ACNS Special Report by the Editor
In a colourful ceremony shown live on national television, the Most Revd Gerald James Ian Ernest, was installed as 5th Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, in the presence of an overflow international, ecumenical and interfaith congregation. The service took place on Sunday, 19 February in the historic Cathedral of St James, Port Louis, Mauritius. Portions of the service were in English, French, Creole and Ny Baiboly.
Visiting bishops in colourful vestments walked in procession with the new Primate into the stately cathedral as the two-hour service began, with extra seating outside. Government leaders, including the Prime Minister and President attending, along with the clergy of the diocese and from throughout the Province were present. The cathedral was at one time an ammunition storage house.
Music included traditional Anglican anthems and hymns, Taize prayer chants, with dancers from Madagascar. The new archbishop's vestments were designed by his wife Kamla. His son Julian was present, coming from Canterbury, where he is studying at the University of Kent and works at the cathedral.
Visiting bishops from the USA, Southern Africa, Central Africa, West Malaysia were present but some bishops from Nigeria were unable to obtain visas. Canon James Rosenthal, representing the Anglican Communion, read a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams and brought greetings from the Secretary General, Canon Kenneth Kearon. He presented the new primate with a silver plaque with the Compass Rose, identifying symbol of the Anglican Communion. The Rt Revd Andrew Smith, Bishop of Connecticut read a greeting from the Primate of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Frank Griswold, and the Rt Revd Elijah Twala, Suffragan Bishop of Natal, brought greetings from the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Ngongonkulu Ndungane. The Bishop of West Malaysia, the Rt Revd Elisha Ponniah, and the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, Southern Malawi were also present.
In his installation sermon, delivered in French, the new primate spoke of the mission of the church. He said, "In the Scriptures, Jesus' mission in inscribed in the sharing of the Good News with the sick, the marginalised and the poor. As missionaries of our times, and despite our frailty, our weaknesses and our imperfections, we need to make Christ's action our action. The challenges are numerous, the enterprise is huge, yet the responsibility is ours. If we want to ensure the continuity of God's mission, we cannot run away from the suffering of the Cross. However, if we affirm what we are and what we believe, if Archbishop, Bishops, clergy and laity, we all work together to live our faith and accomplish our mission, then we shall become a revitalised Church, capable of becoming salt to this earth and light to the world."
Speaking of his new ministry, Archbishop Ian told the assembly, "To serve Christ and to serve you is a privilege which I take on in spite of all the inherent difficulties and suffering. Yesterday, during the Bishops' retreat, my brother in Christ, Mgr Maurice Piat encouraged us to live our mission with confidence and joy despite the obstacles that, every now and then, encumber our way. He reminded us that Christ is within the Church. As Christians, we rest our faith in the One who died and rose again for our salvation. I am proud of the vision of my predecessors and of the work they have accomplished in spite of the many difficulties, amongst which, the linguistic and culture challenges and the economic disparities present in the three constitutive countries of the Province."
The archbishop told the congregation that in Madagascar, in spite of certain constraints imposed by poor communications and the unavailability of basic elements, the population living in the out-back is getting access to health services through dispensaries; schools are working towards the emancipation of human beings. He continued, "In the Seychelles, the Church, for a long time now, has been a mouth-piece for the weakest and, of late, tries to promote a spirit of reconciliation to ensure more justice. Speaking of his own diocese, he said that the Church participates actively in the life of Mauritian society: He said, "In the Diocese, training is of paramount importance so that every Anglican becomes a vector for transformation to ensure that the family, the work-place and the area where he lives generate respect, "joie de vivre" and civic responsibility."
Archbishop Ian said, "For us, the disciples of Jesus, Christ is present within everyone of our suffering brothers and sisters. He is present within the one who is hungry, who is naked, who is poor and homeless; He is inside the one who is dying of Alzheimer's or AIDS; He lies within the prisoner: every one of them deserves our love. Through the Scriptures which we bear and the Sacraments we give, the Church has the capacity and the power to change human mentality and to ensure the coming of a civilisation based on love. The work of the Church is to lead to Salvation, to make visible the Kingdom of God and to prepare us for life everlasting."
Following the service a diocesan reception was held at Bishops House Phoenix. The Ven J Wong Yin Song, and the members of the Board of Commissioners, hosted the gathering and were responsible for the entire programme.
On Saturday the bishops of the Province invited the visiting bishops to join them in part of their retreat, led by Roman Catholic Bishop Maurice Piat in the excellent new diocesan learning facility, the Training Centre for Ministries and Community Development. The centre is awaiting the arrival of a world-class theological library from the estate of the late Fr John Slater of the Diocese of London, St Johns Wood Parish, sent from the Anglican Communion Office several weeks ago.
The delegation called on government officials on Monday with a reception at the State House in the evening.
The Province of the Indian Ocean, covering Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles, was founded in 1973, combining two bishoprics. The Anglican mission began in Mauritius in 1810, after the capture of the island from the French. Missionaries were then sent to the other islands.
The dioceses are: Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Toamasina.
The Most Revd Ian Ernest was born in Mauritius on 30 August 1954. Married to Kamla, they have a son, Julian.
Bishop Ernest has been exposed to a wide spectrum of tertiary education in India, Mauritius, the United Kingdom and, of late, the USA. His field of study have covered an eclectic array of subjects ranging from marketing and commerce, communications and counselling to the obvious theology and pastoral care.
A Commissioner of the Mauritius Diocesan Board, then a member of the Provincial Synod, this former Rotarian is fully engaged in national inter-faith, ecumenical and spiritual movements. He also takes an active part in any action that aims at improving social and family relations.
Since 2003, he has been appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Committee responsible for the organisation of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. He is also the Convenor of Target Group for Bishops' Training.
Ian Ernest was priested in June 1985 and elevated as 15th Bishop of Mauritius in July 2001. On 24th January 2006, he has been elected Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean.