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Apr 5, 2016

Catholic Priest Speaks on Garifuna Spirituality

Matt Ruhl

Father Matthew Ruhl, a Jesuit priest at Saint Martin’s Parish in Belize City, has been quite vocal in his support of Garifuna spirituality.  He draws a parallel between Catholicism and its belief in the Resurrection to that of the Garinagu and the communion with the spirits of their ancestors.  The comparison comes in the wake of statements likening the Dugu ceremony to witchcraft.  Here’s Father Ruhl’s candid take on the controversial issue.


Father Matt Ruhl, Jesuit Priest, St. Martin’s de Porres

“Here at Saint Martin’s the Garifuna have more or less made Saint Martin’s their home in Belize City.  So all of the choir is here, a lot of their masses are here, et cetera, et cetera, and there’s a couple of things you’ll notice and if you do any reading at all, the couple things you will learn and it is this, that Garifuna civilization and culture are eleven thousand years old and there is within that eleven thousand year tradition a great deal of respect for ancestors and the honoring of ancestors.  And there’s not a brick wall between those of us who are walking the earth and those who have gone before.  So much so that the Dugu ceremony is a time when the Garifuna can reconcile with someone maybe who was angry or unhappy with something in the community or with one of their children or…  And the ancestors are also people who can protect you and intercede for you.  Well, okay.  So that’s eleven thousand years old.  The Catholic Church comes along and says, well that’s exactly where we stand because of the Resurrection.  That the saints and souls, again there’s no brick walls and the Catholic Church we don’t say once you’re dead, you’re done until the resurrection.  We say the saints are able to intercede for us and we also say that your grandmother or grandfather who might have passed away they’re on your side.  They’re still your grandmother and your grandfather and they are still looking after you and protecting you.  So here’s the thing, when you have a culture that’s eleven thousand years old and the culture is still alive and that culture is still producing strong family values, you have to say, “Okay, what’s going on with this culture that allows it to still be producing such wonderful citizens.  And obviously, one of the answers is the strong sense of community.  This idea that maybe you’ve gone to heaven but your still with us and reconciliation can always happen.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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