years ago for the country's national Eucharistic congress entitled "Something has to change here". But, Pope Benedict asked, "have things changed?" And he recalled how the country has known "painful moments: ... divisions, injustice, poverty, unemployment, factors that are a source of profound concern to people".
"I ask the Lord to give all Haitians, especially those who bear social responsibility, the courage to promote change and reconciliation so that all the inhabitants of the country may enjoy dignified living conditions, and benefit from the fruits of their land in an ever-increasing solidarity".
"I cannot forget those people who find themselves obliged to travel to the neighboring State (Dominican Republic) in order to satisfy their needs", said Pope Benedict, and he called upon the international community "to continue and to intensify its aid to the Haitian people so that they can take the reins of their own future and development".
One of the primary areas of concern is for the Church in Haiti is the crumbling of the family.
Addressing "the instability of the family structure," Pope Benedict said that he sees multiple contributing factors. The destruction of the family is caused by “the crisis the country is experiencing, but also to the evolution of behavior and to the progressive loss of a sense of marriage and the family" which comes about "when other forms of union are placed on the same level," he said.
Because "society and the Church largely develop from the family" Benedict XVI told the prelates, attention to this area of pastoral activity is "vital because it is the primordial place for the education of the young. I encourage you, then, to support married couples and young families with adequate formation, also teaching them respect for life".
The Holy Father then turned his attention to priests, encouraging the bishops "to look to their permanent formation and to maintain fraternal relations with them" in order "to help them exercise a fruitful ministry". Bishops should also invite priests "to avoid political compromise" and "to base their apostolate on a relationship with Christ, and on the Eucharistic mystery which reminds us how He gave Himself for the salvation of the world".
On the subject of seminarians, Benedict XVI called on the prelates "to work with the episcopates of other countries to identify experienced formators, who lead exemplary priestly lives and may accompany over the various stages of their formation ... the future priests needed for the dioceses in your country. Upon this the future of the Church in Haiti depends. May the local Churches", he exclaimed, "hear this call and undertake to send you priests to help you in the formation of seminarians!"
"Despite their limited means, Catholic schools play an important role and are appreciated by the authorities and by the people" said the Pope, noting that "the personality matures through education, just as it does through the recognition of essential values and the practice of virtue. Also in this way, a concept of the human being and of society is handed down", he said.
Finally, the Holy Father praised the work of religious and volunteers "who work with the poorest, the disinherited of society, demonstrating that, by fighting poverty, we also fight the numerous social problems that depend upon it".