PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti’s new Roman Catholic cardinal celebrated his first Mass on Sunday, telling an audience of several thousand people there is a need to show compassion for others.
Cardinal Chibly Langlois reminded the crowd in this impoverished and predominantly Catholic nation of 10 million people that many would go hungry or wouldn’t be able to survive were it not for the kindness of others.
The nearly three-hour ceremony took place in a soccer stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s National Cathedral was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake and has yet to be rebuilt.
“Many people in this country wouldn’t be able to go to school if they didn’t have someone in the diaspora to help them,” Langlois said from a covered pavilion, reading in Creole instead of the French that is spoken by a tiny elite in Haiti. “Many people wouldn’t be able to eat or to have a house if they didn’t have a family member to help them. … We must share what we have.”
Langlois was little known outside his hometown of Les Cayes, a coastal town in southern Haiti. But that changed in January when Pope Francis named the 55-year-old bishop and 18 others as his first batch of cardinals. Many of them hail from the developing world, underlining the pope’s desire to show the church is eager to serve the poor.
As Haiti’s first cardinal, Langlois has become a leader overnight. In his new role, he has led negotiations among political parties to figure out how to hold legislative and local elections that are more than two years overdue.
On Sunday, the faithful poured into the stadium to get a firsthand glimpse of Haiti’s new cardinal, some snapping photos with cellphones.
One bystander said Langlois’ message of unity resonated with him.
“He’s encouraging us to put our heads together,” said Dieusseul Laguerre, a 40-year-old accountant. “The cardinal is not just for the Catholic Church but also for the Haitian people.”