Caribbean pilgrims celebrate first Cardinal from the Region

From Catholic Standard – 28th February 2014

“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, Jamaica to the north. These were my mentors, they were great men,” Cardinal Felix said in an interview after becoming Cardinal with Trinity Television of Trinidad and Tobago. This is another first for the Caribbean Catholic Church. Cardinal Kelvin Felix, the first Caribbean man to be made a Cardinal comes from the centre of the Caribbean, Dominica.

“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”, said Bishop Jason Gordon, Bishop of Bridgetown and Kingstown, who travelled to Rome for last Saturday’s ceremony. The tasseled felt hats of German horse riders and the brightly coloured head wraps of women from the Caribbean were just a few of the signs of the universality of the Catholic church on display as pilgrims celebrated the creation of new cardinals.


Some of the newly-invested Cardinals concelebrating with Pope Francis. At extreme right is Cardinal Kelvin Felix, and to his right Cardinal Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, Haiti

South Koreans and Canadians, Ivorians and Italians mixed and mingled as they celebrated their countrymen being elevated to the College of Cardinals during an informal gathering in the (please turn to page 4

Vatican’s Paul VI hall on Saturday after-noon.

“This is pure, unadulterated joy for me to see my uncle made a cardinal,” said Rosemarie O’Mard, who left behind snow and ice storms in Queens to come to Rome to see Cardinal Kelvin Felix of Castries, St. Lucia in the Antilles, receive the red biretta.

“But to me he’s my Uncle Kelvin,” she told Catholic News Service, recalling how she grew up with the new cardinal because his father — her grandfather — raised her until she was 13.

“But he’s not ours, he’s theirs as he’s become a father to so many,” she said, pointing to the large group of smiling and laughing priests and laypeople who gathered for photographs around the 81- year-old retired archbishop.

A group of women with colorful dress and matching head wraps sang, “We love you, we love you, we love you, yes we do,” to the tune of “She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain.”

Cardinal Felix said that although he was over 80 and could never vote in a conclave, he was ready to serve the church as a cardinal in whatever way the pope wanted.

“The role of the cardinal is not only to elect a pope,” he said, “there is much more to it than that. He is to assist the Holy Father in administering the whole church, all over the world. So the Holy Father can assign you any task that he feels he would like you to do for him.”

Pointing to the significance of the appointment of Cardinal Felix, Bishop Gordon said “To put this in perspective we need remember that the first bishop in our region was, Dr. James Buckley, he was appointed to 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 Holy Father welcomed a son of the Caribbean to the college of Cardinals. 

(Edited from articles by Bishop Jason Gordon, Catholic News Service and Matthew Ragbir.)