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How he lived… ‘all things to all people’

By Lara Pickford-Gordon


Archbishop Anthony Pantin’s episcopal consecration was on March 19, 1968 and he took as his episcopal motto, Omni Omnibus — all things to all people from 1 Corinthians 9:22. He died Sunday, March 12, 2000 at Archbishop’s House.

The Catholic News got the perspectives of a few people on the ways the late Archbishop strived to live his motto in his close to 32 years as Archbishop.

In his last conversation with Fr Garfield Rochard, the day before he died, Archbishop Pantin enquired about how things were going in the Mayaro parish. “He was always concerned about people,” Fr Rochard said.

He asserted Archbishop Pantin did something to the Church of Port of Spain. Referring to his motto, Fr Rochard remembers the Archbishop “mixed with everybody”. He showed care for the poor and demonstrated respect for other faiths.

Fr Rochard said Archbishop’s House was opened as a meeting place for Christian, Hindu, Muslim faiths. “It was not only the residence of the Archbishop of Port of Spain, it was a place for the Catholic Church in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. That was important. He allowed the Christian Council of Churches and IRO (Inter-Religious Organisation) to come to his house.”

Fr Rochard said Archbishop Pantin established the Archbishop’s Relief Fund and all who contributed helped the Archdiocese assist the needy.

“Every Christmas, he had a group of people at his residence on Christmas Day to dine, Christmas lunch, and he had a crew to fix tables, prepare a meal and serve the poor. So, the poor could have gone into Archbishop’s House.”

They were invited to the luncheon with a card and it was first come, first serve. “He opened the House to the nation. That was important,” Fr Rochard said,

Sr Rosemary Carvalho SJC recalled Archbishop Pantin as someone anyone could approach. “On the streets, Archbishop’s House, wherever he was he was willing to stand and communicate.”

When incarcerated persons were released, they went to the Archbishop for help, it did not matter if they were Christian or not. “Anybody, the first person they went to…” Sr Rosemary said.

Archbishop Pantin followed the example of Jesus.  “Just like Jesus on the road, Jesus would always stop. He was on the road and He recognised Zacchaeus up the tree hiding [Lk 19:1–10]. No matter, Archbishop was ready to stop and communicate,” Sr Rosemary said.

She noted Archbishop Pantin’s involvement in the establishment of the IRO, saying he was open to all faiths and people.

Sr Rosemary said, “He was not afraid to talk either. I think if he was alive our country would not be where it is today. People respected him and people listened to him. He would be able to reach out to a lot of those in crime and whatever.”

Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB of Georgetown, Guyana said there are many things about Archbishop Pantin worthy of memory and a number of anecdotes. “Archbishop Pantin lived his episcopal motto with ease and respect but at the same time with clarity and firmness. He would engage with persons who held very responsible positions in civil society.”

He recounted an anecdote shared by the late Bishop Malcolm Galt CSSp who was at the time serving as financial administrator of the Archdiocese and “would have to join a line to see the Archbishop. Others in the line were our brothers and sisters on the periphery; the ones living on the street, those abandoned and even despised by many.”

Bishop Alleyne added, “Archbishop Pantin acknowledged them, gave of his time, touched into their humanity and treated them as he would any child of God.”

Bishop Clyde Harvey of St George’s in Grenada said the Archbishop’s motto is rooted in a particular context. “A context that is rooted in a radical humility and a constant self-effacement…it calls you to a particular living but the goal as an absolute is hardly ever achieved.”

He added that Archbishop Pantin sought to live in hope of being all things to all people. He achieved it at times, but Bishop Harvey commented, “the price he paid only became obvious to people at some critical moments in his life”.

Explaining, he said there were times when Archbishop Pantin faced great pressure from priests, in the political arena, and “certain elements in the society”.

He recalled Archbishop Pantin was criticised for agreeing then not participating in the Black Power movement march to Caroni for national unity.

“His heart was with the people who were marching but he was trying to be all things to all people and nobody will be able to judge, at least on this side of the grave, whether that was a moment of success or a moment of failure.”

The Bishop asserted that in trying to be all things to all people one had to choose.

A moment he demonstrated being all things to all people came during the 1990 coup, when Archbishop Pantin rallied the country through the airwaves singing the ‘National Anthem’.

“You have to see the all things to all men as the product of a journey that one makes. Whether one in fact achieves it I think is impossible to achieve, but the very process…” Bishop Harvey said.

He remembers after ordination Archbishop Pantin visited a Hindu temple and removed his shoes before entering as a mark of respect. He was greeted as “an authentic spiritual leader”.

Referring to the IRO, he noted people still talk of how Archbishop Pantin was in the forefront of ecumenism. Bishop Harvey said, “at the core of that is a deep respect for the people, groups and their traditions”.

At his funeral at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the homeless attended to pay their last respects.