- Your Excellency Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Plenipotentiary Representative of the Holy See to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM);
- His Lordship the Right Reverend Francis Alleyne, O.S.B., Roman Catholic Bishop of Georgetown, Guyana;
- Reverend Father Luciano Labanca, Secretary and Deputy Head of Mission of the Apostolic Nunciature;
- Ambassador Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary-General, Foreign and Community Relations, and other Members of Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat.
Excellency, it is with the greatest pleasure that I accept your Credentials as the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Holy See to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Today’s accreditation ceremony signals the commitment to maintain relations between CARICOM and the Vatican. The Catholic Church provides a religious foundation and a moral compass for our societies, and plays a vital social role in the development of our countries, particularly in education.
Catholicism and Christianity have served as prominent factors in social interventions, especially for those in our Community who are least privileged. The Church, through its Diocesan Projects Office and in collaboration with a number of International Agencies, has implemented projects to provide various forms of assistance to benefit the people of the Region, including during times of national disasters.
CARICOM has noted the emphasis His Holiness, Pope Francis, has placed on promoting peace, equality, inclusion and responsibility. These are issues that resonate with our Community.
Excellency, your appointment comes at a time of great global and regional challenges. The prolonged, multifaceted health and economic crisis resulting from the global coronavirus pandemic has caused massive disruption and hardship in most aspects of our lives.
The economic crisis we face is compounded by the public health challenges. The matter of availability and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is of the outmost importance for CARICOM countries. As the world grapples with controlling, containing and eventually ending the coronavirus pandemic, the Caribbean Community is deeply concerned at the current inequitable access to vaccines. Given the high potential for rapid transmissibility of the virus, all countries are vulnerable and should work together.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rich countries, while comprising only 16% of the world’s population, have already purchased 60% of available vaccine supplies. CARICOM has called on the WHO to convene a Global Summit to address the inequity in vaccine access and distribution.
Pope Francis has been a consistent voice advocating for equitable access to vaccines. In that regard, I urge that the Vatican lends its voice in support to CARICOM’s call for a Global Summit.
The courageous actions and statements by His Holiness also resonate with respect to climate change. They are most welcome to our Member States, for all of whom that phenomenon poses an existential threat. We are bearing the brunt of its effects, although hardly contributing to its causes.
The unfortunate experiences of Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and the British Virgin Islands, for example, during the 2017 hurricane season and that of The Bahamas in September 2019, provide sufficient evidence of the devastating effects of climate change.
We welcome the continued advocacy of Pope Francis for the concerns of Small Island and Low-Lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS). It is particularly important this year, given that COP 26 is being hosted by the United Kingdom at the end of 2021.
Excellency, we have noted with interest a report that the U.S.-based branch of the Jesuit Roman Catholic Order, whose worldwide membership includes Pope Francis, has unveiled ambitious plans to pay reparations to descendants of people once enslaved by the Order in the United States.
The issue of Reparations is high on our agenda, and we have established a CARICOM Reparations Commission to pursue reparatory justice for slavery and native genocide. We commend the Jesuits for their action and this serves a further inspiration to our own struggle.
With these short remarks, Excellency, I wish you a most successful tenure as Plenipotentiary Representative of the Holy See to the Caribbean Community. I can assure you of my support and that of the staff of the Secretariat, as we work together to invigorate the ties between CARICOM and the Holy See.