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Commissiong welcomes Catholic racism pledge

Rolfe Commissiong has praised the Catholic Church in Bermuda for its promise to tackle racism (File photograph)

The pledge by the island’s Catholic Church to tackle racism has won praise from a government MP.

Rolfe Commissiong, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said other institutions should take the same approach to “continue this process of healing”.

Mr Commissiong said during Friday’s motion to adjourn in the House of Assembly: “I just want to commend the Right Reverend Wesley Spiewak, the island’s Roman Catholic Bishop, who this week announced that the Roman Catholic Church of Bermuda will make a concerted effort to address the racism that has bedevilled the church.”

He added: “This is important. While people talk about creating a ‘One Bermuda’, usually it means a Bermuda by which their privilege and their prerogatives are not challenged.

“But to create really a ‘One Bermuda’, this is what has to happen — we have to be honest about this and about this issue which has bedevilled Bermuda for centuries. That’s how we become one Bermuda.”

Mr Commissiong said a “front-door approach” was the only way to create this “one Bermuda that many want to achieve.”

Mr Commissiong was speaking after Bishop Spiewak announced that the Church was to launch a six-month anti-racism drive and admitted Catholics had not done enough in the past to tackle the problem.

The head of the Catholic Church on the island added that the low number of black Catholic Bermudians “gives me a clear idea that we were never very welcoming to these persons”.

Bishop Spiewak said the Church historically “did not do enough” globally to combat racial prejudice.

He said: “We have been, and we are still, a very white church. This does not reflect what Catholicism means. Catholic means universal; we never became universal in this sense.”

Mr Commissiong said there were a number of black members of the Roman Catholic Church in Bermuda from its inception “some of whom were very prominent, such as Dr E.F. Gordon”.

He added that his father, who was from Trinidad, was a Roman Catholic.

Mr Commissiong said he had attended the Catholic Mount Saint Agnes Academy and been an altar boy.

He added: “So I am glad that the Roman Catholic Church in Bermuda has taken this course.”