Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) Statement on Capital Punishment

Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC)

Statement on Capital Punishment

During the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy

            HUMAN LIFE IS GIFT FROM GOD

  1. We, the Roman Catholic Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference in the Caribbean welcome the proclamation by Pope Francis of a Holy Year of Mercy which commenced with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th day of December 2015, and which will end on the Feast of Christ the King on the 20th day of November 2016.

 

  1. During this period we are re-doubling our efforts to fulfill the Holy Father’s desire that “all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may becomeislands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!”[1]

 

  1. We continue to “serve the Church as official teachers of the faithful: to inform consciences of Christians, to appeal to the justice and goodwill of all peoples, and to assist and challenge state leaders in the protection and greater development of the common good. Our moral teaching finds its source in Scripture, and it follows the sacred traditions of the Apostolic Church. From these, our teaching consistently promotes an ‘ethic of life.’”[2]

 

  1. We join with the Universal Churchto express our belief that human life is a gift from God and is sacred. We believe each human being has inherent dignity because we are all created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 2:10). Therefore we should protect and defend human life at all stages of development and in all circumstances.

 

  1. In accordance with our ethic of life and in light of the present situation in the Caribbean,

we commend to the Faithful and to all people of goodwill two of our Pastoral Letters, namely:

  1. Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal ConferencePastoral Letter on Capital Punishment; and  
  2. We are called to proclaim, celebrate and serve The Gift of Life,Pastoral Letter of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, Rome, March 29 2008.

 

  1. We reaffirm that “the prophetic voice of the Church must be heard especially in times of moral and social crisis.”[3]Thus, while we  are appalled by the rise of violent crime in our region and express solidarity with the victims of crime and all those affected by crime, we urge politicians and citizens in our region to abolish capital punishment, that is, the death penalty and embrace a restorative justice approach to crime and violence.

 

  1. As believers in Jesus Christ, “the Gospel of life is at the heart of the evangelizing mission of the Church, which must proclaim Jesus, the Word of life (John 1:1)… Jesus invites all people to celebrate and proclaim that they are people of life because God has redeemed us through the Cross, the source of all life. God has entrusted the Church with the responsibility of proclaiming, celebrating and serving the gift of life.”[4]

 

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

 

  1. A restorative justice approach focuses on holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way and helping to achieve a sense of healing for both the victim(s) and the community; it embraces socialization, rehabilitation and reconciliation rather than retribution and vengeance. Restorative Justice can help us to achieve our goals. It is not a panacea for all social ills, but can be used effectively together with other policies. The key watchwords of a Restorative Justice  approach lie at the heart of Christian living, for example, repentance, conversion, reparation, restoration, restitution, reconciliation, rehabilitation, forgiveness, empowerment, and re-integration with a sense of responsibility – as opposed to revenge, retribution, and vengeance. As we stated in our Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment (2000): “…in all cases punishment must be guided by the spirit of love, which intends both the good of the transgressor as well as the good of the community. The spirit of revenge lacks this twofold Christian intention…[5]

 

  1. Pope Francis is urging nations to realise that God’s justice is his mercy and that God is the essence of mercy. God’s infinite mercy extends to everyone – including those who have committed heinous crimes, who should be given opportunities to repent and to find peace with God and others. To build just, merciful societies, we must all play our part to put in place systems, procedures, and practices that will promote right relationships – with God, with ourselves, with each other, and with all of creation.

 

  1. All recent International studies and research show that capital punishment does not act as a deterrent, nor does it foster respect for life in our communities. Hence, regardless of the potential unpopularity of our Gospel message that informs our position, we reaffirm the position: “Capital punishment symbolizes a form of despair for the effective reform of persons.”[6]

 

  1. The AEC Pastoral Letter The Gift of Life (2008), expressed the “firm desire that the leaders and people of Caribbean society move toward the total abolition of the Death Penalty…we should place emphasis on the rehabilitation of the offender rather than on his/her elimination”.[7]

 

  1. We believe that the protection of society and the common good are assured by a proper functioning justice system that detects and convicts, and by a prison system which focuses on rehabilitation. As the Holy Father affirms: “a growing opposition to the death penalty even for the legitimate defense of society because modern means exist to efficiently repress crime without definitively denying the persons who committed it the possibility of rehabilitating themselves.”[8]

 

            CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS NOT THE ANSWER

 

  1. We stated in our Pastoral Letter, The Gift of Life (2008)that “Very often those who support capital punishment invoke the text, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ (the ‘lex talionis’ – Lev. 24:20). This was, of course a most important development in the Old Testament’s understanding of justice. Justice must not seek revenge. The punishment due from injustice must be rational and not excessive. However, the ‘lex talionis’ was not the last word on this matter. In fact, Jesus gave us the last word: ‘you have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you: do not oppose evil with evil …’ (Mt. 5:38-39).”[9] Of course Jesus became the best example of this teaching as he was an innocent man who became the victim of capital punishment.

 

  1. We affirm that the Scriptures and the Church’s teaching does not provide the basis for the reintroduction or renewed use of the death penalty which continues to be under discussion in the region. “Violence always provokes more violence and deepens the culture of death.”[10]

 

  1. Pope Benedict XVI continued the work of Pope St John Paul II by encouraging countries around the world to end the death penalty as a legal sanction, for example, at his November 30, 2011 general audience.[11]

 

  1. Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the abolition of the death penalty. For example, on 20 March 2015he outlined the Catholic Church’s opposition to capital punishment in a letter to the International Commission against the Death Penalty. He said: “For the rule of law, the death penalty represents a failure, as it obliges the state to kill in the name of justice. There is discussion in some quarters about the method of killing, as if it were possible to find ways of ‘getting it right’.  But there is no humane way of killing another person.”[12] We agree with him when he said during his visit to a prison in Mexico in February 2016 that: “Divine Mercy reminds us that prisons are an indication of the kind of society we are. In many cases they are a sign of the silence and omissions which have led to a throwaway culture, a symptom of a culture that has stopped supporting life, of a society that has abandoned its children.”[13]

 

  1. In February 2016, the Holy Father speaking to thousands at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican, asked politicians around the world to make a courageous and exemplary gesture during this Holy Year of Mercy. He said: “A spreading opposition to the death penalty, even as an instrument of legitimate social defence, has developed in public opinion, and this is a sign of hope. In fact, modern societies have the ability to effectively control crime without definitively taking away a criminal’s chance to redeem himself. The issue lies in the context of a perspective on a criminal justice system that is ever more conformed to the dignity of man and God’s design for man and for society. And also a criminal justice system that is open to the hope of reintegration in society.  The commandment “thou shall not kill” has absolute value and pertains to the innocent as well as the guilty. The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a propitious occasion to promote in the world a growing maturity for ways to respect life and the dignity of each person. Because even a criminal has the inviolable right to life, a gift of God.  I appeal to the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty.”[14]

 

  1. In his video message to participants at the 6thWorld Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, 21-23 June, 2016, Pope Francis said that capital punishment “contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice.” He called for a world ‘free of the death penalty’. Indeed, he said, “nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person…it is not consonant with any purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance.”[15]

 

  1. We are aware that the latest execution that took place in our region was in 2008 (Charles Elroy Laplace, St Kitts & Nevis)[16], and that the rulings in a number of judgments by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council since the judgment handed down in the case of Pratt and Morgan v The Attorney-General of Jamaica (1993)[17] have made it almost impossible for the death penalty to be carried out. We are also aware that even though the Caribbean States that have not abolished the death penalty have not carried out any execution for the last ten years, some have sentenced persons to death during this decade.

 

            RENEW SOCIETY AND PROMOTE THE COMMON                  GOOD

 

  1. We stand with Archbishop Patrick Pinder, President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, in his expression of solidarity with the victims of crime. Delivering the homily at the Red Mass in Nassau in 2009, he said:“It is important to note that while we oppose the death penalty, we embrace the victims of violent crimes; those who are hurting and grieving for their loved ones who have been killed, at times in the most heinous ways. We urge each parish to establish victim support groups and seek to meet their physical, mental, spiritual, financial and other needs.”[18]

 

  1. “Faithful to the mission of Jesus Christ who came ‘that they may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10), we…once again wish to proclaim, celebrate and serve the gift of life. We wish to affirm the Church’s teaching in regard to the inherent dignity of every human being. As such, every effort must be made to protect and preserve the sanctity of life…”[19] As Christians we are to be ‘people of and for life’, we are to be genuinely pro-life, with a proper understanding of what this means: ‘To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. (However) it is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life.”[20]

 

  1. “As pastors intimately involved in the life of our Caribbean people, we share every day the ‘joys and the hopes, the grief and the anxieties’[21] of the faithful. In the present crisis of violent crime and increasing public disorder, many of our people face personal and social dangers. We share the pain of the victims of the many forms of human brutality. Our Lord Jesus was deeply moved by the suffering of the poor, the sick, the powerless, and those grieved by death and personal loss. As Christ’s disciples, united to him as brothers and sisters, we also burn with compassion, and we cry out for justice. Especially in those tragic situations of extreme violence, in which persons or society as a whole are wounded by acts of gross inhumanity…we entrust and submit our compassion for the victims and our desire for justice to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whose wisdom and truth transcends our limited human standards. Placing our hope and trust in God in such severe situations is a difficult responsibility — one that requires courage, perseverance and a spirit of prayerful discernment.”[22]   We condemn the conditions and circumstances that make for situations where crime and violence are perpetuated causing death and injury.  In addition, we appeal and pray for the conversion of persons who contemplate and become accessories to such injustice, that their conscience abhors the committing of such gross inhumanity on their fellow citizens.

 

  1. “Continuing the mission of our Lord, Christians are called to participate in the ministry of reconciliation: bringing physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual healing to individual persons; and developing a peace and justice in society that would be characteristic of the Kingdom of God. We have, then, like the Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, first a special call to care for those who have been personally wounded by acts of violence — the victims themselves, as well as their relatives and friends. We offer the loving support of our Church communities through counselling and genuine friendship, as well as through faithful perseverance in private and communal prayer, asking for the merciful and saving power of our God.”[23]

 

  1. To promote integral human development in our region, we recognize the urgent need for our governments to address the underlying causes of crime and the risk factors that contribute to crime and not only the symptoms of crime. To do so, they must take into consideration the many challenges to human life today, including poverty and social exclusion, human trafficking, the sex trade, including exploitation of women and children, domestic violence, the drug and gun trade.

 

  1. We urge our governments to consider recommendations made in reports such as the United Nations Development Programme’s report:“Caribbean Human Development Report 2012: Human Development and the shift to better citizen security”[24] which states, inter alia, that “The human development approach to crime and violence in the Caribbean is hampered by the lack of institutional capacity of public institutions such as the police, judiciary and penitential systems.” Their 26 main recommendations focus on issues such as: Reducing Victimization, Reducing risk and building youth resilience, Controlling street gangs and organized crime, Transforming the Police, Reforming the Justice System, and Building capacity for evidence-based policy.

 

ADDRESS THE REAL DETERRENTS TO CRIME

 

  1. “Judicial commissions, both local and international, sociologists and criminologists largely agree that there is no empirical evidence to support the claim that the death penalty reduces the frequency of capital offences.[25] “On the contrary, some experts have even argued that jurisdictions that have abolished capital punishment have actually recorded decreasing homicide rates.[26]  The most important deterrent to criminal activity is not the threat of execution, but rather the risk of apprehension and conviction for the crime committed. [27] Enforcement agencies and judicial processes that are most effective in exercising their authority provide the greatest deterrent to crime, even when the nature of the penalty is less severe. To call for the resumption of executions is to deflect attention away from true deterrents, and to ignore the reforms necessary for the instruments of civil justice to act as effective agencies for the prevention of social disorder.[28]

 

  1. “There is more and more evidence, especially with the advent of DNA testing, that innocent persons have been convicted of capital crimes and have unjustly lost their lives by state execution. To take the life of one convicted of a capital crime is a final judgment which categorically denies the possibility of judicial error. By contrast, to acknowledge the fallibility of our human institutions is to allow for the possible innocence of the one convicted of a crime, and thus to avoid a penalty for which there can be no appeal, reversal or compensation”.[29]

 

  1. “We must also candidly admit that legal processes require financial and human resources that are not equally available to all in society. The poor and the marginalized often have limited access to good legal counsel and representation, which weakens a full and fair judicial process, and intensifies the danger of convicting and executing the innocent. It is a great concern for us that those condemned to die are disproportionately poor, and without the benefit of adequate legal defense.”[30]

 

  1. “Political and economic rights are intrinsically related: the common good as well as the integrity of the individual is threatened by economic deprivation. The state, therefore, must do everything in its power to promote the production of a sufficient supply of material goods, the use of which is necessary for the practice of virtue.”[31]

 

  1. In the face of widespread Caribbean poverty, politicians calling for capital punishment not only risk gross injustice; they also undermine their own legitimacy as responsible leaders. As Pope John XXIII taught: “considerations of justice and equity… demand that those involved in civil government give more attention to the less fortunate members of the community, since they are less able to defend their rights and to assert their legitimate claims…”[32]

 

  1. “Capital punishment symbolises a form of despair for the effective reform of persons. Our Christian hope for the conversion and reform of criminals, by contrast, signifies our uncompromising faith in the redeeming grace of God that acts upon humanity’s natural dignity to restore order both to the person and to society. This hope is based on our witness to the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus, who, when confronted with the guilt of the woman caught in adultery, transcended the death penalty of Israel’s law by exposing the universal need for repentance and conversion: ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’” (John 8:7).[33]

 

            NURTURE AN ALL-INCLUSIVE COMPASSION

 

  1. “Our experience of salvation in Christ is first an awareness of our need for forgiveness, and then an overwhelming sense of God’s grace that returns to us our dignity as persons made in the image of our Creator.”[34] We, in turn, are given a share in Christ’s own mission of forgiveness; (John 20:23), which restores true dignity by allowing the grace of God to bring about conversion in the sinner. Capital punishment deprives us of our mission to forgive, and the transgressor of an opportunity to reform. [35]

 

  1. “Our Christian compassion is the expression of our hope in the reform of those who have violated the moral order. It is the means by which we cooperate with God’s grace to bring about personal conversion and social development. We follow Christ, who chooses to be with sinners and social outcasts, because ‘it is not those who are healthy that need a physician, but the sick’” (Mark 2:17).[36]

 

  1. “Our compassion is not misdirected, but rather all–inclusive, and it intends specifically in the present context the protection of human dignity and the conversion of transgressors. Jesus suffered the reproach of the religious and political leaders of the times for his association with and care for sinners, even those who would be guilty in the law of the day of capital crimes. We imitate our Lord, the Good Shepherd, who is willing to leave the ninety nine–sheep in order to seek the one lost, for ‘…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety–nine righteous persons who need no repentance’” (Luke 15:7).[37]

 

  1. We encourage all Christians in the Caribbean to teach by both word and example the moral and social dangers of capital punishment. There is no teaching more effective than that of example, and so the members of the Church are exhorted to be “a shining example by their sense of responsibility and their dedication to the common good.”[38]Concretely this means that we must avoid all forms of lawlessness and selfishness that threaten the very fabric of ordered society. We observe a climate of lawlessness in our countries. Many persons, while appealing for state execution, contribute to this climate by tolerating or co–operating in structures of various forms of political and business corruption, and illegality. It is by our righteousness that we “act as a leaven in the world,”[39] providing solid foundations for the development of society. We give credible witness to our teaching against the injustice of the death penalty only if we avoid participating in the many agents of social destruction, and if we contribute to the protection and enhancement of human dignity.[40]

 

  1. It is important that we support each other as Christians to proclaim this message of reconciliation, mercy and love. In the past, official Church teaching allowed the possibility that legitimate public authority could impose the death penalty in “cases of extreme gravity”.[41] But all of the considerations we have made above — Scriptural, theological, sociological and existential — lead us now to evaluate the exercise of capital punishment with an attitude of strong denunciation.  It is an imperative which obliges each and every man and woman, as well as societies and nations. And although our reflections are grounded in the Caribbean context, we share the judgement of our own universal Church leaders along with many social and religious leaders world–wide: “A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.[42]    The death penalty is both cruel and unnecessary.”[43]

 

            PROMOTE A PROCESS OF RECONCILIATION

 

  1. We repeat, however, our concern for the victim of violence. To reject capital punishment is not to make light of the loss of loved ones and the violation of human dignity and rights experienced by victims of crime. The pastoral care of the Church is directed first towards the comfort and assistance of these victims. But part of this assistance involves letting the experience of the Cross, which is one of innocent suffering, lead to reconciliation. Capital punishment does not assist the criminal to reform, or society to deter. Neither does it assist the victim to restore his or her violated dignity. Only genuine reconciliation can achieve personal satisfaction and restore social order. The process of reconciliation involves conversion, reform, restitution, and forgiveness.[44]

 

  1. Jesus explicitly commanded his followers to forgive “from your heart” (Matt. 21:35). How are we to understand this command in the context of widespread crime and murder? He does not mean to release a murderer unpunished to prey upon other victims. Jesus teaches forgiveness not as an end in itself, but as an essential element in the process of reconciliation, as reflected in Jesus’ own practice of forgiveness. There are two parties involved in reconciliation: the wrongdoer and the victim. A process of reconciliation involves obligations of both parties. For the wrongdoer, there must be recognition and confession of his/her sin, accompanied by real contrition. The sincerity of contrition means that the wrongdoer must be willing to make restitution, like Zacchaeus, who, when he repented, promised to pay back four times as much to everyone he defrauded (Luke 19:8). In the case of murder, provision should be pursued to facilitate the principle that restitution involves taking on obligations to the victim’s family and community. Finally, the wrongdoer must reform his/her life. “Go,” Jesus said to the sinful woman, “and sin no more” (Mt. 8: 11). On the part of the victim’s family and the community, the process of reconciliation demands an attitude and a willingness to forgive, and to restore a relationship with the contrite and reformed wrongdoer. As shown in Jesus’ practice of the reconciliation of sinners, forgiveness can also be a powerful form to help the sinner towards conversion: “Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love” (Lk. 7:47).[45]

 

  1. What we have just described is an ideal situation of reconciliation, which is reflected in the sacramental process of the Catholic Church. In civil society, penal laws and institutions are necessary because the conditions of reconciliation are not often fully met. But the goal of reconciliation, the restoration of moral order to society, is the purpose of those institutions, and it is the purpose of the Christian practice of forgiveness. In virtue of our prophetic call as Christians, then, we exhort all peoples to the promotion of the intrinsic dignity and inviolability of all human life, as a condition for full human development, In this way, we follow our Lord Jesus Christ, who came that we might “have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10: 10). To take away a person’s basic right to immunity from fatal harm is to compromise his/her sacred dignity. We therefore… “appeal for the development of a consensus among the people of the world to abolish capital punishment”[46]as all life is of worth and must be respected. Let us put our efforts into building communities of love. We conclude with the words of Pope St John Paul II: “I do not hesitate to proclaim before you and before the world that all human life – from the moment of conception and through all subsequent stages – is sacred, because human life is created in the image of and likeness of God. Nothing surpasses the greatness or dignity of a human person…All human beings ought to value every person for his or her uniqueness as a creature of God, called to be a brother or sister of Christ by reason of the Incarnation and the universal redemption. For us, the sacredness of human life is based on these premises. And it is on these same premises that there is based our celebration of life – all human life. This explains our efforts to defend human life against every influence or action that threatens or weakens it, as well as our endeavours to make every life more human in all its aspects. And so, we will stand up every time that human life is threatened.”[47]

 

            AMEND LEGISLATION TO REMOVE THE DEATH PENALTY

 

  1. It is our firm desire that the leaders and people of our Caribbean society move toward the total abolition of the Death Penalty. We should place emphasis on the rehabilitation of the offender rather than on his/her elimination. “Non-lethal forms of punishment are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.”[48]

 

  1. As a first step, we encourage the Governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados to amend their legislation to remove the mandatory imposition of the death penalty. We also make a plea for the Governments of the English-speaking Caribbean to support the 2016 UN resolution on a Moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its abolition which will be presented at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, and to improve prison conditions. We acknowledge positive developments in relation to this issue, such as the abolition of the death penalty by the Parliament of Suriname on the 3rd day of March, 2015.

 

  1. We remain committed to work with Governments and other stakeholders in our region to build safer, just and peaceful societies and to do so by encouraging the use of non-lethal means to achieve our goals. Let us all play our part to promote morals and values that will assist us in building peaceful communities that promote the common good – creating conditions that will allow each person to realise his/her potential.

 

REFORM THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

  1. We urge our Governments to strengthen the capacity of public institutions, including criminal justice systems, to address crime and violence; to address the risk factors that contribute to crime, for example: poverty, urban decay, social inequality and exclusion, family disintegration, poor parenting, lack of quality education and employment, poor housing, the proliferation of guns, drugs and gangs in the region, and to employ related preventive measures. We stand ready and urge our faithful and all people of good will to work together to this end.

 

  1. God’s plan is for us to live in peace and right relationship with Him, with each other and with all of His Creation. Our communities need healing. Let us pray and work for the renewal of hearts and minds and find more sustainable and effective solutions aimed at reducing crime and violence in our region and in the world. During this Holy Year of Mercy, let us recognise and embrace the power of divine mercy which makes all things new.

 

  1. Heavenly Father, we thank you for the wondrous gift of life you have granted to us.
    We thank you even more for having restored us, through your Son Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us out of love, while we were still sinners.

 

We echo the words of praise of our Blessed Mother Mary: For your mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear you. You have done mighty deeds with your arm. (Lk 1:50-51)

Through her intercession, we ask you, Heavenly Father, to make us protectors of all lives, including those of culprits and criminals, for no one, in your eyes, is excluded from your mercy and conversion. Grant to all of us a greater respect for life, so that we may overcome evil with love.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen

 

Published with the consent of all Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference.

Port of Spain, Trinidad on Wednesday, September 21, 2016.

The Feast of St. Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist

 

SIGNED:
1. Archbishop Patrick Pinder, Nassau (President of the Conference)
2. Archbishop Joseph Harris, C.S.Sp., Port of Spain

  1. Archbishop Robert Rivas, O.P., Castries
    4. Archbishop Kenneth Richards, Kingston
  2. Archbishop David Macaire, O.P., St. Pierre & Fort-de-France
    6. Archbishop Emeritus Charles Dufour, Apostolic Administrator of Mandeville
    7. Bishop Francis Alleyne, OSB, Georgetown (Vice President of the Conference)
    8. Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, Roseau
    9. Bishop Jason Gordon, Bridgetown
    10. Bishop Emmanuel Lafont, Cayenne
    11. Bishop Karel Choennie, Paramaribo
    12. Bishop Gerard County, C.S.Sp., Kingstown
    13. Bishop Christopher Glancy, C.S.V., (Auxiliary) Belize City & Belmopan
    14. Bishop Luis Secco, Willemstad
    15. Bishop Jean-Yves Riocreux, Basseterre-Pointe-a-Pitre
    16. Bishop Wieslaw Spiewak, C.R., Hamilton
    17. Bishop Burchell McPherson, Montego Bay
    18. Bishop Robert Llanos, Apostolic Administrator St. John’s Basseterre
  3. 19. Fr. Clifton Harris, O.P., Diocesan Administrator, St. George’s

[1] Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2015: Make your hearts firm (Jas 5:8), para. 2

[2] Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, para.2

 

[3] Ibid, para.1

[4] We are called to proclaim, celebrate and serve The Gift of Life, Pastoral Letter of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, Rome, 29 March 2008, para.1

[5] Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, para.8

 

[6] Ibid, para. 1

[7] We are called to proclaim, celebrate and serve The Gift of Life, Pastoral Letter of the Antilles

Episcopal Conference, Rome, 29 March 2008, para. 32

[8] Pope Francis, Feb 21, 2015, St Peter’s Square, Rome –

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-calls-for-worldwide-ban-on- death-penalty-a6887376.html

 

[9] We are called to proclaim, celebrate and serve The Gift of Life, Pastoral Letter of the Antilles

Episcopal Conference, Rome, 29 March 2008, para. 32

[10] Ibid, para 33

[11] http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-benedict-end-the-death-penalty

[12] https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/pope-francis-death-penalty-inadmissible

[13] https://w2.vatican.va/content/…/papa-francesco_20160217_messico-detenuti.html

[14] https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2016/documents/papa-        francesco_angelus_20160221.html

[15]https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2016/06/21/pope-francis-calls-world-free-death-penalty

[16] http://www.handsoffcain.info/bancadati/schedastato.php?idstato=20000223&idcontinente=24

[17] Pratt and Morgan v The Attorney-General of Jamaica (1993 43 WIR 340)

[18] Archbishop Pinder, Red Mass Homily, 2009

http://www.rcsocialjusticett.org/downloads/deathpen_abppinder.pdf

 

[19] We are called to proclaim, celebrate and serve The Gift of Life, Pastoral Letter of the

Antilles Episcopal Conference, Rome, 29 March 2008, para 2

[20] Ibid, para 11

[21]The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et

Spes, 1965, para. 1

[22] Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, para.3

[23]Ibid, para. 4

[24] Caribbean Human Development Report 2012: Human Development and the shift to better citizen security”:    http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/corporate/HDR/Latin%20America%20and%20Caribbean%20HDR/C_bean_HDR_Jan25_2012_3MB.pdf

[25]Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, para 14, n 12: This is the consistent opinion of many experts. In the US for example, “A survey of experts from the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and the Law and Society Association showed that, over 80%  believe the existing research fails to support a deterrence justification for the death penalty” — M. Radelet and M. Akers, Deterrence and the Death Penalty? The Views of Experts, 1995. This is supported by Roger Hood in his research for the UN in The Death Penalty: A World– wide Perspective (Oxford, 1996), p. 238, para. 328. Research in the Caribbean has yielded the same conclusions. In Jamaica, the Barnet Commission (1974) questioned the use of hanging as a deterrent to murder and violent crime (para. 250); likewise, in Trinidad and Tobago, the Abdulah Report (1980) concluded that “… there is no clear statistical evidence that the death penalty does inhibit persons from committing murder (n. 7.46); the lack of scientific evidence in favour of capital punishment as a deterrent led Jamaica’s Frazer Commission (1979) to recommend “… that death as a penalty for murder should be abolished” (n. 18)

[26] Ibid,  para 14, n.13: Homicide Studies, Vol. I, No. 2 (May 1997), indicates that executions may actually increase the number of murders, rather than deter murders. See also Roger Hood, Op. Cit., p. 187, para. 253

[27] Ibid, para 14, n.14: The late Dr. Carl Stone, prominent Jamaican social scientist, concluded that “… the suggestion that hanging deters murder has no basis in fact” and pointed to the low probability of apprehension as the most significant obstacle to effective deterrence, The Daily Gleaner, October 4, 1982

[28] Ibid, para.14

[29] Ibid, para.15

[30]Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, para 16,  n.15: “The death penalty is discriminatory and is often used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of social, ethnic and religious communities,” Amnesty International, The Death Penalty: Questions and Answers (April 2000). The data provided by the Bureau of Justice statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice indicates disproportionality according to race and ethnicity in death sentencing. See the revised report (January 1999) at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pubalp2.htm Capital Punishment in Jamaica, the Report of the Research Team of the Frazer Commission (1979) observed: “In every country in the world, history shows that the death penalty has been unjustly imposed. It bears unevenly and irrevocably on the poor, on minorities, and on oppressed groups within the population. The above conclusion would certainly be true if the men presently on death row [in Jamaica] were executed” p. 57

[31] Ibid, para 16, n.16: Pope St John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra, 1961, n. 20

[32] Ibid, Para 16, n17: Pope St John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in terris, 1963, n. 56

[33] Ibid, para 22

[34] Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment,  para 22, n.21

[35] Ibid, para 22

[36] Ibid

[37] Ibid, para 23

[38]Ibid, Para 29, n.25: The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 1965, n. 75

[39]Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, para 29, n.26: World Synod of Catholic Bishops, Justice in the World, 1971, n. 38

[40]Ibid, para 29

[41] Ibid, para 30, n.27: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, n. 2266

[42] Ibid, para 30, n.28: Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 1995, n. 27

[43] Ibid, para 30, n. 29 Homily, Pope John Paul II, January 27, 1999, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A

[44] Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, para 31

[45] Ibid, para 32

[46] Jubilee Year 2000, Antilles Episcopal Conference Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, para 33

[47] Pope St. John Paul II, “Let Us Celebrate Life!” USA –The Message of Justice, Peace, & Love, Boston, MA: St. Paul Editions, 1979, #3, 6; pp.278, 282.

[48] The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), 99

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Bishop’s statement on the Holy Father’s Resignation

Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI
By Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have all received the surprising news of the resignation of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, which is to take effect at the end or this month, February 28, 2013. The reason communicated for this development is the Holy Father’s advanced age and fatigue. The Holy Father will turn 86 this April. Such a decision is unprecedented in the Papacy in modern times. In fact, the last resignation from the holy office happened in the year 1415 with Pope Gregory XII, that is, almost 600 years ago.

We thank God for the tremendous service that Pope Benedict XVI has given to the Universal Church during his eight years as Holy Father. Now the duty is ours,  clergy and faithful alike, to pray for the election of a new pope. We pray that the Holy Spirit  guides the college of Cardinals at the conclave which will be convened sometime soon, to choose a man according to God’s own heart, so as to continue to work of building God’s kingdom here on earth.

May The Lord bless His Church.

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Bishop’s 2012 Independence Message

Bishop’s Independence Message
Partnering for Further Progress & Development

The theme chosen for this year’s Independence celebrations bears two significant words, which are proper to the mindset of any developing state such as ours; namely, progress and development. The unfortunate thing is that when they are used in our context, they are more often than not perceived from the viewpoint of already established standards that rests in the possession of others: individuals, groups and or nations. In other words, we always approach the reality of advancement with certain models in mind, some of which are not always wholesome.

I am not here casting a negative eye on the need to learn from others who have advanced in some positive way, in the area of our particular need. After all, the first word of the theme speaks of partnering, connoting a disposition of openness and willingness to learn from others. The truth is that, even mere survival is not possible in today’s world without a significant ability to relate and collaborate with others. Such relationships are required on the domestic, communal, regional and international levels. For purposes of our national celebration, however, let us turn inward for a moment.

We can begin by asking the question: what disposition ought we to have as a nation, to engender the sort of growth that would accord with the deepest sentiments of our people? What philosophy do we operate from? The answer to these questions will determine the quality of our advancement; whether they are geared towards helping our people to be truly independent, in the correct sense of the word, or even properly interdependent, or whether it leaves more questions hanging as regards our ability to attain greater freedom by our religious, educational, and other social structures. Not until these questions are properly answered can we speak of progress and development worthy of its name.

It must be realized, first and foremost, that genuine progress and development is about people. All infrastructural and other advancements, to attain their true value must, of necessity, be at the service of people. It is essentially about the quality of relationship that they provoke to achieve the short and long-term national and even domestic goals; ultimately, the enhancement of human life.

It cannot be doubted that physical structures have a significant place in the scheme of human advancement. For example, people need to have proper homes; a country needs proper roads, good hospitals, schools that are well integrated and other important social structures. However, these are all ineffective without the caliber of people to use them, lest they quickly go to ruin.

In my vision, therefore, a model of development that would be conducive to a small nation such as ours would need to be properly calculated, resonating with the local culture and never an imposition. We in Dominica are in a unique position to learn from the mistakes of other nations, including some of our Caribbean neighbours.

In light of this I feel compelled to ask the questions: what is so progressive about our reality when our crime is on the rise? What is so developmental about us when people are becoming more impersonal and selfish? What kind of progress do we see in the fact that increasingly people have little regard for others, basic etiquette is something of the past, and good civics is wanting?

As we enter the 34th year of self-determination, my challenge to all of us is that we focus on the common good of all our people so as to reap the long-term benefit of a truly developed nation. Needless to say, it requires the effort of all and sundry, those who, by virtue of their position in our society are called to make specific contributions, such as the Government, Church, Judiciary, law enforcement departments, professionals, businesses, educational and health institutions, the fisheries and agricultural sectors, and every rank and file member of the society of our Nature Isle. I submit therefore, that the only viable way forward is through partnership, as the national theme suggests. Let us therefore embrace that call for the prosperity and good health of our nation.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOMINICA!

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Bishop’s 2012 New Years Message

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This year, 2012, promises to be very exciting for the Diocese of Roseau in more ways than one.

Firstly, it commences in earnest the implementation of our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, coming out of our Diocesan Synod, under the theme: Disciples on Mission, Gifted and Called. It will be a ten year plan in three segments of three years. This year commences the first segment with the focus on evangelization and catechesis through the Word of God. The success of our plan will depend on the participation of all the faithful of the Diocese.

Secondly, after consultation with the Diocesan Finance Council, the Cathedral Project Fundraising Committee and the Cathedral Project Management Committee (PMC), on Dec. 19, 2011, I gave the order to Consulting Engineering Partnership (CEP) to finish the final designs for the PMC’s approval and to prepare the documents for tender so that the renovation works on the Cathedral can be set in motion. In that regard, therefore, the last celebration at the Cathedral will be at Easter.

In the Gospel of St. Luke’s chapter 14:28-30 we read: Which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.”

Over the last eight years I have sat down many times with the engineers and financial experts to look at estimated costs and amounts raised towards the project. Every year the cost of material and labour are inflating. The amount collected to date is now EC$3.57m. But since we have had to meet some expenses along the way the amount on hand is EC$3.19m.

Everyone knows that ten dollars buys less today than it did three years ago. And the trend is likely to continue. So the only way we can approach this project is from a Faith standpoint.

The just quoted text from Luke’s Gospel may be applicable in our case, but if we do not start now, we will have no greater advantage next year or the year after, as we watch the cost of everything skyrocket. St. Francis of Assisi used to say: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

I have the full confidence that God, through the patronage of Our Lady of Fair Haven, will help us in the renovation of His House. So we need to start despite our financial position.

It is clear that with the available funds we may have to stop work along the way.  But that will depend on the level of success in our fund-raising efforts. I shall do everything possible to solicit assistance from friendly agencies towards this project. But I appeal to all parishioners, to the corporate community, the entire diocese and also friends and well-wishers in the Diaspora to help with this renovation project of our Cathedral, a national treasure, and Dominica’s great religious heritage.

The Estimated Cost provided by Mc Leod & Davis (Dominica) Ltd, Chartered Quantity Surveyors is broken down in phases.

The 1st Phase entails storage and protection of several items including:

  • Dismantling and storage of the Louis Debierre Pipe Organ;
  • Dismantling and storage of the ancient pulpit with its soundboard;
  • Removal and storage of the beautiful Stained Glass windows;
  • Protecting the beautiful wall paintings on the spot, as they are fragile.
  • Storage of the pews as only 68 of the total 223 can fit in St Gerard’s Hall.

This phase includes also the removal of the roof covering for which special equipment and experts need to be sourced. Also included in this phase is the stabilizing and shoring up of the old walls before removal of the old roof. This phase will cost EC$ 1.4 m.

The 2nd Phase will include the demolition works of the interior columns and arches, digging up the floors to build new foundations, connected with beams, and reconstructing round columns and arches in reinforced concrete. This phase will also include strengthening the majestic bell tower. This 2nd phase will cost EC $ 3.2m.

The 3rd Phase involves the purchase and installation of the new roof structure and covering. This will cost EC$ 2.4m. You will note that at this time we do not have the funds to start the 3rd phase.

The Diocese will be without the use of the Cathedral for a long time and it has to prepare for that. The parish will be missing its parish church for a long time and it will have to prepare for that. We pray the Lord blesses with success this, His project.

The Third area of excitement for the Diocese is the establishment of the New Radio Station: Dominica Catholic Radio, on the frequency 96.1FM and also via internet at www.dominicacatholicradio.org. From Nov. 26, 2011 we have been testing the equipment. However, regular programming will begin very soon in the New Year. We are in discussion with Marpin 2K4 and SAT Telecommunications to broadcast via those networks so that everyone on island can be reached. We can all appreciate the tremendous potential in this medium for the evangelizing mission of the Church. However, the successful operation of the station will depend on the Catholic faithful and their voluntary contributions towards it.

A Fourth area of excitement for the Diocese is the opening of a House of Discernment at the former Convent in Soufriere. There aspirants (young men who feel called to the Diocesan Priesthood) will pursue a programme of formation under the direction of Archbishop Kelvin Felix, prior to their entry into the Major Seminary, which presently is based in the Dominican Republic. February 2, 2012 will be the formal opening of this institution.

A Fifth area of excitement for the Diocese has to do with the establishment of a Catholic Secondary School in the North (Portsmouth). Plans are already afoot towards that venture. A feasibility study done in the north some months ago indicates a very favourable response to the idea.

We are hoping to start on a shift system with St. John’s Primary School until a building can be constructed. Friendly organizations are being partnered to assist in this venture.

As you realize, dear brothers and sisters, God is calling us to serious stewardship for the sake of His kingdom. I trust that we can all rise to the challenge with the help of the one who strengthens us. Amen!

 

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Bishop’s Christmas Message 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christmas represents that single moment in the history of humanity that was long awaited by generations of the Hebrew people, and therefore, the whole world by extension.  The prophet Isaiah in two important texts gives insights into that Messianic event, capturing the essence of what has become the Christian faith.

The first text taken from Chapter 11: 1-10, ushers in the season of Advent, stating the origin of the Messiah King and his unifying function in the order of nature.  In his metaphoric style, the prophet says thus: “A shoot springs from a stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his root; on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord …. Integrity is the loin cloth round the waist, faithfulness the belt about his hip. The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand … That day, the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples.”

The second text from Chapter 9:1-7 features at the Christmas Midnight Mass.  Again, in a climactic fashion, it points to the meaning of the Christ event.  It tells us: ” The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone … For the footwear of battle, every cloak rolled in blood, is burnt and consumed by fire.  For there is a child born to us, a son given to us, and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name given to him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace. Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end.”

In both texts we are being drawn into the positive vision for which Christmas stands; a vision of peace-making, a vision of concern for the integrity of the whole of created reality, a vision of improved human relationship.

The cyclic nature of the calendar year and of the Church’s liturgical life, affords the constant opportunity for us to reflect on the extent to which we have, as a people and as individuals, measured up to the ideals presented by the long-awaited Messiah-King.  You will agree with me, therefore, when I say that as long as there exists any crippling division between nations and peoples, among social groups and religious persuasions, between political factions and leaders, between individuals and even with the self, Christmas remains a challenge for us.  As long as there exists prejudice in any of its forms, on the levels of colour, creed or class, Christmas remains a challenge for us.  As long as the most basic unit of human community, the family, lacks the integrity to bring its offspring into maturity in a manner that is worthy of its vocation, Christmas remains a challenge for us.

Thankfully, however, as a Christian people, we can take consolation in the fact that the spirit of Christmas brings out the best in us, as we often say.  The outpouring of generosity and kindness, the display of hospitality and openness, and the demonstration of selflessness are un-bounding.  We can only pray that these qualities deeply influence our modus operandi, that is, our way of being and acting, so that they progressively characterize us as a people.

In that regard, therefore, we are thankful for the various people in our communities who through their professional and private lives demonstrate those qualities that can help bring enrichment to our nation.  I think of His Excellency the President, the Honourable Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues, the members of the opposition, who have the responsibility of providing valuable alternative ideas to the governance of our country, the judiciary and other law enforcement agencies, our religious leaders, the health personnel and institutions, the farmers and fishermen, teachers and civil servants, the private sector, educators and students, the media and all others.

May the peace that comes with Christmas penetrate every heart, may it surround every family and therefore engender a comfortable sense of wellbeing for all.

A Merry Christmas to everyone.

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Bishop Malzaire Speaks Out Against Crime & Violence

MARCH AGAINST CRIME & VIOLENCE

Sunday, June 5, 2011

“Glory to God and Peace on Earth

Address by Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

Let me begin by expressing my deep gratitude to all of you assembled here, for responding to the call to show your solidarity towards this common cause—the fight against Crime and violence.  I wish to assure you that your presence means a great deal for the moral health of Dominica.The issue crime and violence, you will agree, is not new to Dominica. It is not new to the Caribbean region, neither is it a stranger to the world in which we live. Indeed, the reality of crime and violence goes as far back as the fall of humanity, as recounted in the biblical book of origins. The issue of crime and violence, I would say, is one of the most blatant demonstrations of the malicious tendencies of the human heart. That tendency we refer to, in moral parlance, to concupiscence, which, when allowed to mature, gives rise to sin.  Unfortunately it is a tendency that resides in all of us.

In fact, the scriptures are replete with accounts of violence and hideous crimes. And with such precedence, one could easily ask, so what’s new?

While such a question may not fetch a ready response, out of the sheer fear of recognizing our personal responsibility to the present situation, we can safely say that humanity throughout history has always approached crime and violence with a deep sense of abhorrence and have sought various means of forging a peaceful existence. Even when the order of the day, in certain periods of human history could be considered as barbaric, humanity always sought redress, reconciliation, and renewal; traits that were more reflective of what is to be truly human.

The truth is that, times have passed and human beings have evolved, with greater possibilities in culture, educational advancement and growth in human civilization. Along with that evolution is the increased awareness of the dignity of the human person and the right to life; hence the reason why, in the twenty-first century, when we continue to witness such high level of people’s inhumanity to each other, it seems so out-of-sync with the philosophy of genuine development. I’m afraid that, the perpetuation of such realities in our time will beg the question: whether, as citizens of a modern world, we are really developed or are genuinely developing. This, no doubt, is a million dollar question which cannot be addressed adequately in this forum.

However, I am certain that if we look closely enough, we will discover that incidence of crime and violence in any society stem from one area of underdevelopment or another; whether it be, lack of proper socialization of our young into life; lack of the necessities for the young to mature physically, psychologically, spiritually or socially; the over indulgence in that which is of the lower nature of the human person; insufficient discipline and guidance due to poor family support; the negative influence of the media, including the high level of violent movies and other violent forms of entertainment, the breakdown in basic human values like self-respect and respect for others; the thirst for unmerited materialistic gains and the promotion of wanton individualism.  All these, and more, I’m afraid, are forms of underdevelopment.

The lack of these situations shows themselves in the varied forms that we are becoming more familiar with in precious little Nature Isle, be they: homicides, theft, drug trafficking and addiction and their many consequences, child abuse of varied kinds, even the noise pollution in the city and communities.

One of the main reasons why today we approach the issue of crime and violence with such abhorrence is that both in Dominica and in the Caribbean as a whole, we have known better times. Not too long ago, whenever the few situations raised their ugly heads in Dominica, they were dealt with communally. Everyone was left grief-stricken when something terrible happened.  Today this is not the case.  The most hideous crimes are committed in our communities, and life continues without any sense of remorse or any sense of the evil that has gripped our society.  The collective attitude that is being communicated is one which says: “it is just another event.”  We are rapidly growing more and apathetic to evil in our midst.

Within the last couple decades, I would say, our region has witnesses an unprecedented increase in the incidence of these terrible happenings. We are all familiar with the annual regional statistics; the constantly augmenting figures in Jamaica, Trinidad, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts and others.  We are realizing with concern that per capita ours is not far behind.

In recognition of this reality, the bishops of the Antilles, in 2003, issued a Pastoral Letter precisely on the theme of Crime and Violence, entitled: “Justice and Peace Shall Embrace.” Its aim was to raise the consciousness of the people of the region to the gravity of the situation at hand, and to encourage a more concerted effort in seeking its remedy and possible alleviation. It was out of this that the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church, in 2004 conducted seminars with the various groups that included, the Catholic Clergy, principals and teachers of the Catholic schools and students of some secondary schools. Subsequently, in 2006 an 8-weeks workshop on mediation was conducted for the teachers from various schools.  The fruit of the discussions made it very clear to us that issue of crime and violence in our society as a whole is a complex one, and requires multi-faceted and inter-disciplinary approach. At first we approached the Cabinet with some recommended areas that we could explore together as a possible approach to the situation.

Some delays in getting the discussions in motion on that front, gave us time to consider the need to broaden the bases in our approach.  For one thing, it became clearer to us that the issue of crime and violence and the concomitant work for peace, is everybody’s business.  It transcends political, social, religious, denominational lines.  No one can claim to be untouched by its effects in our society.  The people who are involved in such misdeeds are either, a family member, a close or a distant relative, a member of our many churches, or a relation to a member thereof.  In this regard, therefore, the words of St. Paul to his Corinthians audience rings true. He said to them in Chapter 12:26, of his First letter: “If one part of the body is hurt, all parts share its pain. And if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy.”  Dear friends, our prayerful and peaceful demonstration today is reflective of the deep feeling and concern we share as a Christian people. And since it is neither a carnival festivity nor a wedding ceremony, which normally communicate exuberance and a sense of contentment, I suspect that the solidarity we share today is one that is seeking for a better state of communal existence.

From these foregoing reflections and concerns was born the present Inter-denominational Working Group on Crime and Violence, consisting of representatives from the Dominica Christian Council, the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The Church, we feel is well positioned to make a significant contribution in addressing the issue of crime and violence, but more especially as a united force. As a moral institution, she, more than any other group, deals directly with the deepest need of the human person—the need for ultimate happiness.  A hallmark of the Church remains the quest to integral formation through the equitation of wisdom, knowledge and divine reverence. However, religion always needs the support of social institutions to complete the picture towards human progress; hence the call to all societal institutions: government, judiciary, law enforcement agencies, private sectors, families, social groups, etc., to collaboration with this present effort to make more credible the possibility of really dealing with the issue of crime and violence in our society, and thereby creating a culture of peace.

We are keenly aware that ever sector of the society has its particular role to play and needs to carry out that role with undue interference, but I’m sure you will agree with me that if we all show a greater level of support to each other in carrying out our particular roles, the peace that we seek will have a greater fighting chance.  For instance, the crimes committed will not be solved if people do not collaborate with the law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators to justice. Violence in schools will not be curbed if parents, guardians and the school staff are not reading from the same book of human discipline. The varied form of child abuse will continue if family members cover-up situations in protection of the perpetrators of crime. All these are tough and sometime risking of reputation, and even of life.  But if we don’t bite the bullet many will die, and our country will move further and further on the road to decadence.

Today’s Prayer March is organized under the theme: “Give Glory to God and Peace on Earth” formulated by the International Ecumenical Peace Conference that was held in Jamaica from May 15th to 22nd 2011, climaxing a “Decade to Overcome Violence”.  Despite all such international efforts, in many respects we have witnessed the opposite.

This situation awakes us to the fact that road to any peace and non-violence will be a long one.  It will not entertain quick fixes and patch-up solutions.  From all indications we are in it for the long hall.  It will no doubt call for much re-evolution of our mission to our world and our approach to its problems and challenges.  It will call us to go back to the basic principles of human life; it will require hard work, planned and determined effort, and most of all a collaborative effort.  No single group will ever win the battle.  It is no place to try to win points of success; this situation is bigger than any of us.  It is simply a time to put all the energies that we can muster behind a cause that is of great concern to all of us.  Again to paraphrase the above-quoted words of St. Paul from 1Cor. 12:26: “If one wins all win, if one loses all lose.” In other words, we are on this journey together.  Here the old adage is so apropos: “United we stand, divided we fall.” And, of course, the level of our desire to see collective success in this undertaking will be revealed in the level of energy we are willing to put into this effort.

All that said, I wish to inform you, dear friends, that today’s prayerful manifestation is only a beginning of a combined effort by the various Christian denomination to approach the issue of crime and violence in our country head-on.  We are all aware that the issue is much too complex to be solved simply by demonstrations, such as this one. It is much too complex to be solved by individuals and single groups.  It has to be embraced by all and sundry.  The newly formed Interdenominational Working Group will continue to meet to put together working document with a plan of action.  Already we have the support of a Cabinet Sub-committee which will be meeting with us on the 10th of this month to look at some approaches.  I cannot at this moment give you any definite plan but we know for sure that in the future we will be making collective pronouncements when necessary, we will be calling the nation to collective pray on occasions, we will be inviting a deeper study of our socio-religious situation that will bring to bear on the challenge at hand.  And each Church will have responsibilities in carrying out the plan of action that will be devised.

What we can do for sure is to begin to create a more positive environment by our prayer one for another, by embracing the reality as ours, perceiving it as a part of our own woundedness.  Crime and violence is not a thing of “them out there,” it is something within each one of us. When we think of the level of divisiveness that we perpetuate in our society, whether religiously, politically, socially, racially, or otherwise, we should not be surprised that we have the level of anger that is the seedbed of crime and violence.

My dear people, Dominica belongs to all of us. What it is presently, we are all responsible for. What it will become in the future is in the hands of all of us.  No one, absolutely no one, can exempt himself or herself from that responsibility. Let us join forces to make Dominica the beautiful Nature Isle that we would like to boast of.  Let us strive to return it to its pristine beauty which will no doubt contribute to the happiness of all.

God bless us all, God bless Dominica!

Most Reverend Gabriel Malzaire

Bishop of Roseau

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Bishop’s Christmas Message 2010

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We come once again to the much anticipated moment, the experience of Christmas. It is the event around which all of human history turns. In the Christian order of things, it is both the point of convergence and the point of departure to our understanding of human destiny. As the song says, “That man will live for evermore because of Christmas Day.” It is indeed the mystery of mysteries; the point at which divinity and humanity meet, in the person Jesus, who is the object of admiration and reflection for believers and non-believers alike.

Call to abundant life

For Christians especially, the significance of such reflections refers, of necessity, to the message of the Christ-Event, for the particular time in which we live. In His disclosure of His terrestrial and divine mission Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Christmas, challenges us to determine how we are fairing as a people against the invitation to that abundant life. Can we, therefore, as individuals and as a nation, at Christmas 2010, speak of having an abundant life?

Dis-ease in society hampers Christmas

My dear friends, at this time in our history, we can hardly overlook the escalating level of dis-ease in our land and in the Antilles region as a whole. The statistics are frightening. They indicate that the frequency of violent crimes against our fellow human beings is on the rise, producing an unprecedented number only this year. The incidence of theft of all kinds is on the increase. The number of cases of the abuse to minors is at record high. The height of intolerance of one towards the other is more acute than ever before; and the level of indiscipline among our youth and adults too, is less than encouraging; and the list can go on.

We can, no doubt, speak of the innumerable positive things that are happening all around us, and they need to be highlighted and promoted. However, in cases like these it is necessary to tread via negative, so to speak, in order to help us appreciate the magnitude of the efforts required to bringing about a redress; and in our particular situation, to help us determine what needs to be done in order to live fully the message of Christmas.

Christmas a time of peace

Christmas has always been associated with peace, good will and sharing. In his prediction of the coming Messiah the Prophet Isaiah wrote: “For there is a child born to us, a son is given to us … and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.” (Is. 9:5).

My dear friends, peace is one of the deepest hungers of the human soul. Even those who engage in violent and destructive activities are themselves seeking some personal “quiet,” albeit, through selfish means. This drive to resort to violence originates from a false sense of the need for security and self-satisfaction.

The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, of revered memory, always reminded the world that peace is not just the absence of war; rather, it is something that finds its abode in the depth of the human heart. Peace is most readily attained through our concern for others, and it is deemed impossible without a corresponding exercise of justice, on the social level. We only have to spare a moment of reflection to examine the various circumstances in our lives that demand the exercise of justice; whether on the political, judicial, societal, educational, domestic, religious and other levels.

Christ can hardly be the Prince-of-Peace in a situation where the number of unsolved crimes is increasing. Christ can hardly be the Price-of-Peace where trust in any form of leadership is under threat. Christ can hardly be the Prince-of-Peace in our homes when innocent children are molested especially by family members. Christ can hardly be the Prince-of-Peace of our Churches when we continue to breed divisions rather than build on the Sacred Word. Christ can hardly be the Prince-of-Peace in any society where the gulf between those who are able and those who hunger for love and the most basic of necessities continues to widen. Christ can hardly be the Prince-of-Peace of our work force when ethics are low and both employers and employees focus on their rights more than their responsibilities towards each other. In such an environment Christmas is in danger of being reduced to a mere festivity rather than a genuine celebration of Christian joy.

Christmas an experience of hope

However, despite these challenges that impress upon the human condition, of which we are all part, there are many reasons for hope. Christmas continues to bring the best out of our people. Love and good cheer continue to flow towards many institutions of the less fortunate and the needy; the gesture of gift-giving is never unwelcome, and the visits by dignitaries and ordinary folks to the less fortunate are always appreciated.

A time to say thanks

While it will remain a great task for us to measure up to the demands of so sacred an event, we have reasons to thank God and the people who are so placed in our society to serve the interest of God’s people. I speak particularly of our Government: His Excellency the President and his spouse, the Honourable Prime Minister and his Cabinet, our spiritual leaders, the judiciary, health workers, the business community, our educators,  farmers, fishermen, parents and all others who carry out a role in the development of community.

Increase in social graces

As we seek to make our Christmas celebration more authentic, let us set our selves to grow in the social graces of tolerance, patience, respect, mutual concern and trust, towards each other. And may the Christ-child bring us His Peace.

A merry Blessed Christmas to you and your family.

By Most Reverend Gabriel Malzaire

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Bishop’s World AIDS Day 2010 Message

I am very pleased to hear of the reduced incidence of HIV-AIDS in Dominica. The Church is as concerned as the State in that regard, and therefore we all must make every effort to see that our nation remains healthy.

However, the issues of HIV-AIDS has moral implications, and it is the particular area of concern for the Church.

You would have heard of the recent international news report of the alleged softened position of the Holy Father on the use of condom for the control of HIV-AIDS. It certainly created some media sensation. However, we must understand what the Holy Father was saying. The context of the question was an interview by a German journalist on the aircraft on the Holy Father’s trip to Cameroon and Angola in March 2009. The Holy Father was making reference to someone already suffering with the disease and saw the use of condom as a first step towards moral behaviour.

As you notice the operative idea is moral behaviour; in other words, moral responsibility. This, to my mind, ought to be the point of departure for any conscientious Christian or conscientious human person.

It always seems that a great number of people eagerly await the Church to take a more accommodating stance on difficult moral issues. It is important to understand the role of the Church in that sphere of life. Of Herself the Church has no ultimate moral authority; that resides in God alone. The Church is only an instrument which communicated God’s moral principles. She has the duty to teach people how to live responsibly so that they can happily and in true freedom fulfill their mission on earth.

The stance of the Church with regard to morality always remains the same. Responsible living in all aspects of life is therefore a sure way to the fight against HIV-AIDS. Sexuality remains one of the most challenging issues on the human agenda and will call for greater responsibility in the proper socialization of our children, so that their decisions will be mature and spiritual.

On the occasion of World Aids Day, I commend all wholesome efforts made to address this terrible scourge that menaces our world.

Most Reverend Gabriel Malzaire
Bishop of Roseau
December 1, 2010

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Closing of Diocesan Synod 2010-Bishop’s Message

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, when, on Sunday, November 23, 2008, at this very celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King and on these very grounds, I first announced the plans for the Diocese to embark on a Synod, none of us know exactly how it would evolve. No doubt most of you would have had the experience of Synod 1996-98, and the process that it adopted. We might even recall the kind of enthusiasm that was generated by that experience, having been the first Synod in the memory of all the clergy and faithful in this Diocese.

A Diocesan Synod is essentially a time set aside by a Diocese to re-examine itself—the effectiveness of its ministry, and to formulate a plan for the future of the local Church. It is designed for the entire people of God in the local Church—the Clergy, Religious and faithful, so that they can assist the Diocesan Bishop in the governance of the Diocese. We were keenly aware that in order to achieve this end, we had to seek the best way of understanding the Church as it exists today. The task required organized work and the expertise of many committed people. Therefore an Executive Committee under the chairmanship of first, Msgr. Reginald La Fleur, and then Msgr. William John-Lewis, guided the process to bring us to today’s experience. Needless to say, the various sub-committees played very pivotal roles in the process. Within the last two years, therefore, the collaborative efforts of many persons have brought us to today’s climactic experience.

I think it is fitting here to say that today would not have been possible without the artistic assistance of Mr. Paul Toulon of Digital Designs and Amala Sorhaindo, who jointly produced the Synod Logo, and Miss Noelise Knight and Msgr. Thomas who each composed and arranged a Synod Song. These were all labours of love—gratuitous gift to the Church. Today would not have been possible without the leadership of the Parish Priests, the Parish Synod Coordinating Committees, and the various focus groups in the parishes that shared their ideas and feelings about the Church they cherish. Today would not have been possible without the introspection of the Diocesan Secretariats and Commissions in taking an honest look at their strengths and weaknesses, their usefulness and their inadequacies. Today would not have been possible without the delegates who represented their parishes at the Synod sessions. Today would not have been possible without the persons who, because of their role in the present operation of the Diocese, are positioned to give a certain view of how things really are with the Diocese, and possible insights into how it can be improved. Today would not have been possible without the help of all the rapporteurs, the group secretaries and small group leaders who made their contribution to the Synod process. Today would not have been possible without the help of all the volunteers, caterers and servers, whose support were invaluable to the outcome of the Synod. It is another way of saying, in sum, that the contribution of all those persons conjoined to aid the Diocese in giving itself a new pastoral mandate. However, we believe it is the work of the Lord. We are reminded of the words of Scripture which says: “If the Lord does not build a house, in vain do the builders labour” (Ps. 127:1). In that regard, therefore, we have been praying as a Diocese the last two years for the Lord’s guidance, so as to dispose ourselves to become the Church we ought to be, in the context of the times in which we live—a vibrant Church, a living sign of God’s presence in this land.

Today, dear friends, I am very pleased to present to you a synopsis of two the weekends of deliberation on the issues affecting the ministry of the Church in the Diocese, which hopefully, will evolve into our Diocesan Pastoral Plan for the next ten years. However, it is necessary to mention here the dynamic employed in the Synod sessions and what was achieved from them.

Firstly, all the themes and issues dealt with at the Synod were already discussed on the parish level and in the other focus groups throughout the Diocese. The results of these discussions were compiled into the Working Document that served as the basis for the deliberations at the Synod sessions. The method of the sessions was twofold; namely, small groups and plenary sessions.

The aim of the small group sessions was to look at the material presented in the Synod Working Document that was divided into three general areas of ministry within the Church:

  1. WORSHIP, which involves Liturgy, Sacramental Life, Religious Education/Formation and Ministerial Priesthood.
  2. EVANGELIZATION, comprising Evangelization itself, Family Life, Catholic Schools and Catholics in Public Schools and Places of Higher Learning, College and Tertiary Education; and
  3. SERVICE, which includes Ministries of Charity and Justice, Responsibility, Participation and Accountability, meaning Stewardship.

The small groups were to use a process of renewal, referred to as Appreciative Inquiry, geared towards identifying and focusing on the Best of “what exists” in the Church today, in order to actively pursue the possibilities of “what we can become” as Church, as a Diocese. This process is geared to bring together the members of an organization or system (in our case the Diocese of Roseau) and charges them with a task called 4D: Discovery, Dream, Design, and Deploy. To Discover is to identify the organizational processes that work well. To Dream is to envision processes that would work well in the future. Design means planning and prioritizing processes that would work well; and Deploy entails delivering the goods or working towards desired goals. It is the implementation or execution stage of the proposed design. What we did over the two weekends of the Synod sessions was to dream and make suggestions as regards a design for the future. We had spent the last two years discovering or diagnosing the situation of the Diocese. I shall, however, limit my presentation today to the dreams the Synod has for the Diocese, since we are yet to compile the outcome of the sessions into a workable plan.

LITURGY

In the area of liturgy the Synod envisions a church in which both Clergy and laity will be more reverent and with proper decorum in the celebration of Holy Mass, Eucharistic Services and other liturgical celebrations. Parents, who are the primary objects of emulation by children, should set example of reverence for things divine. We dreamed of a Church, in which its celebrations will become avenues of greater participation for all, including the youth; that they can use their talents and skills in the planning and execution of the liturgy. The synod dreamed of a Church in which the children are better catered for in its liturgy. Like the youth they can participate in the liturgies that are specially geared towards them, i.e. Children’s Masses and Services.

Stress was places on the importance of the Liturgy of the Word which need to be more substantial through better preparation, and execution by Clergy and Lay Associates in Pastoral Care. More explanatory sermons on varied matters of the faith within and outside the celebration of the Mass, was perceived as very important for feeding the flock. Greater use of cultural form in the Liturgy was seen as means of enhancing creativity and participation on all levels, especially among the youth. Ongoing formation in liturgical matters was seen as indispensable for the ordained and the laity alike. Of paramount importance is the existence of a liturgical committee in each parish, comprising a range of persons from different age groups and with varied expertise.

SACRAMENTAL LIFE

Ministry to Sick & Homebound:

The Synod dreamed of a Church where the sick and homebound would feel better cared for by Clergy and laity alike.  Notwithstanding the shortage of priests the homebound wish for more regular visit of the Clergy, especially for the sacrament of reconciliation. Therefore there was a strong call for greater outreach by the Church to the physically hindered. The work of groups such as St. Vincent de Paul and Legion of Mary was commended in that regard, but needs to be supplemented. It was felt that the ministry of the sick is the duty of all; the faithful need to volunteer their services where needed.

Training:

There was a strong call for the training and formation for all, and especially the youth, to be more steeped in the sacramental life of the Church. There is perceived a high level of ignorance of the faith among Catholics, resulting in a general sense of complacency.  There is need for the faithful to understand why they do what they do and to have a greater grasp of the teachings and traditions of the Church, the signs and symbols that guide the faith. Of paramount importance in that regard is the understanding of what happens at the Consecration of the Bread and Wine which is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ – the process of transubstantiation. The media was seen as a powerful instrument for fulfilling that need for teaching, hence the call for the re-establishment of the Diocesan Radio Station.

Pastoral Care:

As regards the sacrament of matrimony, the synod saw the importance of proper formation and preparation. To that end there was a call for a standardized form in the preparation of couples throughout the Diocese, and for the Engaged Encounter programme to be mandatory. For married couples, especially newlyweds, there should be support service available to them. The Marriage Encounter experience should be promoted for couples. Those who have done the programme are best propagators of it and should lend their services in the confirmation programme for the youth.

Catechetical Programme:

As regards the catechesis in preparation for the sacraments, there was a strong call for greater involvement of parents in the formation of their children. They are the first teachers of the children, and therefore, they need to be catechized so that they can best catechize their children.

Evangelization:

The best witness to the sacramental life of the Church is the quality of life that the faithful live. Good role models encourage children and young people to appreciate the sacraments. Personal conversion makes for better evangelization; hence the need for greater emphasis on the sacrament of reconciliation.

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION/FORMATION

Catechesis in Schools:

Greater attention needs to be given to religious education and formation in all Catholic Schools and to Catholics in public schools. The Synod dreams of a comprehensive Catechetical Programme being implemented in all Catholic and Public Schools. It was felt that the presence of Church leaders needs to be more strongly felt in the schools. Catholic teachers in non-catholic Schools should be identified to provide assistance in spreading the faith within these schools.  The formation of Catholic groups within the schools should be encouraged.

There was also strong call for a review of the catechetical programmes provided by the diocese in preparation for the sacraments.

Adult Catechesis:

The Synod dreamed of having an adult population which is well formed in the faith. Leaders should have continuous training and formation in an effort to provide sufficient outreach to all Catholics in their Parish. It was again emphasized that parents should be catechized in order that that may catechize their children. Study sessions should be organized for all during the week and more sessions should be organized during the preparation for baptism and marriages to ensure that they are sufficiently knowledgeable of these sacraments. The Synod saw the need for the Diocese to have a cadre of trained and competent catechists for the work of evangelization in the Church. The media is seen as a significant aid in the continuous formation of catechists.

THE MINISTERIAL PRIESTHOOD

Ministry of Presence:

The synod saw that one of the gift of the priesthood is its ministry of presence, hence its call for greater availability of priest to parishioners, whether at the level of pastoral visitations, ministry to the sick or in administrative duties. There was a strong call for Priests to be easily identified by their attire, be it lapel crosses, cassocks or Roman collar. In so doing, they bear witness and encourage vocations.

As the ordinary minister of the sacrament of reconciliation, it was suggested that priests should avail themselves for the sacrament so that it can be widely and frequently practiced in the Diocese by youth and adults alike. Special schedule times for the sacrament of reconciliation in parishes are strongly encouraged and should be celebrated on a regular basis. The faithful need to be educated on the importance of the sacrament and in having a sense of what sin is. There was a call for the reinstatement of the Confessional boxes for persons who are less comfortable with the face-to-face encounter with the confessor.

Dignity:

In its love for the Church and its priesthood, the Synod posed some challenges to the Clergy in various areas of its witness to the faithful. Some of these being ministerial conduct, standardization of expression in the celebration of the liturgy throughout the Diocese, and giving clear evidence of unity with the magisterium, all of which are the basic tenets of the Church’s self-understanding.

In the area of homeletics, the Synod further challenged that homilies should be well prepared and delivered and relevant to the context of the people’s lives. Therefore ongoing formation in that area of ministry for Clergy and Lay Associates in Pastoral Care is encouraged. The quality of the ministry of the Clergy helps enhance faith and make leadership more appealing to the young who are thinking of a vocation.

EVANGELIZATION

The Synod dreams of the Church having strong and more Christian families, using the gifts and talents of each person for Mission; to be a more faith-filled vibrant church, knowing the Good News so that it can spread it to all. It envisions that all the faithful will know the Good News through effective evangelization and outreach. To that end there is need for training for Evangelization, establishing and promoting Evangelization Committees at Diocesan and Parish levels. The media will be a great asset in the training and execution of any evangelization program, hence the necessity of reinstating the Diocesan Radio station.

The Synod saw the need to use existing parish groups such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Family Groups, as evangelizing agents while forming new groups. There is the perceived need for re-evangelization of all Catholics by fostering an encounter with Jesus. There is need for greater outreach to lapsed Catholics, to the un-churched and to the youth. Therefore the overarching dream is for the entire Church be an evangelizing Church; that all members, Clergy, religious and laity, see themselves as sharing in the evangelizing mission of Christ; hence the Synod theme: Disciples on Mission: Gifted and Called.

FAMILY LIFE

Family life needs to be a priority and the Diocese with a functioning Family Life Commission. The Synod dreamed of a Church that gives pastoral attention to all levels of family life in the Diocese (the nuclear family, common law unions, single parent families, widows, divorced, etc). Catholic families that are stronger in faith, more vibrant in witness and united in conviction need to play their part in evangelizing the family. Family Life organizations in the Diocese need to address the numerous family life issues. Support groups need to be formed for married couples, single parents, and the divorced, in all parishes. There needs to be a greater involvement of males in the Church and in family life. DACAMEN, as an Association, needs to be strengthened, so that they can play a more active role in encouraging men in their witness to the Christian life. The youth too need to have a programme of preparation for Family Life. And the Church needs to set time to celebrate the family.

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS And Catholics in Public Schools and Places of Higher Learning (Colleges and Tertiary Education)

As we saw in the area of religious formation there was a strong call for religious and committed lay persons to visit the Catholic and non Catholics Schools to instruct students in the Catholic faith. The Catholic teachers within those schools will need to play a bigger role in the formation of Catholic students. It was also suggested that we could have a cadre of trained Catholic teachers who can facilitate teaching of the Catholic faith in our schools Catholic and Public School. There is a call for a programme of formation of all Catholic teachers as a course of study to prepare them to teach the faith in schools. Mention has been made of the central position of parent in the formation of their children in the Catholic faith.

Outreach

Recognizing that the spiritual development of youth begins with early childhood, it was suggested that the Catholic faith should be taught from pre-school age and that Catholic pre-schools should be set up all over the island. Indeed Catholic schools ought to be centers of evangelization and formation. The Chaplaincy service, which is established in the Catholic schools, needs to be enhanced, providing for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, the Eucharist and other services on a regular basis.

MINISTRIES OF CHARITY & JUSTICE

There is a call for a more coordinated effort to reach out to the less fortunate and elderly. The already existing social groups such as St. Vincent de Paul, Legion of Mary, DACAMEN and others, should be revitalized and where possible amalgamate those with common objectives. There is need for training of persons already involved in social work so that they can deliver a better service. The Synod saw the need to set up a rehabilitation centre where individuals can get professional help. In addition to providing meals for those in need, the already-established social services could further evangelize by socializing with them and by providing counseling services.

There is a call for the stronger prophetic voice of the Church on matters of social import, issues that affect the faith on both the parish and national levels.

STEWARDSHIP (Responsibility, Participation & Accountability)

The Synod recognized that stewardship is not an afterthought or an add-on, but a way of life for every Christian. Each parish should set-up a database of all parishioners capturing among other information, talents and skills of individuals and the ministries they wish to engage in. Help parishioners realize their responsibility for using their gifts (time, talents and treasure) for building up church.

There was a strong call to educate the faithful to see everything as a gift from God and the need to give back to God from their first fruits; in other words tithing. The faithful should have a sense ownership of their Church and a general sense of responsibility and care for the environment, that is, to see themselves as co-creators with God.

There was perceived a need for the Diocese to develop a program of stewardship education to be incorporated into the faith formation for children, youth and adults; to allow members to prayerfully discern and reflect on how much of their time, talent and treasure they can commit to their parish community. It was also suggested that pledges could be made towards specific projects to ensure more productive use of church resources.

The Synod saw the need for every parish to have a budget, financial reports published and made available along with an assessment of projects undertaken, to implement Diocesan financial administration Policy to ensure proper management and accountability of funds and other parish resources. Where they exist, finance committees are to be strengthened, and where they do not yet exist one should be appointed. There is a call for parishes that are more financially viable to support the less able. Assistance can also be given in terms of sharing of knowledge and skills. There was a call for Stewardship Fairs to be conducted in every Parish. Each parish is encouraged to establish a hospitality committee.

The Synod saw the need for all to come to the experience of a deep and ongoing conversion to the love of God. Effective stewardship is based on love for God and love for his Church.

CONCLUSION

My dear friends, I have painted in very broad strokes some of the dreams that the Synod envisions for the Church of the future in this Diocese. I am certain you were able to recognize many things that are already happening in the Diocese. Their being mentioned is no doubt an indication of the need for improvement. You may also recognize some similarities with the issues that were dealt with at the last synod. That too is witness to the fact that there is not always a natural correspondence between the recognition of needs and actually bringing them into fruition. The implementation of any worthwhile programme requires hard work, in planning and in execution. Moreover, the very fact that the area of our pastoral engagement refers to spiritual things, the successful implementation of programmes are less measurable. What is required more than ever is commitment, faith, perseverance and a good will.

At the Synod the delegates suggested some steps to be taken towards the implementation of the dreams. The Synod Executive Committee will continue its work in putting together the proceeds of the Synod, after which a plan of implementation will be drawn.  Given the magnitude of the task ahead we will need to prioritize the areas of greatest need.


In the ministry of the Church, ours is the duty to address the needs of all her members, from the youngest child to the oldest faithful. The people of God have spoken. Let us continue to work together under the direction of the Holy Spirit to make the Church what is ought to be. Let us remember the summons of our Synod theme, asking us to recognize ourselves as “Disciples on Mission: Gifted and Called.”

My dear friends, the Church needs you, the Church needs Tom, Dick and Harriett; the Church needs everybody, for her to be what she ought to be. Let us join our efforts to become more and more the Body of Christ in this world. For people of faith only heaven is the limit. So let us cultivate and keep faith.

I thank you!

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Bishop Malzaire’s Independence Day Message

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have come to yet another celebration of the anniversary of the birth of our nation. Like every year, it presents us with new challenges and new opportunities. In the normal scheme of things these two factors need not be seen as diametrically opposed, especially since history has proven that even crises can provide opportunities for greater good.

One of the greatest challenges that have faced our nation in more recent times is the unprecedented high incidence of useless crime and shameful violence. The shock of such disturbing situation almost swept the nation off its feet, begging the inevitable question, why? The fora for discussion on the matter spanned all strata of the society, from Government to Church and from school to community groups.

However, in the midst of the tragedy we were afforded the opportunity to introspect and ask ourselves: where have we gone wrong? What is responsible for this wanton disrespect for life? Is there any chance of returning to the pristine existence that was once the order of the day in this beautiful Nature Isle?

Thankfully, promise has been made by the Cabinet to engage the Churches and other organizations in continued dialogue and study of the matter at hand, so that we can forge together the most appropriate solutions. We look forward to a favourable response to that need.

Capital punishment may seem to be the easier way out, and thoughts of it are presently being entertained. The truth is that has never brought the required solution to our present predicament. In fact, a Pastoral Letter on the topic issued by the Antilles Episcopal Conference in 2000 indicates that “Judicial commissions, both local and international, sociologists and criminologists largely agree that there is no empirical evidence to support the claim that the death penalty reduces the frequency of capital offences. On the contrary, some experts have even argued that jurisdictions that have abolished capital punishment have actually recorded decreasing homicides rates. The most important deterrent to criminal activity is not the threat of execution, but rather the risk of apprehension and conviction for the crime committed. … To call for the resumption of executions is to deflect attention away from the true deterrents, and to ignore the reforms necessary for the instruments of civil justice to act as effective agencies for the prevention of social disorder.” (Antilles Episcopal Conference, Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment, No. 14).

With this in mind we proceed with the celebration of our 32nd Anniversary of nationhood around the theme “Creating Opportunities, Empowering Communities.” Its absolute positive posture provides the appropriate disposition, which could engender the change that would assist in overcoming the negative elements that are seeking prominence in the present milieu.

We often hear “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” I can appreciate the wisdom in this saying. Creating opportunities to engage the energies of our folks, especially the young, is a sure step towards alleviating crime in all its forms.  Empowering the citizens of a nation to take responsibility for their own development, cultivates the kind of pride that inject the constructive force needed to bring about desired advancement. A positive disposition is by far more favourable to the growth of a nation.

However, we can appreciate the fact that growth does not happen in a vacuum; it is always contextual. In other words, the more favourable an environment is for growth the greater possibility there will be for its realization. In our nation today there are issues that are less than conducive for the peaceful existence that we wish to have as a people. For instance, issues that surrounded the campaign for General Elections ten months ago have not been put to rest. They still retain some prominence in the daily conversations of many citizens with a concomitant feeling of doubt and dis-ease; the result being an increased hatred one for the other.

The celebration of National Independence could no doubt; provide an opportunity for us to stop for a moment, to reflect on the future we wish for ourselves as a people. However, while we continue to do so, we also express our gratitude and appreciation to the persons and institutions that have made and continue to make valuable contributions to the advancement of our nation. I speak of the President, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, the private sector, law enforcement agencies, judiciary, health workers, the agencies and institutions of learning, farmers, fishermen, labourers, craftsmen, taxi drivers, those involved in the tourism industry, and all others.

To each of you, hearty thanks!

May we together forge ahead at Creating Opportunities and Empowering our Communities for a better Dominica.

Happy Anniversary to All!

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