The Dominican-born Kelvin Felix, former archbishop of the archdiocese of Castries, said that the announcement that he had been named as a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church came a “complete surprise” to him. He had, he said, been unofficially informed by phone yesterday from St Lucia. The formal announcement of the appointment of 19 new cardinals had been made earlier by the Pope at the Vatican.
For the first time, two of the new cardinals are from the Caribbean: Archbishop Felix and Bishop Chibly Langlois of Haiti. This is an important development, the retired archbishop told DNO, because “it places our small region on the world map. The Holy Father is trying to make the church representative of all elements – especially the voices of those who’ve never been heard.”
Archbishop Felix will be going to Rome next month for the ceremony on February 22, when new cardinals are formally instated. He will receive “the red hat” which will confer on him the position of cardinal. However, he believes that he will remain working in Dominica. “The Holy Father wants feedback from the region and I hope to be a source of encouragement. I will continue to serve God through the people. That is why I have come back to Dominica.”
He added that he was “standing on the shoulders” of two predecessors from the Caribbean: former Archbishop Gordon Anthony Pantin from Trinidad and former Archbishop Samuel Carter from Jamaica.
Among those who have congratulated the soon-to-be cardinal is Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of the Diocese of Roseau. In a press statement, he said he was “extremely happy” about the news: “We congratulate Archbishop Kelvin Felix for the great honour bestowed on him by the Holy Father. It is no doubt an indication of his selfless dedication to the Church and the esteem at which he is held by Holy See. We too in the Diocese share in that honour.”
Bishop Malzaire told DNO that he had known Archbishop Felix since 1985 when the archbishop had ordained him a deacon in St Lucia. “He has always been a model to me. He is a very humble man.” Subsequently, Archbishop Felix also ordained him priest and bishop.
He pointed out that on Archbishop Felix’s retirement in 2008, he returned to Dominica as a parish priest, and is now serving under him. “This is very humbling,” he said. Archbishop Felix has served in both St. Patrick, Grand Bay, and St. Mark in Soufriere, where he is now based.
Bishop Malzaire also said the Cardinal designate is a “man of the church” who is known for his work for the ministry not just regionally, but also universally, having worked on committees and boards in the Holy See. It was these qualities that had brought him to the attention of the Holy Father.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Nicolas Girasoli of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) said that the AEC expressed its “profound gratitude to Pope Francis for having considered, for the first time in the history of the AEC, appointing as Cardinal, a member of the Episcopate of this Region.” In a statement, it added: “We all rejoice and congratulate Archbishop Felix for this appointment which…is an acknowledgment for his long and dedicated service to the Holy See and to the Church.”
Cardinal designate Felix was born in Dominica in on February 15, 1933. He was ordained a priest in 1956 and was archbishop of Castries from 1981 until his retirement in 2008. Archbishop Felix has also served as Principal of St. Mary’s Academy (1972–1975), Associate General Secretary of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (1975–1981), President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (1991–1997) and President of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (1981–1986).