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As seen in 2017 – Caribbean

FLASHBACK: a moment of reflection for Bishop Clyde Harvey of St George’s-in-Grenada at his Mass of episcopal ordination in July.

As the year 2017 comes to an end, Catholic News looks back at just some of the news stories from the wider Caribbean Church.

Church-State affairs

*Last June, Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB of Georgetown strongly criticised the government’s decision to impose a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 14 per cent on private education. The Bishop declared that education must be accessible to everyone and thus exempted from the charge.

*Leaders and members of various religious denominations in Guyana, including Bishop Alleyne issued a joint statement calling on parliamentarians to conduct themselves in an atmosphere of mutual respect, decorum and grace.

*Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, Bahamas told members of the judiciary, that in their administration of justice, they are ministers of God who is justice. It is in this profession, he added, that you can bring light and relief from suffering and order that enables all to live lives that are peaceful and pleasant.

*The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) questioned the Jamaica- Israel relationship after its Prime Minister Andrew Holness met with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in January. The JCC expressed concern of Jamaica’s foreign policy as it relates to the State of Israel and the principles for which they stand and their relationship with the rest of the global community.

*Archbishop Robert Rivas OP of Castries, St Lucia in consultation with clergy expressed concern regarding Desert Star Holding Limited’s (DSH) US$2.6 billion proposed plan for the reclaiming of government and privately-owned lands for commercialisation facilities. The Archbishop maintained there must be a balanced focus on the relationship between investment, people and the environment.

*Last August, a coalition of over a dozen Catholic organisations, including The Latin American and Caribbean Network of Migration, Refuge and Trafficking in Persons (CLAMOR) appealed to people and governments to welcome Venezuelans fleeing political repression and severe economic crisis.

*St Lucia’s cultural community paid tribute last August to Msgr Patrick ‘Paba’ Anthony, founder of the Folk Research Centre by renaming it in his honour: The Msgr Patrick Anthony Folk Research Centre. Msgr Anthony’s work has transformed the archdiocese’s cultural and religious landscape for more than 40 years.

*Belizean priest Fr Scott Giuliani called out the government for promoting recreational drugs. He reminded Christians that while they are to dutifully obey the legitimate authority of the state, there are situations where civil law is not in accord with the universal moral law.

Restorations

*A cheque for US$24,000 was presented to the Good Shepherd RC Church, Babonneau, St Lucia last June, in aid of the church’s renovation and beautification project as part of its 70th anniversary of construction. The funds were raised by overseas-based St Lucians.

*An additional EC$3 million was needed for the completion of Dominica’s Lady of Fair Haven Cathedral in Roseau, which was under renovation since 2011. As of July, EC$7 million was spent on the renovation, however only $1.2 million was available.

*Thirteen years after being damaged beyond repair by an earthquake, the St John’s RC Church in Portsmouth, Dominica was rebuilt and reopened in
June.

*The Divine Mercy of Sandino is the first Catholic Church to be built in Cuba in 60 years. Funded entirely with US$95,000 in donations from St Lawrence Church, Tampa, Florida, US, this one-storey, 800-square-foot building has a capacity of 200 parishioners. The new church will host its first Mass early 2018.

*Bishop Karel Choennie of Paramaribo consecrated the new St Theresia Church in Moengo, eastern Suriname October 1. More than 600 people attended the Mass and blessing.

*Bahamian artist Neko Meicholas has contributed to the restoration and embellishment of the diocese’s St Francis Xavier Cathedral. He created three paintings—a grand triptych and the two-additional paintings a gift to the Church—which all grace the altar of the restored Cathedral.

Ordinations and Appointments

*Bishop Lawrence Sydney Nicasio was ordained Bishop of Belize City- Belmopan on May 13. Bishop Nicasio succeeds Bishop Dorick Wright who resigned from office due to poor health and failing eyesight.

*Fr Clyde Harvey was ordained Bishop of St George-in-Grenada in July.  Hundreds gathered at the Spice Basket Theatre, Beaulieu, St George’s for the ordination.  He told the congregation, “I offer in word and deed the social teaching of our Church as light and yeast for the further development of Grenada”. In attendance was Bishop Emeritus Sydney Charles.

*The Diocese of Guyana welcomed deacons Rev Carl Philadelphia on June 3 and deacons Joel David Sundar and Berchmans Devadass, both from India in September.

*September marked the diocese of Bridgetown’s first ordination of permanent deacons—George Waithe and Stephen Foster—in over two decades. In December, Barbados also welcomed two new deacons, Winston Layne and Kirt Prospere.

*In June, Fr Esteban Ramon Kross of the Diocese of Paramaribo, Suriname was appointed Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Antilles. He replaced Fr Athanasius George Williams of the Diocese of St John’s- Basseterre, Antigua who served for five years.

*A new Canon Law Society Executive was voted in September with Fr Roger Paponette of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain as President.

*Bishop Jason Gordon of Bridgetown, Barbados was announced as Archbishop- elect of Port of Spain at a press conference, October 19.

Deaths

*Bishop Osmond Martin, Belize’s first bishop of Garifuna (West/Central African, Carib) descent was laid to rest February 27 at the grounds of Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Belmopan. The 86-year-old cleric had been ailing for some time. Bishop Martin served as the third bishop of the Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan from 1984 to 2007. Fr John Maher SJ, founding editor and editor of Belize’s The Christian Herald died December 21 in the US from multiple health issues including lung cancer. Fr Maher, a Jesuit for 55 years and a priest for 42 years, served as founding editor of the paper during its first two years of publication from 1979 to 1981. In September 1988, then Bishop Osmond Martin appointed him editor. Before his death, he managed to complete the 2017 issue of the Belizean Catholic Calendar from his sick bed.

*The Catholic Diocese of Dominica mourned the passing of Belgian priest Fr Charles Vermeulen CSsR who spent almost 60 years of his life in Dominica. He died in the diocese December 4. Bishop Gabriel Malzaire said his passing marked the end of the Belgium era in the diocese.

Catholic communications

*In fulfilling the call to evangelisation, Guadalupe Media, Belize’s broadcast network launched a new television station airing locally produced, sound Catholic programmes. The service began last January.

*Guyana’s The Catholic Magazine, a 30-minute weekly television programme ceased production January 2017 after 20 plus years of broadcast on national television.

Hurricane relief

*Various dioceses of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) contributed US$75,000 to Haitian diocese in aid of Hurricane Matthew relief in January.  In confirming receipt of the transfer, Cardinal Chibly Langlois, the Bishop of Les Cayes said that the money will be very useful to the diocese in the reconstruction of Haiti’s destroyed churches, rectories and schools.

*Category 5 Hurricane Maria decimated Dominica September 18, leaving a trail of death and destruction. Dominica’s PM Roosevelt Skerrit thanked T&T for the assistance given post Hurricane Maria adding, “I’d like to say I value the assistance given but nothing compares to the spirit of the Trinidadians in times like this. You picked us [up]; you lifted our spirits; you lifted our souls.”

*A group of Christian leaders of some countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) called for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Heads of State to give relief for hurricane affected islands.

Vandalism

*For the second time in just over a month, there was another arson attack at the Sts Peter and Paul Church in Jamaica. The attacks in September and October involved vandalism, selected sections of the interior including the pulpit were set on fire with damage to the lectern and five monitors. Police are investigating both fires.

Closures

*In October, Bishop Lawrence Nicasio of Belize City and Belmopan decided that the St Benedict Diocesan Seminary temporarily close due to high and low waves of vocations.