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Haiti crisis stirs concern at Vatican

Vatican's secretary of state Cardinal Angelo Sodano has issued a statement expressing grave concern about the political turmoil that is causing a serious humanitarian crisis in Haiti.

For his part, Pope John Paul II launched an appeal for Haiti at yesterday's Angelus in St Peter's Square. He urged "all Haitians to be courageous and humble when making decisions for the good of the country".

"While I encourage the work of the international community and ask the generous commitment of humanitarian organizations," he said, "I send my special blessing to the much loved Haitian people."

The BBC reports that US President George Bush has deployed US Marines to be the "leading element" in an international force to help stabilise Haiti. Early yesterday, Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide flew out of the country in an unmarked jet, following a three-week rebellion against him. There have been celebrations in some parts, but the capital Port-au-Prince is in the grip of near-anarchy.

Caritas Haiti Director Fr Wilnes Tilus said ten days ago: "The collapse of health services is making it extremely difficult to give medical assistance to the victims of the fighting. Vulnerable populations are cut off from food and their livelihoods by the conflict.

"The situation of anarchy, of institutionalised violence, and of insecurity contributes to worsening the already precarious situation for the people. At least 4 million Haitians, half of the population, already live in a situation of constant food insecurity. However, Haiti does not need a massive influx of food aid, which will cause long-term harm to its farmers."

Haiti Crisis Stirs Concern at Vatican (Zenit 27/2/04)
Pope prays for children, Haiti ( 29/2/04)
Bush sends US Marines into Haiti (BBC 29/2/04)
Haiti faces humanitarian crisis as civil war threatens (CAFOD 20/2/04)

Haiti faces humanitarian crisis as rebels continue insurgency (Ecumenical News International)
Caritas SOS warns 8.1 million Haitians face food shortage (CathNews 26/2/04)

30 Mar 2004