Archbishop sends resignation letter to Pope Francis; speaks out against death penalty

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 14:30

Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris has submitted his resignation to the pope as is customary, having attained the age of 75.

He is currently awaiting word from Pope Francis on whether the resignation has been accepted. 

Archbishop Harris turned 75 on Sunday March 19th.

In a Facebook Live interview broadcast by The Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain, he confirmed the resignation letter had been sent.

"I have sent my resignation in. I delivered it to the nuncio a few days before my 75 birthday. I'm told it's already been sent to Rome, so I await what the pope will say," Archbishop Harris said.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law and the 1990 Code of Canons require most bishops to submit their resignations at the age of 75 but the pope is not required, however, to accept them.

Once the pope accepts a bishop's retirement, the bishop automatically ceases to hold any fixed-term office he may have on a national level.

Archbishop Harris said he hoped his tenure had an impact on the lives of people, pointing to the position he took in support of conditions for prisoners in Remand Yard, his stance on child marriages and the emphasis he put on missionary life. 

The archbishop also spoke out against the death penalty being reinstated.


"If the death penalty is reinstated, at the end of it, having hanged two people or three people, what does that do to the nation? I remember the same Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj when Dole Cadee and his gang were hanged. There was a lot of people writing and saying how awful it felt and how barbaric it felt to hang nine people in two days," he said.

"That may be the law of the land but when we admit and want to reinstate hanging, we put ourselves in the company of a bunch of nations I don't want to be associated with. I don't know if the government and people who are calling for capital punishment are in fact reflecting on that," Archbishop Harris said.

He was then asked if he did not think that the reinstatement of the death penalty reflected the will of the population.

"I think it reflects the will of a group of people who are rather loud-mouthed," he said.

He said the causes of crime must first be addressed.

"Hanging will not stop drugs from coming into the country. Hanging will not stop people fighting for turf and so the murders will continue. And you ask yourself, who brings in the drugs and who brings in the guns? It's not the poor boys from Laventille and Sealots and where else in Trinidad. They don't have the money to do that," he said.

He said it requires changes in the education system to begin with and vowed that the church will continue to do its part to address those concerns.

Clips of the Archbishop announcing his resignation and speaking on the death penalty have been merged together in the video below.