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A Common Cross that We All Must Bear - Address on the Cathederal Attack - January 3, 2001

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Sisters and brothers

People of St. Lucia

In 1976 Sister Frances Theresa of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny was hacked to death in Grace, Vieux Fort. On 13th December 1987 two tourists were attacked in the Cathedral and now we have had this unparalleled tragedy. The old year ended on a note of unprecedented sorrow with the Catholic community being handed another martyrdom and St. Lucia, a cross of suffering and collective pain. As Msgr. Theo Joseph said in his sermon at the Midnight Mass, we must all say "Never Again!"

As brutal and as reprehensible as the sacrilege that transpired at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was, we must as a nation reflect long and hard on the lessons to be learned and the preventative measures that must be taken for the future. We will as a government ensure that justice is served, that freedoms we treasure so dearly are preserved and that the climate of tolerance and goodwill is maintained on all fronts – whether religious, political or civic. We should as a Christian people apply the principles of our faith to the healing of the nation.

As often happens in a situation such as this, rumor substitutes fact and both by design and by happenstance, diverse agendas and interpretations are applied to give complexion to the reality of what happened.

It is incumbent on me to state the unadulterated facts as we have managed to piece them together to date so that you, our countrymen and women, will obtain a greater appreciation of the situation and be better able to commit ourselves in the short-term to the realization of justice and, in the longer term, to apply our collective energies to the vital task of healing and reconciliation.


The facts are as follows:

· Early on the morning of Sunday December 31st, at least two men, one aged 20 and the other aged 34 years, invaded the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during the post-Communion prayer moment of the 6:00 a.m. mass; Police are still seeking to confirm the existence of a third assailant.

· They were armed with pieces of wood, containers of gasoline and flaming torches.

· They proceeded to spray members of the Congregation with gasoline and set them alight with the torches.

· One of the assailants made his way to the high altar where he spread inflammable liquid and then set the Priest and his assistant alight.

· In the resulting carnage, a nun of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, Sister Theresa Egan was bludgeoned to death, while twelve members of the Congregation were badly burnt. Contrary to reports, only one person to date has died as a result of the incident. Included among the seriously burnt are the officiating priest Rev. Fr. Charles Gaillard and Eucharistic Minister Victor Reyes.

· One of the attackers – Kim John - was apprehended by courageous members of the Congregation and the Police a short distance from the Cathedral.

· The two individuals concerned have claimed that they were involved in the setting of the fire to the Soufriere Church last year.


Immediately following this incident, the hierarchy of the Police Service and several members of Cabinet, including myself, attended at the Cathedral to obtain a first-hand view of the situation and from there proceeded to the Victoria and Tapion Hospitals to visit the injured.

The Cabinet of Ministers and the Church hierarchy have maintained contact and the following measures have been taken to date:

· While two persons have been apprehended, the Police have been instructed to intensify their search to ascertain whether other persons were involved in any way.

· I have ordered that investigations continue to determine whether this is an isolated event or suggestive of a pattern of subversion of cherished institutions.

· The Government of St. Lucia has undertaken to assist with the medical expenses of persons injured in the carnage; the Catholic Church is also utilizing its international connections to seek medical support overseas at a specialist burns treatment institution in New York. An aircraft arrives at 8:30 this evening to transport three of the more seriously injured persons to New York.

· Rev. Fr. Gaillard has already been transferred to Martinique for treatment and his condition remains critical.

· I have established – in consultation with His Grace the Archbishop -- a Sub-Committee of Cabinet chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and comprising the Minister for Legal Affairs and the Attorney General to monitor developments and liaise with the Police on a daily basis to ensure that all investigations and the provision of evidence to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions are expeditiously handled.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to two public service institutions. First of all, I want to thank the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff of Victoria Hospital and in particular the staff attached to the Accident & Emergency Unit for their commitment and swift response to the emergency. I wish to thank also the Police for the speed with which they responded and for their early apprehension of the suspects.

Sé manm Cabinet-la èk légliz Katolik ja jwenn èk nou dakò asou sé bagay sala:

1. Polis kay kontiné chaché pou lòt moun ki pitet té envolvé, magwé de moun ja touve awété.

2. Nou ka kontiné envèstigasyon pou nou sav si sé yon act ki fèt pa kòy eben si la ni an plan pou dètwi plizè lòt légliz.

3. Gouvenman Sent Lisi ka pwan weskonsabilité pou tout dépans medical pou moun ki touvè affèkté an twakasman sala. Légliz Katolik osi, ka fè kontak épi lopital lòt péyi pou chaché pou pli mèyè otijpasyon medical pou sé moun la. An fen an plane ka wive oswè-a, pou transpote twa moun pou wisivwe pli meye twetman an New York.

4. Pè Gaillard an Martinique apwézan èk kondisyon gwav toubannman.

5. An konsiltasyon épi Achivèk Kelvin Felix, mwen ja établi an ti konmiti manm Cabinet anba diwèksyon Dézyenm chèf gouvèdman Mario Michel pou kontiné tjenn zyé yo asou zafè sala èk pou fè kontak épi Polis-la touléjou. Sa sé pou fè asiwé tout envestigasyon byen fèt èk Diwèkte-a ki wèskonsab pou sé ka sala jwenn tout sa I méwité pou koumansé lodyans-la. Lézòt manm konmite-a sé Minis pou zafè legal Velon John èk Avoka-Gouvedman Petrus Compton.


This atrocious act has profoundly affected us at home and abroad. At home, the sense of trauma is tangible and the horror will take some time to fade. Abroad, our image as a civilized, peace-loving and tolerant nation has been severely harmed. And to compound the irony of the horror, this occurred in the International Year of the Culture of Peace that we had so vigorously promoted at home. The implications for St. Lucia cannot be understated. Not only has the psyche of the country been damaged, but also we have joined the unenviable list of countries that could be cited for occurrences of religious intolerance. Religion is supposed to be the most elevated expression of the human spirit and condition. It is supposed to represent – inspite of the diversity of belief – the real aspiration towards the Universal and the desire of humanity for peace, self-actualization and communion with all life. We cannot and must not allow the forces of evil to subvert this sacred gift. They must not succeed and the sword of justice must therefore be swift and uncompromising. Additionally, when there are persons or individuals who issue threats against other individuals or institutions, we should consider it an obligation to report such threats to the Police and the Police in turn must act on these reports.


Our society demands that justice prevail in accordance with our laws and those entrusted with responsibility for the administration of justice must exercise that responsibility with firmness.

The perpetrators of this deed have been unrepentant in their revelations. What is astounding is that so much anger and hatred could have found such fertile ground in hearts so young. It has also now emerged that both of these young men abandoned gainful employment for the way of life that they adopted. For all of us this must be a wake up call, that among our youth are those whose humanity has been deformed by hurt, anger and painful existence and whose spirituality has degenerated to satanic debasement.


While we bring the sword of justice to the perpetrators, we must also act to save the many others who have been so poisoned by hate and hurt.

Only two weeks ago the Minister for Education invited the Catholic Education Board of Management to obtain the services of a religious order trained in counseling and pastoral care so that they could be deployed in schools to guide and assist students affected by family breakdown, drugs, and anger.

Our longer-term response to this will now necessitate a joint effort by the Ministries of Education, and Health and Human Services to strengthen mechanisms for social work among students and for dealing with students – particularly males – at risk.

The Catholic Church and other agencies – both governmental and non-governmental – have offered counseling services. Those who witnessed the tragedy should not feel ashamed to make use of their services lest the trauma remains etched in their minds forever.

The dialogue with the Catholic Church will continue and will be extended to include all other religious denominations. As part of the initiative to re-establish religious tolerance we will – after the funeral of Sister Theresa Egan – agree on a day of National Prayer to which all will be invited to participate.

I want to thank those Caribbean Governments and persons who have officially voiced their horror and expressed their sympathy with us as we confront this common affront to our human dignity.

As I end, I wish to reiterate the profound condolences of the Government and people of St. Lucia to the relatives and Order of Sister Theresa Egan and our prayers and best wishes to those who were injured and their families. Let us encircle them with a ring of compassion, love and support. Let us, at this time, remember our common humanity and recognize that the scars are not only borne by those who are hospitalized. They are also lacerations of the spirit that deeply scar the identity of our nation and a common cross that we all must bear. In this quest for healing, we will leave no stone unturned and no measure unrequited in the scales of justice.

I thank you; God bless and guide us all.

3rd January 2001


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