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Pastoral priorities identified at AEC Annual Plenary Meeting

The evangelisation of the Domestic Church, pastoral care for the unemployed especially through COVID-19, pastoral care and evangelisation of youth and young adults and education on the care for the Earth were the four pastoral priorities the Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) identified necessary to guide the work of the conference and the Church in the post COVID era during their 64th Annual Plenary Meeting (APM).

The meeting began Sunday, April 26 and concluded May 1 via the online platform ZOOM.

A planning process towards a Pan AEC Synod was a “major initiative” the bishops conceived to guide the mission of the Church in the years to come, according to a report from AEC General Secretary Fr Donald Chambers.

It mentioned that Bishop Clyde Harvey of St George’s, Grenada was appointed to lead a regional team to design and implement a process towards this event.

“It is hoped that this synod will foster deeper regional identity amongst the whole People of God,” the report said.

Other matters arising from the meeting included the consecration of the dioceses of the Antilles to the protection of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, Mother of the Church and Help of the Sick, on May 10, 2020, Mother’s Day and an update on the post-election impasse in Guyana and the subsequent political stability. The APM also saw the Election of Officers with Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica, Archbishop Jason Gordon, and  Bishop Gerard County of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines re-elected as President, Vice-President, and Treasurer respectively. Fr Chambers was confirmed in the post of the General Secretary for a three-year term.

The report stated that the AEC Bishops agreed to postpone to 2021 the following AEC events originally scheduled for 2020: the Conference on Family Life, annual meetings of the Canon Law Society and the Caribbean Association of Diocesan Finance Officers, and the September pilgrimage to attend the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest, Hungary. The AEC Youth Assembly, to be hosted in Dominica in 2021, will now be held in 2022.

Meanwhile, a comprehensive report on the Synod of the Amazon was presented by the four bishops – Francis Alleyne OSB (Guyana), Karel Choennie (Suriname), Emmanuel Lafont (French Guyana) and Malzaire (President) who attended the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region synod in October 2019. In the report, the bishops called upon the regional Church to develop a consciousness of the link between natural ecology, respect for nature, and human ecology.

This connection, they say, is especially true because of our region’s proximity to the Amazon region. Other concerns necessary for promotion are the rights of the poor, the rights of indigenous peoples, safeguarding the dignity of the vulnerable, and preserving their distinctive rich culture.

Arising from the fruitfulness of the meeting, the bishops will be delivering ‘A Message of Hope’ to the people of the Caribbean especially considering the challenges the Church faces in the current pandemic.