Kingston, July 2016. Archbishop Kenneth Richards, who received the pallium from His Holiness Pope Francis in Vatican City, was installed on 6 July 2016 as the seventh Archbishop of Kingston at a Mass of Installation to be held at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Kingston, Jamaica.
In an interview with the Editor of Independent Catholic News, His Grace highlighted the significant good works of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George in his former Diocese of St John’s-Basseterre (Antigua & Barbuda and St Kitts & Nevis), and across the wider region and paid tribute to the longstanding efforts and dedication of its Caribbean Delegate Anthony Bailey.
In the past, Catholic communities in the Caribbean islands have been very isolated from each other. “Within the Diocese of St John’s-Basseterre, there were five nations on five different islands. Distances may be short, but they are difficult to reach.” Archbishop Richards explained. Archbishop Richards mentioned the importance of the external support, given by Catholic and other organisations for the pastoral and charitable needs of the Church in these islands and by the Constantinian Order in particular.
The Constantinian Order which has been active in the Caribbean since 1981, initiated its latest programme following the official and working visits of the Grand Master HRH The Duke of Castro and the Grand Prior, HE Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and members of the charitable and inter-religious councils of the Caribbean to the region in 2014. These visits were undertaken in cooperation with church and state authorities in each country.
“Sir Anthony, whose connection with the Caribbean started in the 1980’s, has been the main driving force behind the efforts to bring greater international attention to the needs and plight of the Caribbean people. For this, the many who have benefited from his voluntary efforts and hard work over a good number of years and especially in Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and elsewhere are thankful and grateful” said the Archbishop.
The Archbishop said the Catholic Church is a minority in many islands and the economic climate is challenging especially against a backdrop of humanitarian emergencies in other parts of the world affected by war, conflicts and persecution. Anthony Bailey the Archbishop said “has given his best and should be congratulated for encouraging many good people from across the world and from all different faith communities and walks of life to donate directly to the Diocese and to help the Church and the people of the region through projects benefiting not just the Catholic community but all of society”.
Some of the projects launched in 2014 across the region are already completed “on time and on budget” and others are “well advanced and underway and on schedule” the Archbishop said. Among them, in Antigua & Barbuda are the building of a new community centre and church in Hatton, the hosting in the country of the Antilles Episcopal Conference Youth Assembly held in July 2015, the construction of a new wing of St Joseph’s Catholic Academy which was completed and inaugurated in March this year in the presence of Antigua & Barbuda’s Governor General Sir Rodney Williams, Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the Leader of the Opposition Baldwin Spencer showing that “these projects have full cross party support”.
Among the other projects being spearheaded by a number of donors, is the long-awaited restoration of the Catholic Cathedral of St Patrick and St Joseph which was virtually destroyed in the 1974 earthquake which devastated Antigua & Barbuda. The church represents for many the roots of Catholicism in the country.
This project the Archbishop said, takes place alongside the restoration of the Anglican Cathedral of St John the Divine which has also received personal donations from individuals and other ecumenical partners of the Constantinian Order such as delegation member Sir William Jeffcock and one of the oldest Anglican Church Trusts in England, the Feoffees of Ecclesfield in Yorkshire.
The oldest of seven children, Archbishop Richards was born in Linstead, St Catherine, Jamaica. When he was about 10 years old, he became the first in his family to convert to Catholicism. After his ordination in 1985, the Archbishop served as associate pastor at Holy Cross Church in Half-Way-Tree, and later as pastor of St Patrick’s Church in Waterhouse, St Benedict’s Church, Harbour View and St Jude & St Patrick Church. Later he was appointed archdiocesan Director of Vocations, before becoming rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral where he oversaw the restoration in time for its 100th anniversary in 2011. In 2009, Father Richards became a Monsignor, and in December 2011, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Bishop of St John’s-Basseterre with pastoral responsibility for Antigua & Barbuda, St Kitts & Nevis and the three British dependent territories of Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands – a post which he held until his appointment as Archbishop of Kingston in 2016.