Monday, 10 October 2011

Richard Patrick Smith - Archbishop of Port of Spain

In 1819 a Vicariate Apostolic was established in Port of Spain. Richard Patrick Smith (1844-1850) was the third Vicar Apostolic having jurisdiction over the church in Trinidad as well as the other British and Danish colonies in the West Indies. He followed James Buckley (1820-1828) and James McDonnell (1829-1844)

Smith took control of a Vicariate in Crisis. In 1844 when the Anglican Church - the religion of the minority in Trinidad was Established. The Catholic Church was relegated officially and legally to a position of secondary importance.

On 30th April, 1850 Pope Pius IX transformed the Vicariate into the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain with jurisdiction over St. Lucia , St. Vincent , Grenada and Tobago and with Roseau , Dominica as its suffragan see.

In 1850, the catholic population of Trinidad stood at 44,000 out of a total of 70,000 persons. There were sixteen parishes served by twenty resident priests, with thirteen primary schools along with St. Joseph ’s Convent, Port-of-Spain (1836) and St. George’s College (1838). The church’s new status was of added significance as it was made months before the hierarchy was restored in England on 24th September 1850. Indeed the Church of Port-of-Spain lays claim to be one of the oldest in the English-speaking world.

On 9th February 1851, Smith was installed as first Archbishop of Port-of-Spain with a moving ceremony at his cathedral. He publicly discharged his new authority on 16th February 1851, when he consecrated his Vicar-General, Michael Monaghan as Bishop of Roseau. On Friday 19th February, Smith began three days of liturgical celebrations marking the consecration of the cathedral; its foundation stone had been previously laid by Governor Woodford on 25th March 1816. The Cathedral enjoyed the privileges of a Minor Basilica.

Later that year, special jubilee functions were held, culminating with the erection of a cross at Laventille on 15th August. Smith used these occasions to demonstrate the Catholic Church’s new status. The church remained a leading institution in British colonial Trinidad .

When the Archdiocese was created in 1850, Trinidad was becoming an even more complex colonial society, with the arrival of varying numbers of migrants from neighbouring West Indian islands and Venezuela , Africa, Madeira and China . The Indian Immigration scheme was becoming entrenched, adding a totally new religious dimension to the colony, as these migrants were Hindus and followers of Islam. There was need for the British to stamp their authority, institutions, language and religion on the colony - the anglicisation policy was in its hey-day.

The Catholic Church was often regarded in official government circles as being a “foreign church”; the church was very French in character. It drew its staunchest support from the influential French Creole elite; many adherents also came from the French Patois-speaking ex-slaves. Moreover, many priests were French, who as a rule preached in the language.

The years following the creation of the Archdiocese continued to witness antagonisms between the colonial government and the Catholic Church.

Smith died in 1852.

A Plaque was later dedicated to him, James Buckley and Daniel McDonnell (The three Vicar Apostolics) in the Cathedral. It is in Latin - the International language of the Church.

Ref this link

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