Memorial Mass for the Haitian Earthquake Victims

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The earthquake in Haiti has given us much cause to think and pray for the victims of this tragedy in Haiti and for those who suffer because of the loss of their relatives and friends. Perhaps, it also leads us to wonder why earthquakes occur. From a scientific view, seismologists can tell us how and why they happen. That is not a satisfactory answer because, somehow, we view natural disasters as part of the problem of evil that humankind has struggled to understand since its very beginning.

The problem of evil was described by a pagan philosopher named Epicurus in about 300 B.C. It is a famous paradox titled, “The Riddle of Epicurus” that describes how natural religion tries to deal with the problem of evil. The riddle says, “If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to, then He is not omnipotent. If He is able, but not willing, then He is malevolent. If He is both able and willing, then whence cometh evil? If He is neither able nor willing, then why call Him God?”

Unfortunately, natural religion somehow sees God as the source of evil, since He does not stop it from happening. The only solution that we know as Christians is that the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ brings about our redemption. We cannot blame God for evil, nor for natural disasters. Only with the eyes of faith can we understand the problem of human suffering and its redemptive quality when it is joined to the sufferings of Jesus Christ who through His sufferings redeemed the world. We cannot forget St. Paul’s words to the Colossians when he said, “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church.”

The reconstruction efforts will take years. The infrastructure of the civil society and the Church are in shambles. It will take massive aid, patience and time to put back in order what has been taken down by this earthquake. The most generous response of the people of Brooklyn and Queens has been heartwarming. To date, 161 parishes have responded for a total of $1,030,000 collected thus far from the Diocese of Brooklyn. As my letter asking for aid stated, “the monies collected will be distributed for both relief and reconstruction efforts.”

Whenever we confront evil and try to understand it, we are putting out into the deep because it is so difficult with our limited human understanding to dissect a problem that is so rooted in our human nature that we are blinded to the correct understanding of evil. It is only the light of faith that can bring us to understand that Christ is the Light of the World and that His suffering has given meaning to all human suffering. It helps us to understand that God does not cause evil, but permits it as it afflicts our human nature touched by Original Sin but redeemed by Jesus Christ.
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Homily of the Most Reverend Guy Sansaricq
Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn

On this day that marks the first month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, I would like to thank Bishop DiMarzio who has called the whole diocese to gather in Prayer for Haiti.
I would like to thank also all who have responded to the call although not born in Haiti. You are demonstrating by your simple presence that you possess deep in your heart the sense that we all are one in Christ Jesus. When a member of the body hurts, the whole body shares the pain. The response of the international community to the plight of the Haitian people is tremendous. While material and monetary gifts are essential, urgently     needed and very much appreciated, spiritual support in form of prayer is equally important. That is why your presence is so much appreciated.

Scientists have clearly demonstrated the cause of the earthquake. There is a fault line that stretches from Jamaica to the Dominican Republic. It is called the Enriquillo fault line. Port-au-Prince is situated in the center of that break line that makes the area particularly vulnerable to earthquake. Port-au-Prince was destroyed in 1751 at a time when it was not much populated. For the past two hundred and fifty years, only minor shakes have occurred every so many years. As a matter of fact, a Haitian Geologist predicted two years ago the eventuality of a major seismic event. Unfortunately no one paid attention to his warning.

The disaster beyond description produced by the January 10th earthquake raises many questions that we cannot escape.
The rest of the sermon will be in Creole. The thoughts that were shared were the following:
a)      Natural disasters are the results of the forces of nature. They are not to be interpreted as punitive actions of God against bad people.
b)      Besides earthquakes there are large numbers of other natural disasters such as
volcanic eruptions, mudslides, tsunamis, hurricanes.
There are also the men produced disasters like wars, genocides, holocausts…etc
c)      They help us realize the precariousness of human life. They open our eyes on the
fact that the earth is not our permanent dwelling place.
d)      They call us to repent and open a new chapter in history, one based on true

May this horrific earthquake that has caused the tragic death of 250 000 people and destroyed the homes of more than one million people prompt us:
a)      To renew our efforts in prayer, generous donation and reflection to initiate  thousands of original ways in support of the brothers and sisters who are victims of this disaster.
b)      To realize that this is going to be a long-term effort.
Who will rebuild the destroyed parishes, the collapsed Catholic schools and institutions, the churches and the Cathedrals if not us the Catholic People?
c)      Together let us by the grace of God open a new chapter in Haitian history and in
Church History!
After the great flood, there was the rainbow. We hope the sun will rise on better days!