AEC annual plenary meeting in Guyana

 Following is a press release issued by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Georgetown:

Sixteen bishops and archbishops who head the Roman Catholic Church in the English, French and Dutch speaking Caribbean countries from Bermuda and Bahamas to Cayenne and Curacao will be in Guyana from April 22 to 27 to participate in their annual general meeting. The Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) will be joined by the Papal Representative to the Antilles region, based in Port of Spain, Italian Archbishop Nicola Girasoli

The event will be officially inaugurated with a Mass at
Brickdam Cathedral at 1600 hrs (4.00 pm) on Sunday, April 22. Following an old tradition, the most recently ordained bishop in the AEC, Bishop Kenneth Richards of St. John’s  Antigua and Basseterre St. Kitts will deliver the homily. The meeting will also welcome two other recent Episcopal appointees, Archbishop Joseph Harris of Port of Spain, and Bishop Jason Gordon of Bridgetown Barbados and Kingstown St. Vincent. With these appointments and the upcoming ordination of an auxiliary bishop in Belize, only one of the 19 dioceses in the AEC does not have a Bishop resident in the territory.

The inaugural Mass will be preceded by a retreat on Bishops’ Spirituality and followed by a Study Day on Collegiality and cooperation among bishops both of which will be led by US Emeritus Archbishop of New Orleans Alfred Hughes.

On Monday April 23, the President of the Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Bahamas and  Bishop Francis Alleyne of Georgetown will pay a courtesy call on President Ramotar.

Archbishop Girasoli will present his diplomatic credentials as the new Vatican Representative to the Government of Guyana the same day.”

That  evening there will be a meeting of the bishops with the local Church leadership and diocesan organization representatives as the St. Paul’s Pastoral Centre at Better Hope on the East Coast of Demerara.

The working sessions of the bishops will include a review of Plans by the AEC to sponsor the training of a Caribbean team of Psychologists, Social Workers and Counsellors in June in Trinidad who will help in the Church’s response to trauma to the victims of the frequent natural and other national and regional disasters such as floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. The one week seminar with be directly by a top international expert in the field of Trauma response. Another item on the agenda is a review of the region wide programme for the protection of God’s Children in the Region from Sexual Abuse through ongoing and in-depth training and motivation of all church personnel working with children through the Virtus Programme.

The bishops will finalize plans for the AEC Youth Assembly in St.
Lucia 19-29 July which more than 1,000 Catholic youth from across the region’s English, French and Dutch speaking are expected to attend. This will be immediately followed by a Training seminar for Diocesan Vocations Directors and other Vocations promoters from across the region in Castries, St. Lucia 30 July – 3 August  which will give serious attention to the challenges posed by the sharp reduction in vocations to the priesthood and religious life and address creative responses to training vocations promoters and giving greater witness of unity and enthusiasm by Catholics, clergy and laity in attracting vocations to the service of Christ in the people of region.   

Given the renewed priority of Sacred Scripture, underlined by the 2008 Vatican Synod and emphasised by Pope Benedict XVI on the “Word of God” and similar priority of the 2007 Aparecida
Conference in Brazil of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM) the bishop will discuss ways of promoting reading, meditation and action on the Bible by Catholic across the region.

About 2.2 million or one quarter of the total population of the countries that make up the AEC are Catholic. This will be the third time in its 64-year history that the AEC will meet in Guyana. The Church in Guyana first hosted a meeting of the group in 1974 and a much shorter one in 1977.

Decisions are taken at these gatherings to give the Catholic Churches in this region an orientation which will make them better able to respond to the realities and expectations of Caribbean peoples. 

class="MsoNormal">Last year’s meeting approved a major statement in a pastoral Letter on Catholic Education renewing the commitment of the Church to Education at all levels in the region and promoting “ongoing faith formation and professional development programmes” for Catholic educators across the region. Important, landmark documents and decisions have emerged from past meetings of the AEC which dealt with a wide range of issues including Child Abuse, Capital Punishment, Care for the Environment, Justice and Peace, and Freedom and Development.

Bishop Francis Alleyne osb

Bishop of Georgetown


17 April 2012