Letter to the Priests from the Bishops of Haiti

Episcopal Conference of Haiti

  1. We, the Bishops of Haiti, in the faith of Easter, greet the priestly people of God of the nine dioceses of the nation and renew with our venerable brother priests our fraternal love and our most profound communion in Christ Jesus, the supreme pastor, only guide and great eternal Priest.

  2. With great gratitude, we give thanks to God in this Year of the Eucharist for the marvelous gift of the radiant life of so many priests of the Church, witnesses of the gift of divine life and of the radiance of priestly dignity.

  3. We would now like to pay stirring homage to all of you, our brother priests, faithful servants of the Church, first counselors and collaborators of the Episcopal Order, with whom we share the worries, preoccupations and joys of ministry. You are a blessing to us and to all of God's people. This is why we encourage you, despite the difficulty and incomprehension you encounter in your work of pastoral charity, to always preciously guard the treasure of God entrusted to you, as to us, "clay vessels," so that it may be evident to all that your radiance comes only from God. (2 Cor: 4,7)

  4. In addition, dear brothers in the priesthood, we ask you to remember that, by your priestly state, configured to Christ, you are situated not only in the Church, but are also the face of the Church. That is to say, you have become visible and sacramental signs of Christ whose being, behavior, life, actions, words and burning charity you promulgate.

  5. Our people need you, because they need Christ. They need their pastors, whom they so love and for whom they pray ceaselessly with deference and sincere affection to be a true clear representation of the Good Shepherd, able to be, like Him, gentle and humble of heart, living in the spirit of the beatitudes and acting always and everywhere generously, devoutly and disinterestedly, with pure intentions, a spirit of sacrifice, and apostolic zeal for spreading the Gospel.

  6. Dear brothers, priestly sons and friends, while we reaffirm you in your sacerdotal identity and your pastoral mission, we cannot help asking you to always remain faithful to the grace of your priesthood, to persevere in trying moments, to revive the flame of the Spirit that is in you and to know how to discern the path that leads you to "give to God that which is God's and to Caesar that which is Caesar's."

  7. We particularly urge you to be vigilant in these times of uncertainty, confusion and ambiguity in which we live today in our country. This is the time more than ever to hold on to the essential: to practice priestly spirituality. Do not be partisan men. Remain yourselves and retain your freedom of being and action. Remain open, available and accessible to all. Apply yourselves to serving God's people by the witness of a life filled with the spirit of the beatitudes.

  8. Remember that you were made priests to guide God's people in peace, concord, justice and unity (Canon 287) and that, while living a preferential option for the poor in an inclusive manner, you are called to gather all God's dispersed children and show them all, with a universal heart, the maternal face of the Church.

  9. The Church in Haiti, while recognizing with Pope Paul VI that politics is one of the highest forms of Christian charity and inviting lay Christians to assume their responsibility, ardently desires that her priest sons hold essentially to their priestly promise and pursue the goal of their vocation, considering all else inferior in relation to Christ.

  10. In this way we, Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, firmly invite you to avoid, in your pastoral behavior, all inappropriate language and speeches that would discredit your beautiful and noble priestly function. We invite you, in Christ's name, to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and not separate yourselves from the Gospel and Church law, so as not to put yourselves outside ecclesial communion.

  11. Thus, as the Church's teaching makes clear, particularly as expressed in Canon Law under pain of grave punishment ipso facto, no priest may take any active part in politics, whether in political parties or in partisan groups or associations.

  12. Thus Canon 285 par. 3: "It is forbidden for clerics to fulfill public offices that involve participation in the exercise of civil power," and Canon 287 par. 2 adds: "They will not take an active part in political parties or in the leadership of political associations…"

  13. In reference to this prescription of Canon Law, the Directory for Priestly Life and Ministry of the Congregation of the Clergy, number 33, stresses that, while being good in and of themselves, the functions of political life are foreign to the clerical state, as they constitute a grave danger of rupturing ecclesial communion.

  14. We, Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, recommend then to each priest, in the name of the Church, not to place himself outside the communion of the Church, to abstain from: becoming a member of groups incompatible with the clerical state; participating in electoral campaigns; running as a candidate or for public office; occupying posts that belong by right to lay people; or engaging in propaganda that would be harmful to unity and ecclesial communion. No priest may engage in politics in the name of the Church, nor use the Church to engage in politics.

  15. Finally, the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, bearing the joys and pains, the suffering and the hope of the people and most particularly the poor, hope that the Church's priests will work, for their part, "so that the poor of all sorts begin to hope again," as the late Holy Father said here in Haiti. (John Paul II, March 9th, 2003, Sermon at the Port-au-Prince Airport.)

  16. May Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mother of the Church, Mother of Priests, give you priests all the help you, her favorite sons, need and may she cover you with her mantle of grace and light.

Given at the Headquarters of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti, Lilavois, Haiti, April 7th, 2005, by the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti.