Members of the Roman Catholic Church are distancing themselves from comments made by Prime Minister Patrick Manning that Makandal Daaga should apologise for his role in the 1970 desecration of the Cathedral in Port-of-Spain.
Some Catholics said yesterday the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin was sympathetic to the cause of the Black Power Movement and was scheduled to march with them to Caroni. Several young priests were among those who joined that historic march, they said. Members of the church credited the movement with causing the church to identify with the cause and Pantin, who maintained a cordial relationship with Daaga and his wife Liseli, to work and live in Laventille for a number of years. Msgr Cuthbert Alexander, head of the Catholic Communication Unit, said: "This is not the time we would like to make any particular comment on the matter.
"Maybe after the election is over we can make some very clear historical qualification on what happened," he offered. Several RC priests yesterday scoffed at Manning's suggestion at a PNM political meeting in San Fernando on Tuesday night. Manning had said Daaga, one of the Opposition's coalition partners, should issue a letter of comfort to the leadership of the church.
The clergymen, who spoke off the record, said the statements were too loaded and preferred not to be quoted. "Apology, letter of comfort, that is not necessary. NJAC has mellowed," one priest said. Another priest said the movement was only looking for a voice to express their social concerns.
Another member of the church said: "Be serious. The Prime Minister said that, on the hustings, something that happened 40 years ago. Seriously, I think there are more serious issues to report on." Manning in attempting to educate the masses who attended the rally, recalled that in the height of the Black Power Movement in 1970, which gave rise to the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and Daaga, the demonstrators moved into the cathedral, painted the statues black and desecrated the holy place. Manning said: "As far as I know Daaga has never apologised for that. Never said he was sorry he was associated with any such thing. I want to ask him are your views now the same as your views then?