The Archdiocese of Port of Spain – and in particular Our Lady of Fatima Church in Curepe – is preparing for an Episcopal ordination on September 14 at 9.30 a.m.
The ordination of Msgr Robert Llanos – who was named Auxiliary Bishop of Port of Spain on July 13 – will take place at the Curepe church since the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception remains closed for restoration works and the Pro Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is too small for such a big event.
Any thought of using the Grand Stand of the Queen’s Park Savannah was quashed by the Bishop-elect’s desire to be ordained in a church.
Two Saturdays ago, the Holy See announced his appointment at noon Rome time (6 a.m. local time), and at 9 a.m. Archbishop Joseph Harris was announcing it at a media conference at Archbishop’s House, Port of Spain.
“I feel honoured, I feel blessed, I also feel very humbled. I look forward to all that this means and certainly, as I always try to do, I will give it my best, to be the best possible auxiliary bishop that I could be in the service of God’s people, both in terms of the Church and of the nation of Trinidad and Tobago,” the 55-year-old Bishop-elect said.
He made sure to confirm that he was “born and bred” in Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, just hours after the announcement, he was off to Tobago to celebrate weekend Masses.
Last September while visiting the Vatican, Archbishop Harris raised the possibility of having an auxiliary. He explained that the cardinal responsible for the Caribbean region – Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples – agreed, and the process began.
Local clergy and selected members of the laity were consulted on the most suitable candidate from among the three names submitted by the Vatican, which already had a list of possible candidates from 2011’s enquiry into a new archbishop.
The result of the clergy/laity consultation was submitted to Rome and the decision of the Vatican was that it would be Msgr Llanos. “I have worked very closely with him since I assumed the position of archbishop, I do believe that Rome has made a good choice,” remarked Archbishop Harris.
Archbishop Harris said the archdiocese has become “extremely more complex”, adding: “It is necessary to have another Episcopal presence here to provide the oversight that is needed. With 19 departments and 62 parishes, it’s a lot. There is work to be shared, both on the sacramental level and on the administrative level.” He continued: “I think you will get a far more rounded approach from the Catholic Church to the society because of the different gifts that we bring.”
Archbishop Harris also explained the difference between an auxiliary bishop and a coadjutor: the latter has the right of succession, while the former does not – though the Vatican may well appoint the auxiliary as archbishop when the time comes for the replacement of a bishop. Archbishop Harris is expected to retire when he turns 75 on March 19, 2017.
This archdiocese has had two other auxiliary bishops: Bishop William Fitzgerald, who assisted Archbishop Finbar Ryan; and Bishop John Mendes, who assisted Archbishop Anthony Pantin.
Bishop Mendes was ordained by Pope John Paul II in Rome, but Bishop-elect Llanos will be ordained in T&T. Curepe Parish Priest Fr Ferdinand Warner OP told the Catholic News it was a “great honour” for the parish to host the Episcopal ordination. Our Lady of Fatima is one of the larger churches and has a spacious yard. A committee has been formed to plan the ordination Mass.
Bishop-elect Llanos told the media that “a big part of being an auxiliary bishop for me will be defending, proclaiming, witnessing to family life in our nation and in the world”. Bishop-elect Llanos has been Episcopal Vicar for Family Life and chair of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission since 2005.
Ordained a priest in June 1991, Bishop-elect Llanos – a Fatima College old boy and former banker – has held many positions in the archdiocese, from parish priest to vice-rector of the Regional Seminary. Archbishop Harris appointed him Vicar General on January 24, 2012.