Backgrounder: The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Haiti: A History of Solidarity

Monday, December 12 2011

haiti180% of the Haitian population is Catholic. Structurally, the Catholic Church in Haiti is composed of 10 dioceses and two archdioceses. Their Bishops are assisted by the Episcopal Conference of Haiti.   Pope John Paul II visited the Haitian people in 1983.  The Church in Canada has a long-standing history of solidarity and exchange with Haiti. This includes the presence of Canadian religious there, as well as projects involving the Canadian Religious Conference, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). In turn, Canada has been enriched by the contributions of Haitian immigrants.

The Haitian Episcopal Conference on occasion is represented at the Meetings of the Bishops of the Church in America, which bring together representatives from the CCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) who meet annually to discuss common issues.  The situation in Haiti has often been a topic, including in 2010, following the January earthquake; in 2004, following a coup d’état; and in 2000 in a common effort to encourage the richer nations to cancel the debts of the world’s poorest countries.

haiti2Over the years, the CCCB has also undertaken a number of its own interventions in solidarity with Haiti. These include a letter of solidarity to the Episcopal Conference of Haiti following the cancellation of the November 1987 Haitian presidential election; an October 1991 letter calling on the Government of Canada to intensify its efforts to assist in the peaceful resolution of a violent crisis in Haiti;  a 1992 letter to the Government of Canada following a violent attack on the Most Reverend Willy Romélus, then Bishop of Jérémie in Haiti; a 1994 letter congratulating the Government of Canada for its support of the legitimate Government of Haiti and its pledge of $30 million in aid to the country; and a 2004  letter of support to the President of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti.

The CCCB has also assisted the Church in Haiti with financial contributions through joint campaigns with CCODP. These include the Share Lent and the special emergency campaign following the January 2010 earthquake, which raised $20 million in Canadian Catholic donations.  Other contributions made directly by the CCCB have included funding assistance for evangelization and formation sessions in Hinche, Les Cayes, Port-au-Prince, Jérémie, and Gonaïves, as well as a $20,000 donation for the installation of solar panels in the Grand Séminaire Notre-Dame, in Port-au-Prince.    

The President of the CCCB, Archbishop Richard Smith, its Vice-President Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, and Assistant General Secretary Mr. Bede Hubbard will participate in a solidarity mission to Haiti which is being organized by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, December 14-21, 2011.