Nuncio send dramatic report from Haiti


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When the earthquake struck Haiti on 12 January, the Pope's special envoy to the island, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, had to immediately inform Pope Benedict about the disaster, including the fact that the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Archbishop Miot, and many staff, responsible for the day-to-day running of the archdiocese had been killed.

Events suddenly made Archbishop Auza the one to liaise on Haiti's behalf with the whole of the rest of the Church and the world. Not only would the Church need his help in coordinating relief efforts, but so would the UN and the many agencies which would rush to do what they could for the survivors of the devastating tragedy.

The essential initial assessment revealed that many priests, Religious and pastoral workers, those who would have automatically assumed some of the mammoth responsibility of supporting the shocked, traumatised and bereaved Haitian people had themselves been killed by the earthquake.

Fortunately, Archbishop Auza's house remained relatively undamaged and could, therefore, act as a coordinating centre for the Catholic Church to which 80% of Haitians belong. Fortunately, too, although the earthquake wrought catastrophic damage, it did not strike the whole island. Large parts of the country and the neighbouring Dominican Republic felt the aftershocks, but did not experience the devastation suffered by Port-au-Prince and its surrounding towns and villages.

We now know that approximately 230,000 people died during the earthquake and its aftermath, which also damaged or destroyed much of the Capital's infrastructure.

When news of the earthquake reached Britain, Missio-England and Wales (as also Missio-Ireland and Missio-Scotland), joined its 120 national offices across the world in launching an appeal for prayers and help for Haiti. Missio, the Catholic Church's official agency for the support of 1,069 dioceses across the developing world, is not an emergency aid organisation, although, on this occasion, it extended its remit to include the immediate needs. Also, Missio had already been present in Haiti for decades before the earthquake, supporting the Church as it worked to help the impoverished people. It already planned to be present for as long as Haitians would need support.

One of Missio's responsibilities is to assist every single seminary and seminarian in the developing world, including those in Port-au-Prince. Thus Archbishop Auza was an essential source of information. He replied as follows:

The situation

Both the National Major Seminaries (Theology and Philosophy) collapsed, killing 15 seminarians, one professor and some members of the personnel, as well as leaving a number of seminarians wounded, two or three of whom have had amputations. Many who were trapped under the rubble were saved after days, whiles some others were able to get out by themselves. There were 159 seminarians and 8 resident Formators and professors at the Theology Department, and 97 seminarians and 2 Formators at the Philosophy Department.

The conference of Bishops has decided that the 28 fourth year Theology seminarians will finish the academic year. They will be housed in tents and every facility will be in tents as well (classroom, kitchens etc). Then they will be ordained deacons during the summer.

For lack of facilities, the other theology seminarians will be sent back to their dioceses. Their respective Ordinaries and the professors will organise courses for them from time to time, but they will lose the academic year. This decision might still be modified, given the revolving situation as to financial resources and other considerations.
The 97 Philosophy seminarians will be sent back to their respective Dioceses. They too will lose the academic year.

Those in the pre-Philosophy years (15, I guess) belonging to the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince will be housed in accommodation still to be identified.

The needs

The seminaries and the seminarians lost everything. Nothing except some of the books in the library on the third floor was saved. So, the greatest needs of the seminarians are clothing, toiletries, tents to sleep in. Many of the seminarians have been sent back to their dioceses, but the dioceses are also extremely poor and in great need of assistance.

The putting into place of the tents to house the 28 fourth year theology seminarians, as well as to shelter the facilities attached (classrooms, kitchens, services etc.)

The board and lodging for the said seminarians, as well as for all those remaining in their dioceses. We still have to have an estimate on this. Most of the parishes in Haiti refuse to house the seminarians if the diocese does not pay something for board and lodging, because they cannot provide for their subsistence. Haiti was very poor before and even more so after the earthquake.

Purchase of Bibles and fundamental texts (Vatican II, Catechism of the Catholic Church etc.) The ones they had were all lost in the rubble.

The easiest, most flexible and fastest way to help these unfortunate seminarians is through financial aid that we can use according to the most urgent needs of the moment.'

The Archbishop added: ‘Thank you also for your efforts in favour of our traumatised seminarians. We believe that putting the seminarians back to "normal" life is a priority.

Nobody here (except very few of us!) wants to sleep inside buildings. That's another challenge we have to consider in rebuilding. Perhaps lower buildings and lighter materials?'

Monsignor John Dale, the National Director for Missio-England and Wales spoke for Missio worldwide: "Missio will stand alongside the Church in Haiti as it attempts to restore some sense of normality to shattered lives. We will be there to help Archbishop Auza and those who are working to care for the carers of the future. Missio will be there for as long as the people of Haiti need us and for however many years it takes."

You can donate to the Church in Haiti through Missio. For further information, please phone 020 7821 9755 or e-mail Monsignor John Dale at: or visit for website donations.