By Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor
“Go repair my house which is falling into ruins.” More than 800 years ago, these powerful words above were spoken by the Lord to St Francis of Assisi. Today, these words hold true significance to the new Metropolitan Archbishop of Castries, Rev Dr Gabriel Malzaire.
On Wednesday, June 29, he received his pallium in front of thousands of pilgrims who had come to witness the blessing of the pallia of the new metropolitan archbishops from His Holiness, Pope Francis at St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.
As I sat in the congregation, just four rows behind the red-robed clergy from all over the world, including Fr George Athanasius Williams from Antigua, I was witness to this spectacular event, inching my head forward many times to catch a glimpse of the Pope as he preached the homily.
I was overcome with humility and gratefulness as I celebrated this Holy Mass with Pope Francis, on the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, surrounded by strange persons who spoke many different languages, and decked in attire from tuxedos and gowns to jeans and jerseys.
What a holy place! As St Paul had preached to the Athenian philosophers, “From one man, God made every nation of the human race, that they should inhabit the whole earth” (Acts 17:26).
A few days after this event, I interviewed Archbishop Malzaire as I wanted to know his thoughts on his new appointment and what the Pope said to him:
“As I knelt before him, I told him that I was from St Lucia, and I thanked him for presenting me with the pallium. Just moments before, I became more conscious of this big responsibility that was placed on my shoulders. This is serious business – the significance of the Shepherd and the yoke that has been put around my shoulders. The witness of the Mass and the many people who were supporting the 41 archbishops, gave a sense of affirmation to the office of the archbishop. In those moments, it came home to me, the hope that the people have in the new dispensation, not only for St Lucia but for all the dioceses globally.”
His hope for the Caribbean Church: “As President of the AEC (Antilles Episcopal Conference) which comprises 19 dioceses, we meet annually to discuss issues that are common to the region, and we intend to work for the unity of the Caribbean Church. I believe that in light of the Holy Father’s call to Synod, this is the most fitting time for pastoral refocusing and planning. The first stage of the synodal process is one of listening—listening attentively to all our brothers and sisters, including those in the periphery of the Church: the poor, the unchurched, the dropouts, everyone. Therefore, inspired by the words of the Lord to St Francis, I see my purpose in this Archdiocese as one of initiating the process of a New Evangelisation.”
I then asked His Grace if he had a plan for this new evangelisation. He had nine key areas of hope, as follows:
The Clergy, “God’s anointed ones, called to the mission of mercy, and my main collaborators in this mission on behalf of the entire Church. I intend to provide the necessary support that will strengthen my brothers for the mission.”
Family Life “will be given special attention as the family is the nucleus of all human and Christian life”.
Youth and Vocation. “Their Christian formation is important; so too, is the assistance in discerning their vocation in life.”
Catechesis & Catholic Education “must find prominence for growth in the faith”.
Poor & the elderly. “What better way to be a Church of mercy than to practise the corporal works of mercy.”
The administrative and pastoral structures that will facilitate the New Evangelisation.
Archdiocesan and Parish finances.
Social Media. “All the above will have a strong communication base, making appropriate use of the means of social media to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
“As Catholics, we believe that ecumenism, that is, working towards the unity of Christians, is not an optional extra. It is a mandate by Jesus Christ Himself, given in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John: ‘That they may be one just as you and I, Father, are one.’ So, we shall continue to work on whatever efforts are already in operation.”
As we brought the interview to a close, Archbishop Malzaire ended with a question to the Caribbean Church – ‘Are you ready to join with me on that journey, of what the Church ought to be?’.
I hope that we are ready. Our Church – family, schools, our selves – needs urgent repair. May God continue to bless and guide us in this journey.