Catholic Church Faces Battle to End Co-Mingling Faiths in Haiti

Chibly Langlois, appointed by Pope Francis as Haiti's first cardinal, is faced with stopping the co-mingling of Voodoo and Catholicism in Haiti. Voodoo had been Haiti's religion before the island became colonized by Catholic countries of Spain and France. On the island of 10 million, 80% practice Catholicism, but 50% indulge in the practice of Voodoo as well.


According to Langlois, Voodoo is a religion of the poor, who have no money to pay a doctor when they fall ill. So they seek the services of a Voodoo priest, who can petition Voodoo spirits for healing. Other intercessions for money and fortune-telling also take place.

In the 1940s, Catholics waged war on Voodoo to eradicate it. They built a pyre of Voodoo masks and drums, burning them. Stories of the strange religion reached Hollywood that characterized it as a religion of devil worship, whose activities included creation of zombies, the living dead. But by 1987 under the new Constitution, Voodoo re-emerged and in 2003 was legally declared a religion.

The Catholic Church's stance is Haitians can't be both voodooists and Catholics; they must be one or the other. A Haitian-American anthropologist challenges the Catholic Church's prerogative to impose its values. He adds "Voodoo was born in Haiti . . . Catholicism is imported . . ."

If connection is the defining principle of religion, Voodoo's legitimacy is unassailable. As one voodooist put it, "I feel more connected with Iwa than when I go to Church."

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