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‘Tony’ Pantin was great in many ways – Archbishop

Archbishop Pantin led the Church in a way that included everyone

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

The late Archbishop Gordon Anthony Pantin was a simple, humble and intelligent man “who brought to the episcopacy a dignity … that is the image of Christ,” Archbishop Jason Gordon said last Monday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

He was the main celebrant at a Mass to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the episcopal ordination of Archbishop Pantin, “the gift” God gave to T&T as the first local archbishop.

Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris and Bishop Emeritus Malcolm Galt were among the concelebrants. Apostolic Nuncio His Excellency Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu arrived in the country hours earlier and was present, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, and many more who loved and respected Archbishop Pantin.

Archbishop Gordon shared his perspective on the “marks of sanctity” displayed by the late archbishop, who died March 12, 2000 at the age of 70 years. He was in Trinidad for the funeral and remembered the stories about the archbishop’s timely visits and telephone calls.

“The number of opportune moments when he turned up at somebody’s house or called somebody or was there when something was happening seems one of the marks of his sanctity. That he was able to be at the right place at the right time for so many people,” Archbishop Gordon said.

Archbishop Pantin showed humility in his dealings with all strata of society giving “equal access and care”.  Archbishop Gordon added, “He demonstrated a love for the poor which was second to none.”

Pope Francis’ decision to do away with the trappings of his papacy, walk among the people and other actions made him unpredictable for some, but Archbishop Gordon said it occurred to him “we had an archbishop just like that; all the things you see Pope Francis is doing those were things ‘Tony’ Pantin was doing many years before. It was like they were cut from the same kind of cloth.”

Archbishop Pantin was a father figure to many of the priests he ordained, always available with words of wisdom and compassion. His marks of sanctity were varied and he was a different kind of bishop, “and will be a different kind of saint”.

Archbishop Pantin took over as leader of the Church in Trinidad and Tobago at a “turbulent time”, yet he negotiated it “with incredible clarity, calm”. The new archbishop had to deal with questions about the seminary, movements within the Church and few local priests.

He had to spearhead a “local Church with local clergy, where Church responds and reverberates with the soul of the people in a way that is different from what we had before”.

Archbishop Pantin was courageous and stood up to leaders in society. Archbishop Gordon said from his sick bed Archbishop Pantin tried to reconcile two leaders who were not on speaking terms; he spoke out against the death penalty and abortion. There was applause when Archbishop Gordon said, “He was a great archbishop in so many ways”.

The 50th anniversary of the ordination of Pantin, Archbishop Gordon emphasised, was a significant milestone and all must reflect on the foundation laid by the late archbishop and build on it: “strive to do all that he tried to do, which was to bring the Gospel to people not just by his preaching but through his life”.

He told the congregation the cause of Archbishop Pantin’s canonisation was moving forward, and thanked Archbishop Harris who started the process. Several persons have been identified to be added as notaries to the Diocesan Tribunal investigating the cause for the process to speed up. “So one day we will be able to say we knew a saint and he walked amongst us,” the archbishop said.

Before the final blessing, Archbishop Gordon invited Archbishop Nwachukwu to speak to the congregation, and afterwards asked the congregation to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Archbishop Harris, who was 76 on that day.