Haitian Episcopal priest helps form new government

March 9, 2004

A senior priest in the Episcopal Church of Haiti, the Rev. Macdonald Jean, was named last week to the council of seven "Sages" [Wise Ones] who will be forming a new government for Haiti. The council is meeting this week to choose the country's new prime minister and an announcement may be made today.

"They are working very hard now. I saw him this morning. They will come out with a name today," predicted Bishop Zaché Duracin from his office in Petionville, just up the hill from the capital city. The Episcopal Church of Haiti was asked to nominate a member for the council, said Duracin, because of the great respect in which the church is held. "[It] is the church of the real people of Haiti, the people of the countryside," said the bishop of his more than 180,000-member diocese.

Macdonald Jean, priest, author and professor, has served the church since his ordination in 1968. Elected to the Haitian Senate in 1995, he served as vice-president of that body until 1999. He taught at the diocesan theological seminary and for years led a major congregation and school in Gonaives, the northern coastal city where the turmoil began this year.

The 62-year-old priest was educated at College St. Pierre in Haiti, the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Caribbean in Puerto Rico (B.A.), the Catholic Institute in Paris (M.A.) and the Sorbonne (Ph.D.). He is the author of a number of works, including "Protestantism and Development in Haiti" and "Christian Initiation and Voodoo Initiation in Haiti."

Roads Unsafe

Duracin reported this morning that he and his staff have been prevented from getting to the diocesan office for more than week. Yesterday was the first day the roads were unblocked and people felt some safety about travel.

Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince has been unable to conduct its morning services for eight days. The Eucharist on Sunday morning, March 7, was the first time priests or parishioners were able to assemble, according to Sister Marjorie Raphael, SSM.

Duracin, in contact with priests and church leaders by phone and email, reports everyone so far is safe and uninjured. However, in two ugly incidents, priests were accosted at road barricades and robbed. The Rev. Max Accime, stopped by an unruly group near the city of St. Marc, was taken into custody and released only when his questioner learned of his connections to the Episcopal Church and a priest, again Macdonald Jean, who had once been the man¹s professor.

On February 27, the Rev. Soner Alexandre was attacked and had his telephone, camera and money stolen. He had just been to the bank to pick up cash to pay church workers. He was released and promptly wrote other priests warning them not to venture into the street.

The sisters of the Society of St. Margaret, who had left their convent early during the turmoil, returned two days later so they could be helpful if needed. They oversee a home for the elderly and kept it provisioned during the unrest. They witnessed and heard the demonstrations, shooting and killing in the streets around their downtown convent. At one point, said Sister Marjorie Raphael, they believed they would have to stay in the cellars. All four sisters in residence are safe, she said.