By the Most Rev. Jason Gordon Bishop of Bridgetown and Kingstown
“I stand on the shoulders of two great men, Tony Pantin, the first Caribbean Man to be Archbishop of Port of Spain to the South and Sam Carter, the first Caribbean man to be Archbishop of Kingston, to the north. These were my mentors, they were great men.” (Cardinal Felix’s first interview after becoming Cardinal to Trinity Television February 22nd Vatican)
Another first for the AEC Caribbean. Kelvin Cardinal Felix, the first Caribbean man to be a Cardinal coming from the centre of the Caribbean, Dominica who was Archbishop of Castries, the third Archdiocese on the Region. This is all in living memory.
From 1968 with the ordination of Gordon Anthony Pantin, to 2014 the first Cardinal of the region is a relatively short time in the history of the Church of the region. This is a new coming of age, a new milestone, a new phase in our ecclesial history.
To put this in perspective we need remember that the first bishop in our region was, Dr. James Buckley, he was appointed to a Port of Spain in 1819. The first local priests, Msgr. Joseph Vincent Farfan de Los Godos 1823 and Abbé Francis Joseph de Ridder 1825. The next priest took a long time in coming. In 1822 Cardinal Consalvi wrote asking Bishop Buckley to open a seminary. He spoke of finances, lack of masters and then he concluded, that the local men were incapable of the ecclesiastical state.
In the early nineteen hundreds, Archbishop of Port of Spain, Count Finbar Ryan was asked to open a seminary in the region by three Popes. Finally in 1942 he got the Benedictines to agree. It is this seminary that formed Kelvin Cardinal Felix for the priesthood. The challenges were the same as one hundred years before. There was a belief that local men were incapable of the ecclesiastical state. Today this myth was put to flight as the a Holy Father welcomed a son of the Caribbean to the college of Cardinals.
Pope Francis in his homily on Sunday says to the new Cardinals:
Dear brother Cardinals, the Lord Jesus and mother Church ask us to witness with greater zeal and ardour to these ways of being holy. It is exactly in this greater self-gift, freely offered, that the holiness of a Cardinal consists….A Cardinal enters the Church of Rome, not a royal court. May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and preferences. May our language be that of the Gospel: “yes when we mean yes; no when we mean no”; may our attitudes be those of the Beatitudes, and our way be that of holiness.
The Holy Father ended his homily saying:
I ask all of you, bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, and laity, together to implore the Holy Spirit, that the College of Cardinals may always be ever more fervent in pastoral charity and filled with holiness, in order to serve the Gospel and to help the Church radiate Christ’s love in our world.
While we rejoice in this great honour that in our lifetime we have seen this new phase in our ecclesial history, let us be reminded of the giants that went before us and the true purpose of this great event. We are all called to serve the Gospel and to build the church in the Region into a robust proclamation of Gods merciful love for our Caribbean people.
In this regard we have one other first that we must pray for; that in our lifetime Anthony Pantin, Servant of God, may be beatified and canonised. Then we will be a church gifted with servants in every designation. We will have come of age.