Newly-installed Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Jason Gordon, in his first official speech, last night lashed out at citizens who live in an “economy where we either get rich or die trying.”
Gordon referred to the title of US rapper Curtis Jackson’s breakout album as he noted T&T’s new manifesto was comparable to “50 Cent’s creed” as long as citizens continue to put money as our highest God.
“We will continue to experience every ailment that this society experiences. We have made money, power, honour and pleasure into a God, which we have put before God,” he said.
“Once we continue to worship and crave money everything else will devolve into violence,” Gordon said to a packed congregation gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port-of-Spain for the ceremony. He delivered his homily after being installed by former archbishop Joseph Harris. The event was delayed by 10 minutes after a power outage.
The country’s highest office holders, including President Anthony Carmona and his wife, Reema, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife Sharon, were among those who were present for the event.
With the murder toll already surpassed last year’s figure and the fear of crime curtailing the movement of citizens, Gordon had this message: “The violence in the country cannot be fixed by the army or police. It has to be fixed by a conversion of the heart where we put God first.”
Long ago, Gordon said communities cared for each other but today this was no longer the case.
Gordon, 58, replaced Harris who submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Francis in March this year, upon turning 75.
Gordon is T&T’s 13th Archbishop and the third Trinidadian to lead the Catholic church following Harris and the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin.
Speaking to the media after the ceremony, Gordon was asked if he felt society had lost hope in the T&T Police Service and our leaders.
“Over the last 20 years, we have tried many different attempts to bring crime down. Has it come down?” he asked rhetorically.
Gordon said at the beginning of every year the murder rate spikes and noted the problem was now “out of our grasp.”
“It is bigger than any government,” he said.
Gordon said to confront the situation required a collaborative effort.
“If we want one person or group to solve this problem, this would not work. It’s our problem. We live here. And every single one of us has to get involved,” he said.
He said citizens have to become non-violent and of peace “promoting forgiveness and harmony.” People who are on the margins must be given opportunities for development and to flourish, he said.
Gordon said we can all look at T&T and see what was wrong.
“In communities, I meet people who do incredible things. Little people who have no power. Let us find those people…let us highlight those people. Let us highlight the hope that those people bring and the joy they celebrate.”
This, he said, can have a contagious expression and outpouring of hope for our country as we go forward.
“It’s not every citizen in this country doing foolishness. It’s the minority. A lot of us are looking on rather than participating towards the growth of our country.”
Asked his views on gay rights, Gordon said the church has a clear position on this.
“This first is a two-part position. Firstly every human being has been created in the dignity God has given to us at the creation.”
Gordon said every human being deserves to be treated with dignity.
“For us, marriage is a bond of a man and woman for the unification of the spouse and the procreation of children. We only accept or understand marriage as male and female in a bond that is exclusive and that is until death do us part.”
He said all human beings have rights and “so there are no specific rights for specific groupings we all participate in the rights of been a human being.”
While there have been challenges of getting new priests in the Catholic churches, Gordon said he will propose discipleship for everyone.
PREVIOUS ARCHBISHOPS OF PORT-OF-SPAIN:
• James Buckley (1819–1828)
• Daniel McDonnell (1828–1844)
• Richard Patrick Smith (1844–1852)
• Vincent Spaccapietra (1855–1859)
• Ferdinand English (1860–1862)
• Joachim-Hyacinthe Gonin, O.P. (1863–1889)
• Patrick Vincent Flood, O.P. (1889–1907)
• John Pius Dowling, O.P. (1909–1940)
• Patrick Finbar Ryan, O.P. (1940–1966)
• Gordon Anthony Pantin, C.S.Sp. (1967–2000)
• Edward Joseph Gilbert, C.Ss.R. (2001–2011)
• Joseph Everard Harris, C.S.Sp (since 2011)
ABOUT JASON GORDON
The new Archbishop of Port-of-Spain, Jason Gordon, was born on March 17, 1959.
After graduating from Fatima College, he inherited his father’s failing business and was able to turn it around.
It was during that time he became involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as a youth member of the Living Water Community.
At age 22, he sold the now-profitable business and became a full-time member of the community.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gordon began studies for the priesthood at the Regional Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, Mt St Benedict. He continued his studies at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where he attained his BA and Master’s of Theology. He later completed his PhD in London.
Gordon was ordained a diocesan priest in March 1991 at the age of 32 and in 2003 he was made the parish priest for Gonzales. He received awards for a project to bring peace to that community through the participation of all the stakeholders, including gangs and their leaders and mediated between communities in conflict.
In 2007, then Archbishop Edward Gilbert appointed Gordon to the newly-created position of Vicar for Administration. Two years later, Pope Benedict XVI made him a Monsignor.
In 2011, he was appointed Bishop of Kingstown in St Vincent and Grenadines and Bishop of Bridgetown in Barbados. He received his episcopal consecration on September 21 of that year from Archbishop Joseph Harris with Robert Rivas and Malcolm Patrick Galt serving as co-consecrators in a ceremony held in a tent in front of the Bridgetown Cathedral.
Pope Francis accepted his resignation from Kingstown in 2015 but Gordon continued to serve in Bridgetown until he was appointed Archbishop of Port-of-Spain on October 19.
In March 2016, Gordon was charged with assaulting altar server Junior Blackman and appeared before the Magistrates’ Court that December where he pleaded innocent to the charges. Magistrate Kristie Cuffie-Sargeant dismissed the case on July 14 after Blackman indicated that he was no longer interested in pursuing the matter.
The new Archbishop is known for his opposition to the death penalty and strong support for peacemaking and bridge building in disputes and gang violence.