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On ecumenism – two men for all seasons

By Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor

Psychologist/Assistant Professor



I had not been to St Lucia in a long time, and looked forward to visiting the island once again, this time for the April 24 installation of Bishop Gabriel Malzaire as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Castries.

I booked my stay at the Benedictine Monastery, and I was hoping to also have a quiet retreat on my own, away from the hustle and bustle of Trinidad, and its ongoings and outgoings.

Also staying at the monastery, to my pleasant surprise, were His Eminence, Cardinal Kelvin Felix and His Grace, Archbishop Emeritus Robert Rivas. Two men for ALL seasons! Men of conscience, integrity and with reputations of good works that exceeded expectations.

I came to have a better understanding of these two men over the next few days and it was an encounter not easily forgotten and one to be treasured. This was an opportunity never to come again, and I asked these appointed men of God many questions on the Church, the installation, and about the message of His Holiness, Pope Francis, on ecumenism. These were their thoughts:

Cardinal Kelvin Felix: I am happy to see that the whole Church was involved in welcoming the new archbishop; to see the participation of the parishioners, the people, pouring out their hearts and making [the ceremony] their own.

Message to the Caribbean: We have not lost our way, but greater efforts have to be made in the message of ecumenism, “that we may all be one”. Ecumenism was more alive before, but we do not hear from the Christian councils which seem to be dormant and inactive; and the emphasis is dwindling away…

Archbishop Emeritus Robert Rivas: With regards to Church, we need to get closer to one another. Don’t live in isolation; unity is strength. Let us have magnificent experiences of being happy with each other and not get lost in the separateness of the islands; rather, let our uniqueness be a desire to know each other and endear us to explore our diversity. According to Ephesians 4: 3–6, “One Body, one Spirit, one Baptism, one Faith, one People”.

Message to the Caribbean: If we as Church lose that collaboration among ourselves, how can we then ask our civic leaders to build unity, when we ourselves have let it die? Saint Pope John Paul II, during his pontificate, once said, “Ecumenism is not an option. It is imperative; it is a radical dimension of our faith as Church…it is irrevocable!”

After that conversation, the play A Man for all Seasons, came to my mind. I had never quite understood the play which we were compelled to read in secondary school, but in my more mature years, I came to admire the main character, Sir Thomas More, a devout Catholic, English statesman and scholar (1478–1535) who was beheaded for standing his ground on principles of morality.

This play was based on a true story and is recommended reading for the Common Man who represents humanity in general, and the easiness with which wo/man can switch from good to bad, persuaded by greed and corruption.

Sir Thomas More went to his death with dignity and composure, refusing to be intimidated or to go against his religious principles of right and wrong.

When you meet two men like Cardinal Felix and Archbishop Emeritus Rivas, you come to realise that there is an unshakeable spirit of goodness that pervades such men, as was the character of Sir Thomas More.

When he too spoke on ecumenism, St Pope John Paul II says in his Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint: This change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and can rightly be called ‘spiritual ecumenism’.

And he adds, “Love builds communion between individuals and between communities. If we love one another, we strive to deepen our communion and make it perfect. There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart.”

We thank God for persons such as Cardinal Felix, Archbishop Emeritus Rivas, and Archbishop Gabriel Malzaire. As members of the one human family, let us continue our obligations to the Common Good, to justice and to solidarity.

Let us seek out interreligious dialogue that can lead to various forms of cooperation, especially in responding to the duty to care for the poor and the weak within our societies — the Common Good of all wo/mankind.