Cardinal calls Haiti quake ‘heartbreaking’ tragedy

BRAINTREE -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley has expressed his sympathy and authorized a special collection for victims of an earthquake that rocked the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas in the late afternoon of Jan. 12.

The second collection to assist in relief efforts will be taken up at parishes throughout the archdiocese either on the weekend of Jan. 16 and 17 or Jan. 30 and 31. Funds from the collection will be sent to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to assist in relief efforts in Haiti.

“The human tragedy unfolding in Haiti is heartbreaking and it calls all of us to action to help the people impacted by the earthquake. We pray for those who have perished, for the injured, for the displaced and for relief personnel who are courageously working to assist the people of Haiti at this difficult and sad time. We ask God to bless Haiti and to be merciful in their hour of need,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a Jan. 13 statement.

In addition, Cardinal O’Malley announced that Catholic Charities Boston is actively working with the Haitian community to assist local families who have relatives impacted by the earthquake.

“The destruction witnessed has devastated a poor nation of people who cry out now for the help of the world community. The Archdiocese of Boston will do its part in assisting our brothers and sisters in Haiti,’’ the cardinal added.

The earthquake, which hit around 5:00 p.m., measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Joseph Serge Miot, 63, was killed in the quake, according to Catholic News Service reports. Various religious and cultural landmarks, including the Catholic cathedral there, were also severely damaged.

As of press time Jan. 13, those with ties to Haiti were still seeking to make contact with relatives and friends in the area of the quake. Most landline and wireless telephone connections were down around the Haitian capital.

Father Gabriel Michel, a Haitian priest who serves as a vicar at St. Angela Merici Parish in Mattapan, spoke to The Pilot on Jan. 13 from St. Angela’s.

“We don’t know what’s going on,” said Father Michel. “Any other information we get is from CNN or by the Internet.”

“In Haiti, everything is concentrated in Port-au-Prince,” Father Michel said. “If there’s trouble in Port-au-Prince, you don’t know what to do.”

Despite the spotty communications, Father Michael said he had been in touch with Father Jean Gabriel Charles, vicar at St. Matthew Parish in Dorchester who was in the northern part of Haiti during the earthquake.

“In the north they felt it, but there’s no real big damage,” Father Michel said.

Father Michel also reported that Father Garcia Breneville, parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish in Brockton who left Jan. 11 to visit Port-au-Prince, has been in touch with a family member through the Internet.

A group of parishioners from the archdiocese who arrived in Haiti for mission work just hours before the quake hit were also apparently unharmed.

Fathers Dick and Bob Butler, brothers and retired archdiocesan priests, along with ten local volunteers, were to visit Port-au-Prince and Fond-des-Blancs to distribute school and medical supplies.

The priests e-mailed Father Brian Clary, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Brookline later that night to let him know they were safe, according to Susan Crapo, administrative assistant at St. Mary’s. Crapo said they were about 40 miles from the capital when the quake struck.