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Vicar General Father Joe Harris to be ordained Coadjutor Archbishop today

Wednesday, September 14 2011

click on pic to zoom in
 Father Joe Harris ...
Father Joe Harris ...

Trinidad and Tobago will once again have a local as its Roman Catholic Archbishop when Vicar General, Father Joe Harris assumes the position in December, succeeding the current Archbishop, Edward Gilbert who will retire on December 26 at the age of 75.

Today, Harris will move one step closer to this rank when he is ordained as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Port-of-Spain at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A little over two months ago, the Vatican announced the appointment of the local priest by Pope Benedict XVI to Coadjutor Archbishop. During the time leading up to the ordination service today, Harris was promoted from Judicial Vicar to the Vicar General of the Archdiocese.

As coadjutor Archbishop, Harris will assist Gilbert in his duties as bishop. He is considered a bishop in his own right as he has more powers than that given to the Vicar General. Coadjutor bishops are given the automatic right to succeed the Archbishop meaning Harris will automatically become the tenth Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain when Gilbert turns 75, the canonical age of retirement for clergy.

He will also be the second Trinidadian to attain this position after the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin who passed away in 2000. Harris was ordained a priest of the Holy Ghost (Spiritan) congregation on July 14, 1968 also making him the second Spiritan to become Archbishop. His current portfolio includes St Ann’s parish priest, head of the Metropolitan Tribunal, and Vicar for Clergy (priests and deacons). He is a former rector of the Regional Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs at Mt Benedict, and is fluent in Spanish after spending more than a decade ministering in Paraguay.

Another local priest, Monsignor Jason Gordon, was appointed Bishop-elect for the dioceses of Bridgetown, Barbados, and Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines by the Pope in July. His ordination will take place next week.

Harris and Gordon will be the most recent Trinidad-born clergy to become members of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) following in the footsteps of Archbishop Anthony Pantin; Bishop Sydney Charles, emeritus bishop of St George’s-in-Grenada; Bishop Malcolm Galt, CSSp, emeritus bishop of Bridgetown diocese; Archbishop Robert Rivas, OP of Castries, St Lucia and former bishop of Kingstown diocese; deceased bishop John Mendes, and Bishop Francis Alleyne, OSB of Georgetown, Guyana.

According to an article in the Catholic news, preparations have been underway with Cathedral administrator, Father Kenneth Assing overseeing work at the Mother Church; chair of the Liturgical Commission, Monsignor Michael de Verteuil organising the Liturgy; and a team from the St Ann’s parish dealing with invitations and other logistics.

In anticipation of the large crowd, there will be a tent erected in the forecourt of the church. Specially invited guests will be seated inside the Cathedral in colour coded sections. Large flat screen monitors are expected to be set up to allow those outside and inside to view the Liturgy.

Several members of clergy from across the Caribbean are expected at the ordination including representatives from Paraguay.

At his 40th anniversary Mass at St Ann’s Church in July 2008, Harris described the Latin American country as his “second home” since he ministered there from 1969 to 1982.

Caribbean bishops who are expected to attend will be led by AEC president Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, Bahamas; Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica; Castries Archbishop Rivas and Archbishop Emeritus Kelvin Felix; Bishop Alleyne; Jamaica’s Archbishop Emeritus Donald Reece, Archbishop Charles Dufour of Kingston, and Bishop Neil Tiedemann of Mandeville; Bishop Vincent Darius of St George’s-in-Grenada; Bishop Wilhelm de Bekker of Paramaribo, Suriname; Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, French Guiana; and Archbishop Gilbert Marie Michel Méranville of Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France, Martinique.

Archbishop Gilbert will be chief celebrant and consecrator, while Bishop Galt will be co-consecrator.

Local dignitaries expected to attend include Acting President, Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar; Chief Justice Ivor Archie; Leader of the Opposition, Keith Rowley and Port-of-Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing. The diplomatic corps has been invited, as well as members of the Inter-Religious Organisation and other religious leaders. Among those invited, Anglican Bishop Calvin Bess and coadjutor Bishop Berkeley. Like Archbishop Gilbert, Bishop Bess will retire in December.

In earlier reports, Archbishop Gilbert congratulated Harris and Gordon and expressed pleasure with both appointments. On his appointment, Harris said, “God knows what God wants” and expressed hope that he would be guided by the Holy Spirit.

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