World | Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:56pm IST

Pope activates world Catholic charities for Haiti

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Wednesday ordered that the Roman Catholic Church's extensive worldwide charity network be immediately activated to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Speaking at his weekly general audience, the pope also appealed to the international community and individuals to be quick and generous in their aid.

"The Catholic Church will immediately activate (its aid) through its charity institutions in order to respond to the most urgent needs of the population," he said.

A major earthquake struck the capital of impoverished Haiti on Tuesday, flattening buildings and burying hundreds, possibly thousands, of people under the rubble, witnesses said.

The Catholic Church has one of the world's largest and most capillary charity networks.

"I appeal to everyone's generosity, so that these brothers and sisters of ours who are living through a time of need and pain receive our concrete solidarity and the effective help of the international community," he said.

Around 80 percent of Haiti's 10 million-strong population is Catholic and 16 percent Protestant. However, most Haitians also practice voodoo, a mixture of Christian and African beliefs.

(Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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