Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haitian church leaders buried

Late Port-au-Prince Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot and his vicar general, Msgr. Charles Benoit, have been buried following their funeral Sunday in the courtyard of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

They were remembered at a service, amid the apocalyptic ruins of the church, that did not pass without addressing the deeper questions facing this shattered nation, the Miami Herald Reports.

"A lot of Haitians are asking, 'Why did this happen?' Many are even asking, 'Why would God cause this?''' Auxiliary Archbishop Joseph Lafontant told a crowd that included Haitian President René Préval, diplomats and homeless church members.

"God wants to unite the people," he said. "It is a way to build a new Haiti."

Though the service honored two men, it served as a mass for the entire nation.

For the devout, the quake that claimed Haiti's archbishop did not test faith, but just strengthened it.

"God is only the hope because God caused this," said Odette Augusta, 40, a mother of seven who was left homeless.''

Chairman of the Catholic Relief Services' board and Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan was also a celebrant at the funeral, CRS adds.

More than 1,000 people came to the grounds of Port-au-Prince's cathedral and gathered in front of two coffins holding the remains of two Haitian clergy, Archbishop Miot and Monsignor Charles Benoit, the vicar general.

Among the mourners were CRS President Ken Hackett; Sean Callahan, CRS' executive vice president for overseas operations; CRS Haiti Country Representative Karel Zelenka; and Monsignor David Malloy, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Mourners stood under a sun that blazed down on the devastated capital city, where it is now confirmed that more than 100,000 people died.

Dolan read a message on behalf of Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, president of the USCCB. "The Church in the United States stands with you," the statement said.

"In our prayer, we recall that Jesus, too, wept before the tomb of one whom he loved," said the cardinal's message. "With you, we recall in trust that he is the resurrection and the life, offering himself to us and calling us to himself, even in our darkest hour. "

The cardinal also said the Catholic Church in the United States was committed to "doing everything we can so that you may rebuild and renew and begin again your lives of faith and family and service to Haiti. From the first days after the earthquake, our representatives of Catholic Relief Services have labored to bring food, water, medicine and hope."

Among the many celebrants was Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, representing the USCCB Secretariat for Latin America. Bishop Wenski, who attended the 1997 installation of Archbishop Miot in the now-ruined cathedral, said before he left for Haiti that the funeral Mass, "symbolically marks the funerals for all the numbers of countless people who have died under the rubble or are buried in unmarked graves."

In this Roman Catholic country, he was known as a mediator, the one many turned to in times of crisis.

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