HAITI: ‘Pray for peace on this ‘Friday of Sorrows’

Marian sanctuary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Marian sanctuary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Latin American Church leaders have called on the faithful to make tomorrow (Friday 22nd March) a day of fervent prayer for Haiti – backing the Haitian bishops’ plea for an end to the violence plaguing the country.

Three Latin American Catholic bodies asked people around the world to “join the cry of the Haitian people so that [it] may be heard on earth and in heaven.”

The joint statement by the Episcopal Conference of Latin America (CELAM), the Latin-American Confederation of Religious (CLAR) and Caritas Latin America highlighted that the Friday before Palm Sunday is “celebrated in many communities as the Friday of Sorrows or Mary at the Foot of the Cross”, adding: “It is the Virgin who associates herself with the sorrows of her Son.

“It is Mary who [is] grieving today for her Son in the face of the Haitian people crucified by misery and violence.”

The statement asked for prayers of intercession “to her, mother of tenderness and mercy… so that the Lord may smooth the paths, dispose the hearts, move the wills, so that our brothers and sisters may soon enjoy a full life.”

The statement by Latin American Church leaders followed the call of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference on Monday (18th March) for an end to the ongoing violence.

The Haitian bishops encouraged those in positions of power to find a way to end the crisis and restore peace and security.

The bishops called for the establishment of an inclusive transitional government to guarantee national unity, stressing that all Haitian society should support the “dream of a country without violence”.

The statement said, quoting Pope Francis: “We invite all Haitians without distinction not to fuel violence, because ‘violence begets violence, hatred begets more hatred and death begets more death…

“Every violent death committed against a human being is a wound in the flesh of humanity. Every violent death diminishes us as people.”

“Let us therefore put an end to these violent acts that cause much suffering.”

The statement – signed by all 10 of the country’s Catholic bishops – concluded: “May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we invoke in Haiti as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, come to our aid and through her intercession may God raise us up and deliver us from evil!”

Haiti has been devastated by armed conflict. This was triggered by a long-running political crisis which was further inflamed by the murder of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

More than three million children need emergency aid and 362,000 people are internally displaced, with half of the population living in poverty, according to CELAM and CLAR.

Church personnel are also at risk of violent attacks – killings and abductions of clergy and religious have been reported in the country, including a priest who was seized in Bicentenaire District on 23rd February.

Catholic charity Aid to the Church in need (ACN) is encouraging its supporters to join in the day of prayer.

ACN’s help in Haiti includes Mass stipends for priests, support for seminarians and aid for religious Sisters.

With thanks to Maria Lozano