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In his welcome address to officers and members of the Conference of Antilles Diocesan Fiscal Officers (CADFO), Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, and Episcopal Moderator of CADFO, stressed that they were all being invited, and challenged, to see the Church as a community on a common journey.

“We are on a journey together. Together, we are seeking to discern just what the Holy Spirit is directing us to, and how the Holy Spirit is leading us to be as Church. This process embraces all of us, Diocesan Fiscal Officers included,” the Archbishop said, according to a report from the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC).

The theme of this year’s virtual CADFO conference, January 17 to 19 was Participation, Communion and Mission of Diocesan Fiscal Officers. This theme, the Archbishop said, “puts us squarely in contact with the global ecclesial process of preparation for the World Synod of Bishops of 2023.”

The mission of CADFO is to nurture a culture of fiscal discipline, responsibility, accountability, and transparency across the AEC. Through the exchange of information, ideas, and best practices, CADFO should seek to ensure that the stable patrimony of all ecclesial entities is governed according to the most responsible stewardship.

“The Church is not a business or commercial entity…Rather, the Church is a Communion with a Mission. That Mission is to proclaim the Gospel, indeed, to proclaim the Joy of the Gospel to those at the centre and at the periphery and even beyond. CADFO seeks to ensure that the material support necessary for this Mission is best utilised and accounted for,” the Archbishop explained.

This particular conference was scheduled to be held in person, in Nassau in 2020. The onset of the global pandemic was the cause of the postponement and the re-scheduling to this digital format.

Archbishop Pinder explained CADFO was initially developed during a week of meetings at their Archdiocesan beach house in Nassau, about two decades ago.

Participants in those planning meetings were Archbishop Lawrence Burke SJ, Fr Garfield Rochard of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Renee Knowles, and himself.

“Fr Garfield deserves our thanks for his contribution at that critical stage in the genesis of CADFO,” he said.

The Archbishop asserted, “ the Church …must meet the strictest standards of accountability. Advocacy by example is very much our business.”

He then raised two critical points. Firstly, that CADFO should seek to make sure that every diocese in the Conference is engaged and up to date with the local National Insurance Scheme, which ensures a “baseline safety net” of retirement benefits and other benefits available to Diocesan personnel both clergy and laity. “This is a matter of justice,” he said.

Secondly, CADFO should advocate for every diocese in the Conference to be in the practice of conducting an annual audit. There are many benefits to an annual audit, the Archbishop said.

In addition to accounting for the current state of finances, it could also encourage the practice of scheduled maintenance of diocesan properties. Regular property appraisals could lead to locating properties owned by the diocese but which no-one knew about. It could reveal cases of persons encroaching on Church land as well.

“It is up to the members of CADFO to advocate for these objectives in their respective dioceses,” Archbishop Pinder said.