HAITI: Pastoral work disrupted by violence – but churches are still full

Mobs on the streets of Haiti. (© U.S. Government / U.S. Marine Corps)
Mobs on the streets of Haiti. (© U.S. Government / U.S. Marine Corps)

Haiti is on the brink of a civil war, with many roads blocked and Church personnel facing the threat of abduction, making it difficult for clergy to travel and minister to the faithful, according to the country’s most senior bishop.

Nowhere in the country is completely safe and pastoral work is “very badly affected” – but people’s faith remains strong, Archbishop Max Leroy Mésidor of Port-au-Prince, President of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Archbishop Mésidor said: “There is a real danger of civil war breaking out…

“The armed gangs act like an organised army… The police cannot keep up with them.”

ACN has reported a number of abductions of clergy and religious in Haiti this year.

Archbishop Mésidor said: “There are kidnappings everywhere…

“Everyone is afraid, including the religious. As soon as you leave Port-au-Prince, you are in danger.

“The gangs even come into the churches to kidnap the people there.”

The archbishop added that he struggles to carry out his clerical duties “because one must cope with daily life – and this daily life consists of suffering, violence, gunfights, poverty and deprivation…

He said: “I cannot visit two-thirds of my diocese because the roads are blocked.

“To reach the south of the diocese, I must take a plane. I have not been to the cathedral for two years…

“The last celebration I was able to do in the cathedral was the Chrism Mass. It was full…

“But from the Agnus Dei until the end of the service shots were ringing out. We could see the smoke rising nearby.”

He underlined that the faithful “show resilience despite their suffering… They are used to suffering – even when, as now, the suffering is on a terrible scale.”

The archbishop added that seminarians and catechists “persevere” and “brave the danger” because they “wish to fulfil a mission”.

He stressed the importance of bishops working together, saying: “We must bear our cross and follow Christ – especially during this time of Lent.

“We persevere and we count on the prayers and solidarity of the people.”

He added: “The most important thing is that the Church continues to bring people together despite all the difficulties.

“Through sermons or spiritual exercises for young people, we try to rekindle their hope, to get them to organise themselves and not sink into resignation.”

He expressed his gratitude for ACN’s help, without which “it would be very difficult for the Church to function” because “priests receive almost no salary and many of the faithful are impoverished”, and “the wealthy have gone abroad.

“I would like to thank all the benefactors. We keep them in our prayers, and we ask the Lord to protect them.

“Do not forget us. May God bless you all.”

ACN’s support in Haiti includes formation, retreats and other programmes for seminarians, religious and lay people, as well as Mass stipends for priests and emergency aid for religious Sisters.


With thanks to Sina Hartert