Priests free to talk politics
By Andre Bagoo Friday, September 21 2012
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Dean Colin Sampson...
POLITICIANS are not above God and must fulfill the spiritual duty they have as occupants of the highest forum in the country, Rev Colin Sampson, Dean and Rector of Trinity Cathedral, Port-of-Spain said yesterday in response to criticisms levied against him by National Security Minister Jack Warner.
“God is supreme,” Sampson said. “I stand by what I say, absolutely. Politicians occupy the highest forum in the land and they – and anyone else in any public role – must realise that there is a spiritual context to what they do. We are created by God to serve God and no matter what your particular faith, that is a basic concept.”
The Dean of the Anglican cathedral stood by his opening remarks made at the ceremonial opening of the law term on Monday at the cathedral in which he warned members of the House of Representatives that their conduct during debate of a bill to repeal Section 34 – as well as the entire fiasco – had ruined the mood of the country post Independence Day and was a “threat to our nation’s well-being.”
“What I was saying was not a sermon, it was an opening address,” he said. “And it was considerably softened from my original draft. There was a need to discuss how this legislation had to be rushed; the perception of deception. I called no names.” Sampson said he was “disturbed” by the level of cross-talk and picong from all sides at the sitting of the House of Representatives.
“I think when we are in a situation that causes the nation some panic, as a priest I must call for reflection and restraint,” he said. “And I was very disturbed by what I was seeing.”
However, in the Senate, he said, “there was more of a focus on the issues.”
In a television interview on Wednesday, Warner, a Catholic, criticised Sampson, accusing him of turning Trinity Cathedral “into Balisier House”. Warner accused Sampson of “lowering the bar” and argued that priests should not politicise sermons or be selectively critical.
Sampson stood by his remarks saying, “I take back absolutely nothing and stand by what I say once I have prayed before making a public remark.” He said Warner might not have been present in years gone by when he made similar remarks on a range of issues and noted that not on every occasion would a reporter be present.
Priests, Sampson said, cannot shy away from public remarks on political issues.
“Jesus was killed for political reasons,” he said. “There is no way the Church could keep out of political issues. And to think that the Church should not involve itself is a total misunderstanding of the world and its history.”
Sampson was ordained Deacon on December 21, 1978 and priest on January 5, 1980 at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port-of- Spain. He became Dean on September 1, 2004. He previously served as Assistant Curate at the Cathedral and at St Margaret’s Parish in Belmont until 1986.
Sampson was the first Rector of St George the Martyr, South Caicos with St Monica, Providenciales (Turks and Caicos Islands) from 1993 to 1996.
Trinity Cathedral has always been at the centre of politics. The cathedral, an iconic landmark at the centre of the capital, adjoins the Red House and Woodford Square. It is the venue of choice for a wide range of inter-faith services, including some hosted by the Defence Force and Police Service. On one occasion, former Prime Minister Patrick Manning held an inter-faith prayer service at Trinity Cathedral to bless the Summit of the Americas which took place in 2009.