Monday, 12th April 2021

Archbishop of Colombo is not head of Catholics in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, Oct. 22 — It is presently misleadingly broadcast in the media that the Archbishop of Colombo is the head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. In the Catholic Church there are ecclesiastical provinces. In an ecclesiastical province there can be one a Metropolitan Archbishop, the archbishop of the Capital city of the country, in certain particular instances called the Primate Archbishop, with other archbishops each one with suffragan bishops. One day there could be an Archbishop of Jaffna. But all in Sri Lanka and the Maldives will be still one Ecclesiastical Province.

In the Catholic Church, the Bishop of the Diocese is the head of the Catholic Church that has been constituted through the erection or creation of the diocese. Every Diocesan Catholic Bishop is an independent Bishop and he and the laity in his diocese, under his jurisdiction are not under any other Bishop, not even an Archbishop. An archbishop’s, a Cardinal Archbishop’s jurisdiction is limited to his archdiocese. Even a Primate or metropolitan archbishop cannot interfere in the matters of another diocese, so much so that when he or any other Bishop is invited by a priest of another to officiate at even a religious service or any other function, and every Parish Priest or head of a Catholic institution is free to invite any Catholic Bishop, the Bishop of the diocese is always kept informed and the visiting Bishop always courteously keeps in touch with the Bishop of the Diocese.

All Catholic people hold all the Catholic Bishops with great reverence and pray for the Pope and all the Catholic Bishops of the universal Church at every Holy Mass they celebrate. All Catholic Bishops are officially mandated by and are in communion with the Bishop of Rome to whom they give an account of their stewardship every five years and go together to visit ‘Peter in Rome’ and do an ‘ad limina’ visit to renew the bonds of communion and fraternity. All Bishops in communion with Peter are also in communion of faith with one another. This communion is quite distinct from being in ecumenical relations with other Christians and being in dialogue and fraternity with other religious denominations.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka has been constituted as the Common Pastoral Organ of the Catholic Bishops in Sri Lanka. They coordinate pastoral activities and act in unity in all matters including public affairs and relations with national public authority and with every other national institution that need their attention. What is officially affirmed together by them surpass any other individual view on the matter that is considered in particular. Such statements are officially published in the Catholic Newspapers. The SLCBC also entrusts particular offices and duties to any priest in Sri Lanka to attend to particular tasks for the sake of all the dioceses in the country.

The President of the Sri Lankan Catholic Bishops Conference is elected every three years; such an elected President could be and is usually elected for another three years unless a special reason urges otherwise.

The present President of SLCBC is the Most Rev. Dr. J. Winston S. Fernando, S.S.S., who is also the Bishop of Badulla. The Secretary General of the SLCBC is Most Rev. Dr. Valence Mendis, the Bishop of Chilaw. The SLCBC is governed by its own constitution which has been approved by the Holy See of Rome.

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