"Ten days is enough," bishops say, in latest attempt to win freedom for hostages, including five priests.
The Catholic Church in Haiti is in the midst of a “strike” of sorts to protest the continuing insecurity in the country.
On Tuesday, Haiti’s bishops called for all Catholic schools, priests, congregants, universities and all other Catholic institutions, except hospitals and health centers, to cease operations for three days. They also called for intensified prayers for the release of five priests and two nuns, as well as two lay people who were kidnapped on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince April 11.
One lay person that was part of the group reportedly was released because of health reasons.
The only activity the bishops would like to see during the three days is Mass being offered on April 21 and 22, “in order to implore God for the release of the abducted people, the conversion of the kidnappers, the salvation of Haiti.” They invited priests to make the Litany of Divine Mercy a part of the daily liturgy.
On April 23, at midday, all churches across the island are set to ring their bells and expose the Blessed Sacrament. “That same Friday, at three o’clock, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy will be recited in all parishes, followed by the celebration of Holy Mass for the closing of the day,” the Catholic leaders said in a statement.
The bishops invited Catholics to pray “so that each responsible person, each authority of the country keeps its commitments,” and “that the power of the Resurrection of Christ triumphs over all the forces of darkness and death which prevent us from living as children of God.”
Kidnapping has become a daily occurrence in the Caribbean country, which for years has faced a growing wave of insecurity. But the taking of five priests at once shocked the nation. Captors are still demanding $1 million for their release of the group, which includes members of the Society of Priests of St. Jacques, the Archdiocese of Cap Haitien, Haitian and French nationals.
They were abducted in the town of Croix-des-Bouquets, near the capital city, Port-au-Prince, as they were on their way to the installation of a new parish priest.
One of the lay captives was released because she was sick, according to a radio interview broadcast on Monday of a man who claimed to be the leader of the kidnap gang, the Associated Press reported:
The man, who identified himself as Lanmò San Jou of the 400 Mawozo gang, told Radio Mega that the French nationals are among the most important hostages: “If Haiti is like this, it’s because of the French.”
“The alleged gang leader said he wants restitution from France and that he would stop feeding the people he kidnapped,” AP said. “He declined to say how much ransom he was seeking.”
Seeking to explain San Jou’s reasoning, the wire service explained that France had demanded “huge indemnity payments” after granting Haiti independence in 1804.
Fr. Paul Dossous, superior general of the Society of Priests of Saint-Jacques, told Paris-based Franceinfo in an interview published last week that Church authorities “try to stay in touch with the kidnappers as much as possible, and that while he worries about those kidnapped because some of them are sick, he doesn’t foresee canceling any missions,” AP said. “We are not men to run away from a situation,” he remarked.
Haiti’s bishops lamented that in spite of “all the appeals of the Church, bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay faithful, civil society organizations, in Haiti and abroad,” the kidnappers “do not seem to listen to reason.”
“Faced with this situation,” they said, “we must act as Christians and as consistent citizens, sons and daughters of the same nation.”