NEW YORK – The president of the U.S. bishops conference expressed his “heartfelt prayers for the people of Haiti who are mourning the loss of loved ones and are suffering” after an earthquake hit the Caribbean nation early on Aug. 14.
More than 1,200 people died and over 5,700 people were injured as of Aug. 15.
“We stand in solidarity with the Church in Haiti in offering our prayers, in a particular way this weekend as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin,” said Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB, in a statement.
“In these moments of continued trial, may you feel the comfort, compassion, and embrace of our Blessed Mother,” Archbishop Gomez continued. “Our Lady of Perpetual Help, patroness of Haiti, intercede for us!”
The epicenter of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit 7.5 miles northeast of the city of Saint-Louis du Sud, 78 miles west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, at 8:29 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey.
The USGS put the earthquake in its “red alert” category. A notice on its website about the earthquake indicates that “high casualties are probable and the disaster is likely widespread.”
Archbishop Gomez said in the statement that the U.S. bishops offer their prayers to Archbishop Launay Saturné, the president of Haiti’s bishops conference, and to “all those who tirelessly serve the faith communities in Haiti.”
Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, the first Haitian cardinal, was injured in the earthquake, though reports indicate his injuries are not life-threatening. Images showed his residence severely damaged and people searching through the rubble in the aftermath of the earthquake.
"On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I wish to express my heartfelt prayers for the people of #Haiti who are mourning the loss of loved ones and are suffering from the destruction caused by the earthquake that took place this morning." – @ArchbishopGomez (1/5)
— U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) August 14, 2021
One priest and two employees died at the Les Cayes priestly residence, Akim Rikonda, director for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Haiti, told Catholic News Agency.
The earthquake hit the Caribbean nation at a time when it’s still dealing with the aftermath of President Jovenel Moïe’s assassination last month. It has also been struggling to rebuild after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 220,000 people, injured 300,000, and displaced an estimated 1.5 million on Jan. 12, 2010.
Archbishop Gomez, in the statement, encouraged anyone looking to assist Haiti to contact Catholic Relief Services. The Archdiocese of Miami, which has a large Haitian population, posted a link to the Catholic Charities of Miami website where donations can be made to assist those affected.
Hours after news of the earthquake broke, President Joe Biden authorized an immediate U.S. response and named USAID Administrator Samantha Power as the senior U.S. official to lead the effort.
“In what is already a challenging time for the people of Haiti, I am saddened by the devastating earthquake that occurred in Saint-Louis du Sud, Haiti, this morning,” Biden said in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to all those who lost a loved one or saw their homes and businesses destroyed.”
During his Sunday Angelus in Rome, Pope Francis also expressed his condolences for the people of the country.
“I want to express my closeness to the dear people hard hit by the earthquake,” Pope Francis said. “While I lift up my prayer to the Lord for the victims, I extend my word of encouragement to the survivors, hoping that the interest of the international community to help might move toward them. May the solidarity of all alleviate the consequences of the tragedy!”
Editor’s Note: For full coverage on the situation in Haiti, head to Haiti Earthquake 2021