Cardinal-designate Chibly Langlois

Cardinal-designate Chibly Langlois

January 20, 2014

SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Haiti's new cardinal is known as a tireless worker, an advocate for the people and someone who never forgot his impoverished childhood.

Pope Francis named the first Haitian cardinal when he selected Bishop Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, 55, president of the Haitian bishops' conference.

Haitian Catholic leaders see the choice as recognition of the Church's work following a devastating earthquake that struck four years ago to the day of the papal announcement.

The quake killed an estimated 220,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless. It killed the archbishop of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and toppled the city's iconic cathedral.

People who know Langlois told Catholic News Service that he worked tirelessly after the 2010 earthquake.

"This is historic news for Haiti. It's recognition of the work the Church has been undertaking with the people in very difficult circumstances since the 2010 earthquake," Msgr. Wilnes Tilus, general manager of Caritas in Les Cayes, said in a phone interview.

"Bishop Langlois has been dedicated to working with the people, and the pope recognized that."

Since the earthquake, Langlois has advocated for the Church to take a leading role in providing schooling for impoverished children, said Father Jean Herve Francois, a pastor in Laborde, just north of Les Cayes.

In a country where the Church has been marked by its involvement in politics, the naming of Langlois was seen as acknowledgment of the Church's work, rather than its politics.

Haiti's political struggles have been marked by the Duvalier family regime, a father-son dictatorship that lasted three decades before Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown in 1986.

Political instability followed, including the tenure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a popular former Salesian priest who was twice removed in coups.

"Gone are the days of the bishops of Duvalier. Gone are the days of the liberation theology priests, one of whom, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, became president," Father Hans Alexander, representative of the Haitian bishops' conference, said in a statement.

Alexander called Langlois the "head of a young Church" seeking a new direction.