A ‘gift of love’ from Pope Francis- Paramaribo, Suriname

Catholic News - Trinidad 12th April, 2014

In an exquisitely decorated Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral, filled to capacity, Bishop Wilhelm De Bekker of Paramaribo presided at the April 6 celebration of the Eucharist marking its elevation to the rank of minor basilica.

Archbishop Joseph Harris unveils the seal of the Diocese of Paramaribo which adorns the entrance to the basilica.
The bishops leave the Minor Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul in Paramaribo after the rites of elevation at a Mass last Sunday. At right is Archbishop Joseph Harris and at left Bishop Emmanuel Lafonte, followed by the Nuncio Archbishop Nicola Girasoli and Bishop Wilhelm de Bekker of Paramaribo. Cardinal Kelvin Felix is hidden but was next to the Nuncio in the procession.

He was joined by the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, Cardinal Kelvin Felix, Archbishop Joseph Harris of Port of Spain, and Bishop Emmanuel Lafonte of Cayenne.

Immediately after the opening rites, the five bishops proceeded with the rites of elevation, which included the reading of the decree from Pope Francis, the blessing of the conopeum and tintinnabulum, the blessing of the building and the congregation, and the unveiling of three coats of arms which now adorn the entrance of the basilica. The plaque containing the Vatican and Papal coats of arms was unveiled by the Nuncio, followed by Cardinal Felix who unveiled the coat of arms of the basilica, and finally Archbishop Harris who unveiled the seal of the Diocese of Paramaribo.

The homily was delivered by Archbishop Girasoli, who said Pope Francis granted the honour to the cathedral as a gift of love from him to the Catholics and all the people of Suriname. The Nuncio thanked Bishop De Bekker for serving the diocese so well and for the many achievements during his apostolate.

On April 27, Bishop De Bekker will turn 75 and will be eligible to retire.

Archbishop Girasoli made a passionate appeal to the congregation not to give in to resignation but to give their faith a new enthusiasm and energy, and to keep trying with mercy and love. Quoting Pope Francis, the Nuncio said the Church needed “full-time” Catholics who, like Jesus on the cross, spread their arms open to welcome all who sought to find a home in the Church. He also spoke of Pope Francis’ declaration that Catholic Christians must proclaim the gospel with joy and put forgiveness and reconciliation first, not condemnation.

The Nuncio highlighted the importance of the new basilica as a place of prayer and devotion, especially since it was a place of pilgrimage to venerate Blessed Peter Donders. He called on the faithful to pray ardently for Blessed Peter’s intercession so that many more miracles might occur and so that he would eventually be canonised.

The solemn celebration on the Sunday evening was part of a Triduum, three days of special celebrations on the occasion of the elevation. On Saturday evening there was a special evening prayer, attended by both Bishop De Bekker and Cardinal Felix, who arrived that same day. And on Monday, there was a Mass of thanksgiving, at which Cardinal Felix presided. He indicated that that was his first official function as Cardinal of the Caribbean Church.

– Paul Tjon Kiem Sang, Diocese of Paramaribo