VATICAN CITY, Rome, Monday February 24, 2014 – Haiti’s first-ever cardinal, Chibly Langlois, has vowed to “bring the reality” of his earthquake-ravaged country “into the heart of the Vatican.”
Langlois was one of 19 who were formally appointed to the Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals on Saturday at a ceremony at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The 56-year-old was first named in an announcement by Pope Francis on January 12, the anniversary of the massive earthquake that shattered Haiti and from which the French-speaking Caribbean country is still struggling to recover.
Four years after the 2010 earthquake killed 250,000 people and devastated the country and its infrastructure, nearly 170,000 Haitians remain homeless and impoverished.
Given the special significance of the day for all Haitians, Langlois said he was moved by the pontiff’s choice of date for the announcement.
“We understand that with this nomination the pope wants to invite us to cultivate joy even in the midst of sadness. The joy, the suffering, the pain of the Haitian people are equally those of the Haitian church,” Langlois said.
The country is also embroiled in political strife, with President Michel Martelly currently in talks with the opposition and parliament to end a months-long stalemate over holding parliamentary elections, which were due to take place two years ago.
Critics from both the opposition and the church have lambasted the government for the slow pace of reconstruction after the quake.
Langlois, as the head of the beleaguered country’s Catholic Church, is involved in both issues: which he refers to as a “major economic crisis” and a “political and institutional crisis.”
He vowed to share his knowledge of the situation with Rome.
“I’m bringing the reality of the Haitian church to the heart of the College of Cardinals,” Langlois said, adding that the church’s reality “is also Haiti’s reality.”
“I am going to share with the pope the reality of Haiti: speak to him of our riches, of our weaknesses and our limits.
“We are in a society where there are many difficulties on the economic front. And the church is not from outer space; it is part of reality. What the people experience, the church experiences as well,” he noted.