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Vatican rep wants Caribbean countries to share resources

Published:Monday | July 4, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

Georgetown, Guyana:

The Vatican knows it cannot directly influence political decisions of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) but Alex Thomas, Pope Francis' representative at this week's regional summit, says he hopes the leaders meeting here in Georgetown will be guided by their Christian value systems and an interest to ‘share resources’.

Thomas is the head of the Vatican’s delegation to the 37th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.

The Trinidadian Roman Catholic priest is deputising for the Holy See’s ambassador to the region, Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, for whom he’s also secretary.

“Our role is not the business; ours is mainly spiritual,” he told The Gleaner, although he acknowledged that political leaders in the mainly Christian nations of the region need to draw closer to Christian teachings of mercy and care to help their countries confront developmental challengers.

Noting that a range of social and economic issues continue to affect the region, Thomas said the ‘sharing and caring of resources’ is critical to alleviating issues such as persistent poverty.

“I personally feel the sharing and caring of resources, many of the Caribbean countries especially Trinidad and Tobago (with) plenty of wealth. There are so many people who are in need. That could be one area of discussion,” the 55-year-old said.

Sharing of resources became a big political issue back at the Jamaica-hosted 2010 summit where then Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar declared that her country was ‘not the ATM for the Caribbean’.

Just a week before the start of the Georgetown meeting, William Mahfood, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica,  said his nation was the ATM for Trinidad and Tobago because of alleged unfair trading practices.  

“Also, I believe," the Vatican representative continued, “inculcating, speaking in terms of Christianity, a value system based on the Gospel... . We blame the young generation for not becoming or taking up the right values but they are inheriting (from the older). We could help people to build up the right value system of loving, caring, sharing and not revenge.”

In the meantime, the senior Catholic pastor acknowledged that increasing secularism and cynicism, helped by allegations of sex abuse and corruption, has affected the voice of the Church.

But the priest of 26 years is insisting that, despite those issues, the Christian Church continues to positively impact the lives of Caribbean people through areas such as education and social protection.

“The secularism is a big challenge for us. I believe we are not witnessing (enough). It’s (also) a challenge for the people. The challenge now is how to introduce the value of happiness according to the way people can understand and versus the brevity of pleasure,” said the priest, who shepherds his flock in the Penal church parish near San Fernando in Guyana.