Prayers and Solace Among the Ruins

haitipic.jpgFrom this morning’s  NYT:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — With their churches flattened, their priests killed and their Bibles lost amid the rubble of their homes, desperate Haitians prayed in the streets on Sunday, raising their arms in the air and asking God to ease their grief.

Outside the city’s main cathedral, built in 1750 but now a giant pile of twisted metal, shattered stained glass and cracked concrete, parishioners held a makeshift service at the curb outside, not far from where scores of homeless people were camping out in a public park. The bishop’s sermon of hope was a hard sell, though, as many listening had lost their relatives, their homes and their possessions.

“We have to keep hoping,” said Bishop Marie Eric Toussant, although he acknowledged that he had no resources to help his many suffering parishioners and did not know whether the historic cathedral would ever be rebuilt. He said the quake had toppled the residences where priests stayed, crushing many of them.

Baptized at the cathedral, Jean Viejina, 68, said she had visited the church every Sunday morning for as long as she can remember, using it to help her endure what she described as a challenging life raising six children. Now, even this place of refuge, like so much in Port-au-Prince, was gone.

In a sign of the importance of churches in Haitian society, President Rene Preval called together religious and business leaders Saturday at the police station that has become his headquarters. He asked the churches to focus on keeping people fed, but gave little guidance on what the government would be doing.

“They are still trying to figure out what to do,” said Haiti’s Episcopal bishop, Zache Duracin. “I have not seen anything.”

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