Vatican City, 10 January 2015 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the conference “The communion of the Church: memory and hope for Haiti five years after the earthquake”, organised by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in collaboration with the bishops of Haiti. He began by thanking those who “in numerous ways came to the aid of the Haitian people following that tragedy which left in its wake so much death, destruction and desperation”. He emphasised that, “through the help given to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, we have shown that the Church is a great body, one in which the various members care for one another. It is in this communion, prompted by the Holy Spirit, that our charitable service finds its deepest motivation”.
“How much has been done toward rebuilding the country in these five years! Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that much remains to be done. All that has been done, and all that, with God’s help, will yet be done, rests on three solid pillars: the human person, ecclesial communion, and the local Church”, added the Pope, who went on to further explain these three pillars.
Firstly, “the person is at the centre of the Church’s activity. We have just celebrated Christmas, and it is precisely the Incarnation which tells us how important man is to God, who wished to assume our human nature. Our first concern must thus be that of helping everyone, each man and woman, to live fully as persons. There can be no true rebuilding of a country without also rebuilding each person in his or her totality. This means ensuring that the material needs of every person in Haiti be met, and that they be able to be free, to assume their responsibilities and to further their own spiritual and religious lives. The human person has a transcendent dimension, and the Church first of all cannot neglect this dimension, which finds its fulfilment in the encounter with God. Consequently, in this phase of reconstruction, humanitarian and pastoral activities are not in competition with one another, but rather are complementary: each needs the other, and together they help Haitians to be mature persons and Christians capable of devoting themselves to the good of their brothers and sisters”.
With regard to the second fundamental aspect, ecclesial communion, the Holy Father remarked that Haiti has seen “effective cooperation between many ecclesial institutions – dioceses, religious institutes, charitable organisations” alongside many laypersons, all of whom have carried out important charitable works. “This variety of agencies, and thus of ways of offering assistance and development, is a positive factor, since it is a sign of the vitality of the Church and of the generosity of so many. … But charity is even yet more authentic and more incisive when it is lived in communion. Communion shows that charity is not merely about helping others, but is a dimension that permeates the whole of life and breaks down all those barriers of individualism which prevent us from encountering one another. Charity is the inner life of the Church and is manifested in ecclesial communion. Communion between bishops and with bishops, who are the first ones responsible for the service of charity. Communion among the various charisms and charitable institutions, since none of us works for or by themselves, but rather in the name of Christ who has shown us the way of service. It would be a contradiction to live charity apart from one another! I invite you therefore to strengthen every possible means of working together. Ecclesial communion is reflected as well in collaboration with the civil authorities and international organisations, so that all may strive for authentic progress for the Haitian people, in the spirit of the common good”.
Finally, Pope Francis underlined the importance of the local Church, “because it is here that the Christian experience is made tangible. The Church in Haiti must become always more alive and fruitful, to witness to Christ and to make its contribution to the development of the nation”. In this regard, he encouraged the bishops of Haiti, all the priests and those engaged in pastoral work on the island to “inspire in the faithful renewed efforts in Christian formation and in joyful and fruitful evangelisation. The witness of evangelical charity is effective when it is sustained by a personal relationship with Jesus in prayer, in listening to the word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. This is the true 'strength' of the local Church”.
The Pope concluded by reiterating his heartfelt gratitude, and urging those present to continue along their path, assuring them of his prayers and his blessing.