Pope Francis listens to Haitian President Jovenel Moïse during a private audience on Jan. 26, 2018 at the Vatican./ Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images.
Pope Francis has offered his condolences to the Haitian people after their President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home Wednesday by a group of gunmen.
“Hearing the news of the heinous assassination … His Holiness Pope Francis offers his condolences to the Haitian people and to his wife, also seriously injured, whose life he commends to God,” said a telegram sent on the pope’s behalf on July 8.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent the telegram to the Apostolic Nunciature in Haiti amid the political void facing the poorest country in the Americas after the assassination.
Moïse was shot dead and his wife injured when gunmen opened fire on their private residence in the capital, Port-au-Prince, on July 7. Moïse was 54 years old.
“Praying to the Father of mercy for the repose of the soul of the deceased, the Holy Father expresses his sadness and condemns all forms of violence as a means of resolving crises and conflicts,” the papal telegram said.
“He wishes for the dear Haitian people a future of fraternal harmony, solidarity, and prosperity. As a sign of comfort, he invokes the abundance of divine blessings on Haiti and all its inhabitants.”
Pope Francis received Moïse in a private audience on Jan. 26, 2018. The two men discussed Haiti’s social problems, including severe poverty.
Haitian police said that four of the suspected gunmen were killed and two others arrested late on July 7 after the suspects held three police officers hostage.
The Catholic bishops of Haiti were “stunned” by the news of the assassination, according to a statement by the Haitian bishops’ conference.
Archbishop Launay Saturné of Cap-Haïtien said that the bishops “deplore and condemn this inadmissible and revolting murder.”
He said that the assassination “marks a regrettable turning point” in the history of the country, reported the French section of Vatican News.
The bishops’ conference president added that the spiral of violence “will never help our country to get out of this political impasse.”
He said that the solution was “dialogue, consensus, and the spirit of compromise for the best interests of the nation, for the common good of the country.”
Haiti has been battling a spike of gang violence and kidnappings for ransom in recent months.
The Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince said in a statement in April that gang violence had reached “unprecedented” levels in the country.
“For some time now, we have been witnessing the descent into hell of Haitian society,” the archdiocese said, according to AFP.
A criminal gang in Haiti calling itself “400 Mazowo” kidnapped 10 Catholics, including priests and nuns, on April 11. The kidnap victims were all eventually released weeks later after the Catholic Church openly criticized the government’s “inaction,” and called for all Catholic schools and institutions — except hospitals and clinics — to close in protest.
The strike led President Moise to announce a reshuffling of the government, including the resignation of the prime minister, Joseph Jouthe.
Archbishop Saturné invited Haitians on July 7 to “go beyond their personal pride and their group interests” in favor of the common good, and entrusted Haiti to its patron saint, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
“Lay down the weapons! Go for life! Finally, choose fraternal living together in the interest of all and in the interest of Haiti,” he said.