Jamaican Prelate: Priests Are Safe

Notes Concern About Future of Conflict With Drug Lord

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ROME, MAY 27, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Kingston believes there is little danger to priests who are in the region of a violent showdown between supporters of a drug lord and government forces.

Archbishop Donald Reece said this today in an interview with Vatican Radio. He referred to the conflict that has arisen over Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s decision to accede to a U.S. request to extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke, said to be one of the world’s most dangerous drug traffickers.

Since the May 17 decision, Coke’s followers have taken up arms in his support, first setting up barricades around their stronghold region, Trivoli Gardens, and then attacking police stations. The prime minister’s response was to send 2,000 police and soldiers to the area, of which they have now mostly gained control. Some 50 people were killed in the process and 260 arrested. Coke, however, has yet to be found.

«There is a lot of tension in the area that is under attack, but the rest of Jamaica is relatively calm,» Archbishop Reece assured. «However the concern is that things could get out of hand and extend to other areas. I have communicated to all of our priests, religious and deacons to try and maintain calm, to pray the traditional St. Michael the Archangel prayer.»

The prime minister, in fact, has been denounced for abnormalities in the process of agreeing to the U.S. request. The Jamaica Council of Churches — which includes the Catholic Church — has called for his resignation.


As far as Trivoli Gardens, the war zone, Archbishop Reece explained that the Catholic Church is the only historical church in residence in the area.

«As a result our men are respected there,» he said. «We have programs for the ordinary people who live there. The priests who live there are the safest because the gunmen will not bother them, because they identify them as people from their area who give service to them at all times.»

But the archbishop was also concerned that the conflict is far from over.

He said: «This morning I heard that the young men — because these are young men in their 20s who have been given guns and money — some have even been recruited at 100,000 Jamaican dollars a day, that is a tidy sum, for them to fight to the end.

«That means that they will not capitulate to the security forces, so it could drag on to the bitter end for another week or so. Also the security forces are concerned about other garrisons in other areas where there are arsenals and strongmen and they are going to go into these other areas after this, so they can rid Jamaica of these garrisons that tend to be a law unto themselves.»

Jamaica has a population of some 2.8 million; less than 3% of them are Catholic and about 62% are Protestant.

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