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Diocese of Bridgetown, Barbados welcomes first local bishop

Kaelanne Jordan Email: mediarelations.camsel@catholictt.org

Fr Neil Sebastian Scantlebury’s election as bishop of Bridgetown on December 28, 2020, Feast of Holy Innocents, came at a time when the diocese was concluding its festive celebrations for its 50th anniversary.

“Certainly, you, and of course, the entire faithful of this diocese must have received the news of that election as a sign of God’s special blessing, a blessing that came to crown your celebrations, a blessing that came as a cause of renewed cries of joy, of praise and thanksgiving of the favours which the Lord has granted this local Church during these 50 years of its existence….”

So said Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, the ordaining prelate as he delivered the homily for the ordination of Fr Scantlebury as the first local Bishop of Bridgetown Friday, June 11 at the St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Referring to Leviticus 25, Archbishop Nwachukwu said that the jubilee year in the biblical tradition is not only a moment of joyful celebration but of rebirth and renewal.

“Your election to this seat of Bridgetown is, therefore, a call and a challenge to renewal to this local Church under your leadership. Divine providence now lays on your shoulders the charge to lead the little flock of the Church of Bridgetown with renewed spirit into fresh pastures,” the Nuncio said.

He added that to the human eye, Bridgetown is a small diocese.

“But remember, as we read in the Book of Samuel 16: 7 ‘The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart’.”

“So, for us it may be a small diocese, but under your leadership, we hope, we pray, we wish it is going to become a great diocese,” Archbishop Nwachukwu said.

The Archbishop also expressed sincere thanks to Bishop Scantlebury’s predecessors and those whose labours have laid the foundation in the diocese, a foundation upon which the newly ordained bishop will now build.

While the Bishop is the fourth official bishop of Bridgetown, the Nuncio said that Bishop Scantlebury is the fifth, as he listed his four predecessors Bishop Emeritus Anthony Dickson, Bishop Malcolm Galt CSSp, Archbishop Robert Rivas OP of Castries and Archbishop Jason Gordon, who all concelebrated.

Other concelebrants were Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston, President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Bishop Clyde Harvey of St George’s in Grenada and Bishop Gerard County CSSp of Kingstown.

“Every bishop has his line and tree of succession. He (referring to Bishop Scantlebury) has got a beautiful tree of succession.”

The Nuncio then gave the newly ordained bishop one piece of advice: be like Mary, slow to speak, ready to listen.

In giving remarks, Archbishop Gordon began by telling the Bishop that he has received a beautiful bride of the Church. He stated that as bishop, his first responsibility is to keep his priests close.

He mentioned that the Bridgetown diocese, as small as it may be, punches way above its weight when it comes to the care for the poor.

“Do not forget the poor, I beg you,” he urged Bishop Scantlebury.

In giving remarks, Bishop Scantlebury began giving thanks to God for all He has done in his life.

He shared he was humbled by the response to his appointment as bishop, and the many well wishes from persons in Barbados and overseas.

Bishop Scantlebury felt “blessed” Bishop Emeritus Dickson was present for the special occasion. He recalled that he was an altar server when Bishop Dickson was ordained bishop in the St Patrick’s Cathedral.

He thanked Archbishop Gordon for his tenure as Apostolic Administrator of the diocese.

“Archbishop Jason, I know you will always have a special place in your heart for the diocese of Bridgetown… as it was your first diocese. And we will always have a place for our first. I look forward to collaborating more with you in the future,” Bishop Scantlebury said.

The Mass of ordination also saw dignitaries in attendance including Her Excellency Dame Sandra Mason, Governor General of Barbados; Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and Chief Justice of Barbados Sir Patterson Cheltenham.