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December 12, 2017
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December 15, 2017

Giving voice to the Church

Archbishop Joseph Harris smiles appreciatively during his farewell Mass at Cumana RC Church, Saturday, December 9. He was gifted with a recliner chair from parishioners, a mug and a special token from the acolytes. Fr Matthew Ragbir concelebrated. Photo by Gerard Paul Wanliss

By Kaelanne Jordan

Archbishop Joseph Harris hopes to be remembered for removing the veil of silence and advocating for the Church to speak out boldly on social issues.

“I would like to think that during my stewardship of the Church that the Church spoke out when it needed to speak…We didn’t have a silent Church but a Church which spoke when there were serious issues and the voice of the Church needed to be heard,” the Archbishop said in his final Ask the Archbishop live chat on Facebook last Wednesday.

He cited the child marriage debate and ‘emailgate’ as two examples when the Church needed to speak out. “And I think the Church was heard… I think the Church was not seen as hiding in the sacristy but we really are concerned about the well-being of the nation,” he said.

Archbishop Harris commented that “the big need” of the Catholic Church going forward is to create authentic disciples who possess the mind of Christ.

He believed that if the Church possesses authentic disciples, it does not require too many priests; and with sufficient authentic disciples the Church will benefit by getting priests.

“If you have authentic disciples, you have authentic witnesses. You have martyrs, people willing to speak the truth to power not in a confrontational way, but able to speak the truth and live the truth. When that happens, a whole host of things begin to happen,” he added.

Looking back on his six years is there anything he would have changed?

Archbishop Harris responded, “not really.”

He however told Tracy Chimming-Lewis, CAMSEL’s Digital Media Manager that he wished he had the opportunity to advance the Catholic education system.

The current education system, he once again reiterated, does not take into account the different developmental needs of children.

He again urged citizens to become more vocal and lobby government for education reform.

Another area of “regret” was his inability to move the government to begin supporting the introduction of philosophy at schools.

Archbishop Harris told the story of a conversation he had with a principal at a secondary school, who remarked that “philosophy does not bring in money. What brings in money is technology”.

The archbishop maintained, “When you look at the great countries in the world, all of them have departments of Philosophy in almost all of their universities.”

On another topic, he said citizens have inculcated the  two- party system, which he described as a “tribal two-party system” that breeds division.

He questioned the need for Trinbagonians to refer to themselves as Afro-Trinidadian, Indo-Trinidadian, Chinee-Trinidadian or Arab-Trinidadian commenting, “We have remained a nation of minorities and we can’t seem to put it together”.

Archbishop Harris offered some advice to the jobless during the Christmas season.

Though he empathised with struggling families, he believed it is not a question of asking the Church for money.

He clarified that one of the characteristics a Church must maintain is imagination and encouraged Church and citizens to foster creativity.

“We have to encourage people to grow their own food in oil drums, cut in two, in pvc pipes. There is a whole host of things we can show people. And we can return to barter…. churches have to bring their own little markets on a Saturday or Sunday morning after Mass where people can bring their produce right there in the Church and sell,” he said.

To close Archbishop Harris’ final Ask the Archbishop series, Chimming- Lewis shared the outpouring of support from social media followers.  Archbishop’s “steadfastness in faith” was commended and he was wished, “richest blessings” and to enjoy his retirement. He was even invited to visit Jamaica.

Archbishop Harris thanked all for their well wishes and asked that they continue to pray for him.