30 September, 2020

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Archbishop Justin Walby Comes To Colombo

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

We Anglicans belong to a brotherhood of independent national churches where the Archbishop of Canterbury is primus inter pares – the first among equals – among the Archbishops of the national Anglican Churches. Formally he is The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.  

Upon arrival the Archbishop was greeted at Bandaranaike International Airport by church elders and government leaders such as John Amaratunge.

It was with great excitement that we welcomed the Archbishop on his three-day visit on the 29th in Colombo and surroundings, and 30th mainly in Kurunagala. It was a great event that included our two bishoprics in Colombo and Kurunagala.

I attended the Colombo event – a gala event of such grandiose proportions that I must say in my exuberance that only Anglicans can put together such a show. The cathedral was full and overflowing into the precincts outside. Chairs were in hot demand. That reserved for John Amaratunge was unused and others were asking for it but were told that John Amaratunge said he was coming so it should be kept for him. I did not see him until at the dinner later. Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha was on the first row. Next to him the Bishop’s wife Harshini Canagasabey was seated with the new British High commissioner, Sarah Hulton, OBE, who was mentioned by the Archbishop many times, asking us to say hello to her.

Liturgical Colors of Martyrs Day: Thumbs up for Mahinda Rajapaksa?

The 29th happened to be the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, the earliest Christian Martyr. As such the liturgical color for the day was crimson, and it seemed that the priests and the choir were all dressed up to cheer Mahinda Rajapaksa in his trademark shawl for the elections coming soon. The Archbishop would meet him the next day, the 30th. 

His Grace’s sermon touched on many themes like reconciliation but kept focus on John the Baptist. Mentioning that John was from an illustrious line of priests, he said that John could have easily become a priest and relaxed because the job involves little work with a lot of pay. It evoked smiles from those aware of the controversy over the Colombo Diocese Standing Committee assigning Rs. 7 to 10 million, even a Mercedes Benz, for the 4 archdeacons. Instead John chose to be a Prophet, which involves hard work and sacrifice. John was beheaded because he had promised anything she wanted to his sister-in-law’s child “who had pleased him.”

Earlier on in the day, the Most Rev. Welby, was received by Roman Catholic Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith at St Sebastian’s Church Katuwapitiya where over 100 people were murdered in the Easter Sunday bombings. In his sermon at the Cathedral, Archbishop Welby condemned the killings saying he was appalled by the pockmarks from ball-bearings from the bombs, adding that it was as obscene to kill families having fellowship with each other over breakfast at hotels that same day. He said being a prophet is hard and requires sacrifice. Forgiveness and reconciliation are hard but important. He encouraged Sri Lankans, expressing confidence in us saying we are resilient and strong despite so much difficulty.

The mass was beautiful  but trilingual. I say but because the service booklet was often in English script making us lost as to what we were praying for – talking to God was lost as the Archbishop advised: “Tell God what you are feeling and talk to Him.” 

The two lapses are:

1. The cathedral architecture was all Sinhalese, as were the trumpets and fans carried by servers.

2. The Bishop in Jaffna, The Rt. Rev, Daniel Thiagarajah, although an active Anglican Bishop, was not invited to participate in the mass as other retired Anglican Bishops like Kenneth Fernando were. It is interesting that Bishop Kenneth Fernando invited The Rt. Rev. S. Jebanesan to join the Church of Ceylon as our third bishop. Says Jebanesan that Bishop Kenneth told him “As the most senior Bishop you will be our Primate.” But despite the attractions of being Archbishop, the Jaffna Diocese felt it would not be in control of its own affairs as it is now, and that the archbishop position is merely ephemeral. Is Bishop Thiagarajah good enough to be Primate but not good enough to celebrate mass with our Anglican Bishops?

Any way my daughter who reluctantly accompanied me as my wife is away, and I needed someone to butter my bread and cut hard foods because of my broken left arm, said she was very glad she came – it was fantastic. Bishop Canagasabey kindly intervened when at the time I RSVP-ed, I was denied my vegetarian plate saying the menu is fixed and cannot be changed, and denied a place for my daughter in my wife’s place saying only the spouse can come. The Bishop reflects the kindly face of a militaristically administered intolerant Church.

Everyone got a dinner bag (the main item being a sausage roll and a meat sandwich with no options for vegetarians). Invitees were treated to a served many-course sit down dinner at BMICH catered by Mount Lavinia Hotel. Mayoress of Colombo Rosie Senanayake was present among other dignitaries.

After dinner, speech time was a little more controversial. We being made up of 2 dioceses and requiring more to be a province, we remain extra-provincial, explaining why we are under Canterbury without a directly appointed Archbishop of the Church of Ceylon. So the two dioceses from the top have been pushing for more dioceses although all signs are that ordinary Anglicans do not want more dioceses because the church hierarchy has a high life style, passing Rs.  70 to 100 lakhs per car for archdeacons (Colombo Diocese having 4 archdeacons at present). This is at a time when Kilinochchi’s Karunanilayam for unwed mothers and other dispossessed females has had foreign funding cut and the church is appealing to us for donations suggested at Rs. 3 lakhs per month for food. And then there will be episcopal palaces, just as retired bishops always speaking for social justice have successfully got brand new cars for themselves, perks usually not available to retired people except Heads of State. 

While the Standing Committee condemns me for leaking this, I ask this: “If you think taking this money is exercising proper fiduciary responsibility, why hide it and not make a statement justifying this huge expense? Till then I will have zero respect for any archdeacon who buys himself such a fancy car, and I will not make any huge contribution to the Church. Was it not our Archbishop himself who said in his sermon that there is largesse to priests without work?

To get to the point, there are resolutions coming up at the Diocesan Council in October for and against making us a Province. The Daily News of 22 July had announced that the Archbishop’s visit is related to the creation of a Province of the Anglican Church. The Archbishop could not be seen to be entering a controversial internal debate. So the Church flexed its muscles and I understand the Daily News on 30 July reluctantly published a denial: “We, the Bishops of the Church of Ceylon wish to state categorically that the visit of His Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to Sri Lanka is a solidarity visit he is making as the Metropolitan of the Church of Ceylon, in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday incidents. This visit is not in any way related to the creation of a Province of the Anglican Church, as mentioned in the article.”

However, despite the denial, the Archbishop got a little carried away – although no liquor was served on the 29th – saying he should not interfere in the work of Committees working on the subject but he looks forward to the emergence of a new Province. Even more controversially he said it is good to remove the English face from the Church. The Archbishop I notice had removed his shoes while celebrating the mass and was barefooted perhaps to respect the feelings of some. But we were the Church of England in Ceylon. Many good things are part of our heritage. Our faith is from the Middle East via Rome and England. We cannot change that without changing our faith. Would we ask Buddhists to remove their Pali texts because they are from India? We take the best from everywhere.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith Worshipping the Tooth Relic: Removing the Roman Face from Roman Catholicism?

The Archbishop is scheduled to visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic and to call on the Chief Prelates of the Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters on the 30th. If the Archbishop took his advice seriously he would find himself in violation of the second and Third Commandments as did Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith:

2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me

3. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    Please CT . . . It should be WELBY.

    God have mercy!

  • 1
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    Prof. Hoo;e, if we Anglicans and all Christians can truly adhere to the principal Commandment that you have also reproduced at the end of your article, namely (1) Thou shall have no other gods but Me and (2) thous shall make no graven image and bow down to them. that would see this nation return to sanity.

    • 0
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      Kumar Soysa,

      (2) thous shall make no graven image and bow down to them. that would see this nation return to sanity.

      Actually, images are good for humans, mentally speaking. The famous mathematician Cantor went insane because in set theory (among the purest of pure maths) there are no images. The poor man discovered some logical abstraction and lost his senses. Without images, one must rely only on text, and for most humans, this is difficult to do. Because of the image of the Cross, there is humanism in Christianity, despite the historical record, but no so in Islam. Why? In Islam, the commandment you mention is taken to the extreme. Idols are absolutely forbidden. Muslims memorize the Quran, word for word. Like Cantor, some are driven over the edge.

  • 3
    3

    Dear All Readers,
    .
    I’m at a loss as to how to respond to all this because at 10.48 a.m. on Friday, the 30th August, 2019, I received a brief but friendly telephone call from Bishop Canagasabey’s Personal Assistant, Kaushika, saying that a letter that I had sent the Bishop had been received. The telephone number that came up on my mobile phone was one that I had already saved as belonging to “Bishop Dhilo’s Office”.
    .
    Please note that I have said “friendly” and not used a word like cordial, or polite, or courteous. That is what all matters of religion must be – friendly, from the heart – and I’m hoping that owing to follow-up by the Bishop there will be no more need for me to comment publicly on various strands in this article which I immediately recognise.
    .
    Archbishop Welby is known to be totally honest, open and sincere. There are complaints by Professor Hoole that “the Archbishop got a little carried away” – in removing shoes, etc. When a foreigner arrives here he will accept all that he is told. So, clasping hands in the gesture which we all know to be a respectful greeting in Sri Lanka, is the same as that used in the Western Christian tradition for “worship” of God.
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praying_Hands_(D%C3%BCrer)
    .
    I have a memory of seeing, somewhere on the Internet, Bishop Welby clasping his hands in greeting the “Sacred Tooth Relic”. Looked for it now, but can’t locate it. It is held by learned Buddhists that they don’t worship the Relic or any image of the Buddha – they only show immense respect – for these images. However, what prevails in popular Buddhism is different.
    .
    tbc

  • 4
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    Continued . . .
    .
    Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith is a Sri Lankan, and fully aware that the gesture shown in the picture has different connotations for people with different degrees of sophistication. I have never met Cardinal Ranjith, but I regard him, primarily, as a shrewd Sinhalese politician. I have seen passionate denials of this by devout Catholics.
    .
    I will not comment further on what my letter was about; my reason for mentioning it here is because it was a matter of public interest and centres upon whether what we do what is clearly right or distorting what has been written. My reasons for not saying more than this is because I both know Bishop Canagasabey and don’t want to pre-judge the meaning of the phone call that I received.
    .
    Since I have so little to say, why am I commenting at all here, and at such length? Because the matter that I had talked about in the letter relates to something that has been going on for a long time on this forum and is of immense significance, but a “small matter”. So, I wait in hope.

  • 6
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    It sounds like the old story of the NGOs. Originally they came to help the people. Today in several cases how expenditures are prioritised, might make it seem that the people exist in order to serve the lifestyles of NGOs. The same could be said for the state and the Church.
    Once it used to be objected that English priests were too costly because they had to maintain their families in England. But I don’t think they ever asked for the luxury cars that today’s church leaders demand.
    One thing that surprises me is how out of touch with the World the church is. In today’s Western hotels and restaurants, in order to stay in business they have to cater for vegetarians and vegans. Were Buddhist monks also served sausage rolls that Dr. Doolittle would have frowned at?
    The way the Church is run, it looks as if its perks and privileges are centred in Colombo and the rural parishes are short-changed. If there are going to be more dioceses, how would the wealth that is mostly based in Colombo be divided? Will rural archdeacons also get luxury cars?

  • 4
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    Is Justin Walby a Saivite ?. Sankaralingam is crying a lot.
    DI dyou Sri lankan Protestant Priests Association Labelled Ranil as the Sri lankan Nelson Mandela and gave plaques to commemorate his contribution in the bond scam and in Zaharan blowing up Catholics.
    Penthouse Ravi the LIAR also got a Plaque.

  • 6
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    Religion is nothing but politics. Disease flourishes in filth and religion flourishes in ignorance. All these guys of all religions are just hoodwinking the people owing to their ignorance and blind faith where they have totally lost the ability to think. Vatican is a seat of total abuse of all human values. Same with others religions too. This mans arrival, I compare to arrival of Portuguese in 1550. Unless and until these religions are put aside there won’t be any peace or sanity. Our Kardinal indeed a cunning, opportunistic, politician and a racist. Jesus and Malcom are far apart. Churches, pansalas, mosques, temples are all seat of utmost corruption and cheating. May god save the people from religions.

    • 1
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      If by religion you mean the faith, the philosophy or the way of life and thinking advocated and taught or preached about by the authors I beg to disagree with you. The teachings are enlightening and liberating and will generate social peace and justice. On the other hand, I totally agree with you reference religious institutes. It is the institutionalized religions that are politicized. Most of these institutions are not about seeking social justice or relieving the burdens of the crushed or the underprivileged marginalized members of our society. The laity, very often not bound or hindered by the practices and rituals of these institutionalized religions live a more down to earth, simple spiritual life with empathy, compassion and understanding of each other.

  • 3
    2

    Believers in God are riddled with doubt because they place blind faith above reason and personal experience.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted to having doubts about the existence of God and disclosed that, on a recent morning jog with his dog, he questioned why the Almighty had failed to intervene to prevent injustice.

    In a light-hearted but personal interview in front of hundreds of people in Bristol cathedral last weekend, Justin Welby said: “There are moments, sure, where you think ‘Is there a God? Where is God?'” Welby quickly added that, as the leader of the world’s 80 million-strong Anglican community, this was “probably not what the Archbishop of Canterbury should say”.
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/18/archbishop-canterbury-doubt-god-existence-welby

    • 4
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      The Internet has helped us get to know people quite intimately, and to hear them discussing various issues. The previous Archbishop, Rowan Williams, is an outstanding scholar, and is back teaching at Oxford. There are plenty of Youtube discussions of him discussing a variety of subjects. I’ve spent many hours listening to him.
      .
      Justin Welby is different, but I’m sure learned enough – much more so than the Heads of most other religions. However, it was his response to something more personal that won him my admiration. An absolutely honest and open man.
      .
      Not many have commented, and most have reservations about religion. Few of us are fond of monarchies, yet one has to admit that Queen Elizabeth II has lived a good life, and has been very responsible in all that she ever did.

  • 8
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    It’s a pity that the good professor has chosen to be mean spirited and petty. He says “the mass was beautiful but trilingual” the use of the word “but” suggesting that being tri-lingual negated its attractiveness. And he sees as a ‘lapse’ the fact that “the cathedral architecture was all Sinhalese, as were the trumpets and fans carried by servers”. Why must he always look at things from a sectarian angle? We saw evidence of this even in his comments after the Easter bombings. Even the visiting Archbishop has not escaped censure, because he removed his shoes at the cathedral, the professor arguing that “Our faith is from the Middle East via Rome and England. We cannot change that without changing our faith.” It beggars belief that someone as educated as the professor, cannot differentiate between religious practices and the essence of the faith. Holding one’s palms together, as the Cardinal is shown doing in the picture, is not always a sign of worship. It is the same gesture we use by way of greeting and salutation, and the Cardinal may indeed have meant his gesture to mean no more. However there was no need for the Cardinal to adopt that gesture – it sends mixed messages. Right thinking Buddhists will have had no complaint if he hadn’t, for they are respectful enough to not expect non Buddhists to adopt practices which don’t hold the same meaning for them as they do for Buddhists.

  • 1
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    Ethel, Proof of the pudding is in the eating. Can you just quote one thing where religions have done anything to us. All create hatred, animosity, power struggle, corruption and used mainly as a political weapon. Will anyone dare to say that in SL Buddhism is not 100% politicised. Islam basically preaches hatred and violence. Christian charges are utter fraud. Hindu places are at the height of blind faith, rituals and stupidity. I am more than convinced that humans can coexist better without any religions. Will you quote a single Buddhist monk who stands by what Buddha preached. Cardinal Malcom is a fraud. Mosques stocking swords. If we can live using our commonsense and humanity no need for any deiyo at all. These guys are making a great life out of religions. How many Sinhala Buddhist politicians pumping huge (may be stolen) money Worthing Hindu gods in India. If so where is their Buddha or buddhi. Come on let us escape from these crooks and make lives more meaningful. The bottom line religions have not done anything good to mankind.

    • 5
      3

      Nathan,

      “The bottom line religions have not done anything good to mankind.”

      More fundamentally, religions are based on contradictions and falsehoods, so they can only encourage dishonesty and madness. Religious texts come from a time when people didn’t demand proof and were easily persuaded. With so many advances in human knowledge, these texts cannot withstand any critical inquiry.

      People who profess faith in religions in spite of this are finding that the vehicles they have chosen crash and burn, and that is what is happening everywhere now.

  • 1
    1

    Anyway, the Archbishop Seems to be an Honest Gentleman

  • 4
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    I mean….our Lankan Anglicans are an embarrassing lot. Haven’t you seen them play-acting the part of the 18th century English parsons….like in Jane Austin novels….same mouthing of words and things? (before coming out with some local spew which comes out like tourettes….shouldn’t have put on the bogus persona ). …..singing with hymn-books and things, with a funny English looks on their faces. No wonder they would want a country separation to keep up the funny culture. And they have a helleva lot of wealth to do that. At least the Catholics are more in tune with the natural ambiance of the land and are authentic.

  • 2
    1

    Dear Dr Jeevan Hoole,

    I appreciate many of the actions you have taken during the last years. You are intelligent, educated and have a lot of courage. [Edited out]

  • 5
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    The Church of Ceylon has only two Dioceses and therefore two bishops ie Bishop of Colombo and the Bishop of Kurunagala were invited . Rev, Daniel Thiagarajah belongs to the Church of South India. which is not part of the Church of Ceylon. That is the reason the Rev. Daniel was not invited for the special service conducted for the Right Honorable Justin Welby, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury! Appreciate if Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole provides correct information in the article without trying to show that Tamils are being discriminated! It should be noted that the Head of the Anglican Church of Ceylon is a Tamil.

  • 0
    0

    “passing Rs. 70 to 100 lakhs per car for archdeacons”

    Udivil Girls School is paying 50,000 every month for the jeep of the bishop of JDCSI.

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