Monday, 10 October 2011

Vincent Spaccapietra Archbishop of Port of Spain

Vincent Spaccapietra -
born 12 October 1801
died 24 November 1878

21 Nov 1852 Appointed Titular Archbishop of Arcadiopolis in Europa
18 Apr 1855 Appointed Archbishop of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Antilles
12 Sep 1859 Resigned Archbishop of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Antilles
12 Sep 1859 Appointed Titular Archbishop of Ancyra
1862 Appointed Archbishop of Izmir (Smirne), Turkey

Vincent Spaccapietra was directed by Rome to take up the position of Archbishop with the sudden death of the previous Archbishop in 1852. He was the first non - British subject to head the church in Trinidad ; Spaccapietra was an Italian from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The manner of his appointment aggravated the relations between himself and the Governor, Charles Elliot. The colonial office in London had not been informed by Rome of the appointment of Spaccapietra. Prior to the creation of the Archdiocese, there was always a ready flow of correspondence between the church and London . Once the archdiocese was formed, it was the opinion of Rome that there was no longer any need to communicate with the colonial authorities. Rome dealt directly with the archdiocese.

Governor Elliot refused to recognise the new archbishop. The archbishop, a hero of the cholera epidemic of that year, had tried valiantly to help the sick and destitute, even constructing the convalescent home, L’Hospice, to give refuge to the homeless, But Sir Clive Elliott was adamant that this Catholic figure, who was not a British national, should not get paid out of the colonial chest.

Leaders among the Catholic party sprang to the defence of their church and archbishop. Rome sent Monsignor Talbot to diffuse the situation in December 1855 and to assure the Governor that no slight was intended to the colonial government. Elliott was unrelenting, and in fact resigned over the dispute.

Given the continued strained relations, it was no surprise that Spaccapietra resigned as Archbishop, assuming a new post in 1859 as Archbishop of Smyrna.

During his short term in office, Spaccapietra carved for himself a monumental role among the archbishops of Port-of-Spain. He effectively established the church’s social out-reach to the less fortunate. He established the Les Amantes de Jesus Society, the St. Vincent de Paul Society (1857) and the L’hospice Spaccapietra (1858). These organisations have all stood the test of time and exist even today.

Spaccapietra was a Council Father for the First Vatican Council.

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