Monday, July 2, 2012

We forward – triumphantly!

Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Accra, Most Reverend Charles Palmer Buckle 

Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | MON 2 JUL 12

There we were in Jamaica’s National Arena, celebrating 500 years of Catholic Witness in Jamaica, and Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence last Sunday.  We had expected to be addressed by the charismatic Archbishop Charles Dufour, and were a bit disappointed when we noted that it was the visiting Archbishop of Accra, Ghana who would be giving the homily. 

Quickly, disappointment turned to awe.  The goodly Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle confessed to us that there was some sadness mixed with the joy he felt to be with us.  Little did we know that he himself would be making history on that stage – by making the first apology we had ever heard from an African leader. 

“I apologise for the acts of my ancestors for selling your ancestors into slavery,” he declared.  “Please join me as we sing…”  At this point I expected to hear a song like “Amazing Grace.”  But no!  Archbishop Palmer-Buckle invited us to sing: “Redemption Song”!

“How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?” – his strong voice rang through the very National Arena where Bob Marley had lain in state 31 years before.  We, his emotional congregation sang with him, “But my hand was made strong, by the hand of the Almighty. We forward in this generation – triumphantly!”

Bob Marley: "Redemption song - songs of freedom"
And so we sang – every word, every line from beginning to end – while some sisters and brothers stood and raised their hands to punctuate the searing words. And as we ended with, “Redemption song – songs of freedom – redemption song ….”  the healing washed over us and the Archbishop announced, “Now we are connected.”

Further, he reminded us that it was our Marcus Mosiah Garvey whose teachings had inspired African leaders to work towards self-government.  I wonder if Archbishop Palmer-Buckle knows that towards the end of his life, Garvey converted to Catholicism.

We the sponsors of young people receiving the sacrament of Confirmation at the Assembly, had dreaded the six-hour stretch of rehearsal and worship.  However, we hardly noticed the time after the Archbishop spoke – such is the power of the Spirit which spoke through this brilliant Ghanaian.

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