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Haitian Archbishop Killed in Earthquake, Pope Calls for Prayers, Emergency Aid

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, Jan. 14, 2010, (Zenit):

Pope Benedict XVI is appealing for aid for victims of the earthquake that devastated Haiti and killed the archbishop of the Port-au-Prince Archdiocese.

Archbishop Joseph Serge-Miot was reported dead after the Tuesday earthquake that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale.

Father Andre Siohan, a missionary of the French St. Jacques Society, e-mailed the Missionary International Service News Agency a few hours after the quake, which was centered less than 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, the country's capital.

"Nou atè nèt," the priest wrote, which means in Creole, "We are on our knees."

"I went to the city center this morning to visit the other religious communities," he said. "The area is completely devastated and there are thousands of victims." "It is terrible," Father Siohan said.

The missionaries reported finding the lifeless body of the 61-year-old archbishop under the rubble. The Haitian-born prelate had been leading the archdiocese since 1997. The report noted that there was also no sign of the vicar general, Monsignor Seguiranno Benoit.


Father Pierre Le Beller, another missionary of the society, told the news agency, "Our confreres, some seminarians, friends and neighbors of the Pacot area are currently sheltered in tents in the gardens of our house, damaged by the quake."

"We fear an extremely elevated number of injured," he said.

The missionary, who served 30 years in Haiti but is currently in France, explained that due to poor hospital services in the country, "the real emergency is that of treating" the wounded.

He continued: "The accounts are tragic, screams and crying can be heard among the injured.

"We ask ourselves how many people are trapped under the rubble. They told us that the cathedral collapsed, as also the national palace and the five-story U.N. building."

The missionary news agency reported that Father Le Beller had "difficulty continuing," as he spoke about the destruction of the Caritas Center that he personally founded for working with street children.

Father Siohan affirmed: "We are all well, but some of our seminarians are missing. "Some are injured, but some are maybe dead."

The St. Jacques Society, founded in 1966 by Archbishop François Poirier, head of the Port-au-Prince Archdiocese at the time, has some 20 missionaries working in Haiti as well as 20 seminarians. "Pray for us," Father Siohan begged.


Today in his general audience, the Pope also called for prayers for victims of the "dramatic situation currently being experienced in Haiti."

"My thoughts go in particular to the population hit just a few hours ago by a devastating earthquake which has caused serious loss of human life, large numbers of homeless and missing people, and vast material damage," he said.

The Pontiff invited "everyone to join my prayers to the Lord for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who mourn their loss."

He continued: "I give assurances of my spiritual closeness to people who have lost their homes and to everyone who, in various ways, has been affected by this terrible calamity, imploring God to bring them consolation and relief in their suffering.

"I appeal to the generosity of all people so that these brothers and sisters who are experiencing a moment of need and suffering may not lack our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community."

The Holy Father affirmed that the "Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population."

This quake, which was followed by 12 aftershocks ranging between a magnitude of 5.0 and 5.9, was the strongest in that region since 1770.

Although the death toll is uncertain, it is estimated that some 3 million people were affected by the disaster. There is concern that the country's impoverished economy will leave the people without adequate emergency services.


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