Blogging from the scene

New on the blog roll: Bishop Isao’s Memo, the blog of Msgr. Isao Kikuchi, bishop of Niigata, one of the dioceses hit by last week’s earthquake and tsunami. Bishop Kikuchi appeared on my blog before, with a quote about the Japanese Church’s intention to do their part in the relief of the stricken areas.

He blogs about the aftermath of the disaster in heavily-hit Sendai and the adjacent areas, and about his work with Caritas Japan and other Catholic relief agencies in the area. Interesting and current stuff!

Bishop Kikuchi is 52, and a member of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary society founded in 1875 by St. Arnold Janssen in Steyl, the Netherlands. He made his vows in 1985 and was ordained a priest for the missionaries in 1986. In 2004 he became the third bishop of Niigata.

After the horror, aid arrives

On the middle of the day after the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, relief efforts are swinging into actions. Among them the Catholic Caritas Internationalis, which has issued a call for donations for relief in the disaster zone. Go here to see how you can donate.

Most of the aid by Catholic charities will initially be organised from outside the disaster area. The Dioceses of Sendai, Saitama and Niigata, which were affected most, still struggle to restore communications and establish contact with parishes, offices and people. Yasufumi Matsukuma, working for the Japanese bishops’ conference, said, “In Tokyo, telephone lines are so busy that I cannot contact diocesan chancellor offices in Japan. Aftershocks have followed. The tsunamis are terrible and we cannot get any information concerning the church yet” (via UCA News and Catholic News Service).

Bishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi of Niigata and president of Caritas Japan, said that, although the Catholic community is very small, “we will not walk away from our commitment and our solidarity with the victims.”

As for Caritas’s activities at the moment, Fr. Bonnie Mendes of Caritas Asia, has said, “We are in constant contact with the Caritas Japan, which is monitoring the situation, the damage and the victims. We hope that there are not too many casualties. We expect to have a better understanding of the situation of displaced persons and their need to plan an emergency intervention.”

Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS

A new shepherd for Haiti

On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated much of Haiti, especially the capital Port-au-Prince, the Catholic Church makes an effort to continue to assist the hundreds of thousands victims. Robert Cardinal Sarah of “Cor Unum” is in the country to coordinate continued practical aid, and today Pope Benedict XVI gives the people of Port-au-Prince a new spiritual shepherd.

The previous archbishop of the city, Msgr. Joseph Miot, died in the earthquake, but now his successor has been named. It is Msgr. Guire Poulard, until today the bishop of Les Cayes, also in Haiti. A year-long vacancy of a see is not out of the ordinary, although it’s not the rule either, but this appointment is undoubtedly timed to coincide with the anniversary of the earthquake and the death of Archbishop Miot. In the overwhelmingly Catholic country, it will boost morale for many, and hopefully Archbishop Poulard, cooperating with the Catholic charities, and the American bishops coordinating those, can give a renewed sense of purpose to the people and the aid they still barely receive.

The archbishop-elect is the tenth bishop of Port-au-Prince. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1972. In 1988 he was appointed as bishop of Jacmel and in 2009 of Les Cayes.

At the same time as Msgr. Poulard’s appointment, the administrator of the remains of the cathedral, Msgr. Glandas Toussaint, was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Port-au-Prince. His titular see will be Senez, a former diocese in France that dates back to the fifth century.

Help Haiti

The earthquake that struck the area around Port-au-Prince in Haiti won’t be news to anyone anymore. The area looks quite devastated and I can only guess at the number of casualties. This poorest nation in the western hemisphere has no means at all to get back on its feet on short notice, so international aid is essential now.

Many charities have already appealed for donations. The BBC lists a few, with links to their websites where you can donate. First Things also has an extensive list of charities.

The Church in Haiti has also not escaped unscathed. The majority of the Haitians are Catholic and the communities and parishes that can have become relief centers. Sadly, the Haitian Church lost its primate, Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-Au-Prince (pictured), to the disaster.  The body of the 65-year-old prelate was found in the rubble of the archdiocesan offices.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the earthquake today.

“I invite everyone to join in my prayer to the Lord for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who are mourning their loss. I assure my spiritual closeness to people who have lost their homes and to all those affected in various ways by this calamity, imploring from God consolation and relief of their suffering.

“I appeal to the generosity of all people so that these, our 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 Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population”.

Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella organisation of Catholic charities, already has an emergency relief team in Port-au-Prince and is mobilising more people and means.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, patron of Haiti, I pray you; console and guide the people of Haiti in this dark hour. May they always experience the presence of the Father, and may those who have lost their earthly lives see Him from face to face. May those who risk their lives to help the victims succeed and rebuild society.

I also ask you to pray for the Church in Haiti, who has lost her spiritual father. May they not wander alone in the dark. May Archbishop Miot continue to be their shepherd in prayer, in the eternal light of the father.

I pray this through Christ Our Lord.

Amen.