I offer my prayerful support to the people of Haiti following the devastating earthquake in the early hours of this morning.  The images and reports of the scale of human suffering experienced by Haitians has been very distressing, while the speed of devastation inflicted on the capital, Port-au-Prince, has been shocking.

My prayers are with those coming to terms with losing family members and friends.  I ask for special prayers to be offered for the injured so that they may find the courage to rebuild their lives, and, that we remember in our prayers those who have died in Haiti due to this catastrophe.

I also ask for prayers of support to those providing emergency assistance and medical treatment to the injured and displaced.

Irish people have traditionally shown immense generosity in supporting relief agencies which give on the ground help to areas of devastation.  I ask – while appreciating these are difficult times at home – that we once again show such selflessness in this hour of need for Haiti.  Trócaire, the bishops’ overseas development agency, has opened an appeal* to help relieve the situation in Haiti.

Finally, I wish to reiterate this morning’s words by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, during his general audience address, when he has asked for prayers and support for the people of Haiti.  Pope Benedict said: ‘My thoughts go in particular to the population hit just a few hours ago by a devastating earthquake which has caused serious loss of human life, large numbers of homeless and missing people, and vast material damage.

‘I invite everyone to join my prayers to the Lord for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who mourn their loss. I give assurances of my spiritual closeness to people who have lost their homes and to everyone who, in various ways, has been affected by this terrible calamity, imploring God to bring them consolation and relief in their suffering.

‘I appeal to the generosity of all people so that these our brothers and sisters who are experiencing a moment of need and suffering may not lack our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community. The Catholic Church will not fail to move immediately, through her charitable institutions, to meet the most immediate needs of the population.’