Sunday December 13, 2015
By Lara Pickford Gordon
Archbishop Joseph Harris has a dream. He would like to see the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception produce “authentic disciples”, sons and daughters of the Church faithful coming from the mandate given by Christ to His disciples – ‘make disciples of all nations’.
He also hoped the Cathedral would serve as a catalyst for the resurrection of East Port of Spain which he likened to a “terribly brutalised body” incarnate in the unemployed, underemployed, homeless, abused and addicts.
These thoughts were part of the Archbishop’s homily at the Mass of Dedication on December 5. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Nicola Girasoli was the chief celebrant. Also in attendance were Cardinal Kelvin Felix of Dominica and several bishops from the region, who concelebrated, including Bishop-elect Karel Choennie of the diocese of Paramaribo, Suriname.
Among the invited guests were Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley, Ethiopian Orthodox Archbishop Abuna Thaddaeus, Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist faith, and Head of the Inter-Religious Organisation Brother Harrypersad Maharaj; Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and wife Sharon Rowley, Senate President Christine Kangaloo and husband Kerwyn Garcia.
The Archbishop said he did not want the restored Cathedral to be his only legacy. He said a beautiful Cathedral Church was only a historic building and museum for tourists if the Archdiocese was not the body of Christ in Trinidad and Tobago.
He said one of his concerns was whether the Cathedral was really “an image of the Church ever ancient and new.” He looked forward to authentic disciples with a confidence, born of trust in the Word, carrying the Word of God to the people who have not heard it, rarely did, have forgotten or heard distortions. “Through these doors may we all come streaming back because of our human weakness to experience the Mercy of God,” he said.
Archbishop Harris saw in the “rebuilding” of the Cathedral a parable of the rebuilding of the Church made of “living stones”. He said the building, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, the first earthly dwelling place of Emmanuel, had the “double task” of restoring consciousness of God’s presence in the capital city and especially East Port of Spain. He described the community as “crucified by dehumanising poverty, by murder, by criminality of various kinds.”
Although he initially thought the Cathedral should be moved to another place he changed his opinion because “where the cross is, there is Christ.” He hoped the Cathedral would put the people who were unemployed, underemployed, homeless, abused and addicts “on the road to resurrection.”
As a “Holy Place” the Archbishop said the Cathedral was strategically located from the City Gate transport hub because people can visit the Lord before their daily endeavours. It was the place people were baptised, confirmed, received Holy Communion, reconciled to God and one another, married and priests were ordained. He continued, “From this Cathedral the Eucharist is carried so that the Lord may accompany persons on their crossing over to the other side; from this church we are buried. It is indeed, our holy place and a place of prayer.”