Archbishop Robert Rivas a great human being, a true ecumenist
October 19, 2007

Archbishop Robert Rivas a great human being, a true ecumenist

by Ronnie Daniel 19.OCT.07

Sunday, 14th October, was like a wonderful carnival atmosphere at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, where Robert Rivas was presented as Coadjutor Archbishop of Castries. As I entered the Cathedral, my soul was aroused to a lively liturgy – a mixture of traditional and contemporary Caribbean hymns (thanks to Vatican 2), which left me with no other choice than to sway left and right with angelic joy (what some musicians call “rock so, rock so).{{more}} To have done otherwise would have been a denial of the spirit that was evoked deep down in my bones. The floral decorations and art work conjured up a rare diversity of colours which one sees only at Mardi Gras. The ONLY thing different was that it was not February or Summer; it was October.

I first learnt about Archbishop Rivas while a third former at St. Martin’s Secondary School, when he had just been made Bishop of Kingstown. At that time, the only thing that struck me was his “largeness”, which no one can miss, and the calm way in which he went about his business, greeting everyone with an infectious smile. Little did I know that ten (10) years later (2000), we would be serving on the executive of the SVG Christian Council – one of the most socially involved periods in the life of the Council in recent times (2000-2003). Old people say, “watch how things does happen nah.”

It was during this period that I appreciated the fact that Archbishop Rivas was not just a “large man”, but that he is a “LARGE” man with a “BIG” heart – a passion for advancing the Mission of the Church to meet the needs of the disadvantaged and weak in our Caribbean societies; and a willingness to accept challenges, even when he calculated that the consequences would be severe politically and socially. A case in point is the acceptance by the Council under his leadership to play a mediatory role during the political impasse (Grand Beach Accord) of 2000 – a role that cost him dearly, but also the efforts of which were recognised by regional and international institutions. Well done, Archbishop Rivas!

But to really understand and appreciate the persona that is Bishop Rivas, one has to work with him to fully grasp his fervour for ecumenism. More than any other in my experience, Archbishop Robert Rivas embodies the UNITY that the Churches already have, and which must find deeper expression and meaning in an authentic engagement with each other and the world. It is not surprising, then, that in his Homily on Sunday, he expressed concern about several issues, including crime and violence, which he says can be learnt and taught; the wanton disregard for life which, according to him, finds ultimate expression in the killing of a defenceless and innocent baby. He also voiced his concerns about Caribbean Unity and poverty in the region. For him, all these things, if not dealt with urgently, stand to worsen the foundation of our fragile societies.

As a shepherd, Archbishop Rivas, therefore, hopes to take the Catholic Church in St. Lucia, and by extension the Church in the region, a step further in working with relevant authorities in making the church a more practical and relevant Church. In other words, a Church that cares about the total development of people and the transformation of our societies – a Church with a missionary heart. Congratulations to a great human being and a true ecumenist!