First Guyanese Catholic Bishop Benedict Singh passes away

The late Bishop Benedict Singh (Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Fatima church)

The Roman Catholic Church of Guyana has announced the death of Bishop Emeritus Benedict Ganesh Singh, the first Guyanese Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, who passed away yesterday after a period of illness.

Bishop Singh, born to parents Joseph Alexander and Matilda Amanda (Fredericks) Singh, was 90-years-old at the time of his death.

“I join with the Church and the Nation in giving God thanks for the life of Bishop Benedict Singh, who died on Wednesday, 12th September, 2018, after a short illness.  Fifteen years ago I was appointed to succeed Bishop Singh as Bishop of Georgetown; to put on the mantle that he carried for thirty-two years,”   Bishop Francis Alleyne was quoted as saying in the release.

“During my time in office, as I have come to better understand and gain insight into the events and circumstances in the Church and in Guyana over the period of his tenure, I have come to very much appreciate and admire the quiet and formidable strength and resolve of this Churchman. This Son of the Soil has served Church and Nation nobly.  May he rest in Peace,” Alleyne stated.

President David Granger, also extended condolences to the late Bishop’s relatives and friends through a statement released by the Ministry of the Presidency.

According to the statement from the Catholic Church, in April of 1971, Bishop Singh became the first Guyanese Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. He held the titles Titular Bishop of Arsenaria and Auxiliary Bishop of Georgetown after being appointed by Pope Paul VI, and then months later, on August 12th, 19721, he succeeded Bishop Guilly as Bishop of Georgetown, a position he held until November 10, 2003, when he retired.

“Bishop Singh inherited the leadership of the church in Guyana at a time when everything in it seemed to revolve around the clergy. He, however, recognized the important role of not only Guyanese clergy but also of lay people in the work of spreading the good news of salvation…His tenure will also be most remembered for the courage and zeal he showed in the struggle for democracy, justice and peace in Guyana during the country’s more turbulent years,” the statement read.

It was reported that soon after being appointed to Bishop, Singh introduced the Parish Lay Assistants (PLA) training programme, which was executed along the coastland and interior.

Bishop Singh, who was ordained to priesthood on December 7, 1954, accomplished much during his time in office, having served the church in many capacities throughout his tenure.

After having obtained his Licentiate in Philosophy from the Urban University in Rome in 1951, and his Doctorate in Sacred Theology subsequently from the Pontifical Propaganda College in Rome in 1957, with his thesis titled “The Theory of Revelation in Hindu Philosophy and Religion”, Singh returned to Guyana that same year (1957) to serve. He was appointed to the Meadow Bank Church.

It was noted that from 1958, and for ten years after, Bishop Singh served the communities along the coastal strip from Malgretout to the Essequibo Islands. Thereafter, in 1968, he was named the first Guyanese-born Chancellor of the Diocese, acting as Vicar General and administering the diocese on a number of occasions during the absence of Bishop Guilly.

In 1993, Bishop Singh received the Cacique Crown of Honour from the Government of Guyana.

The funeral service for the late Bishop Singh will be held on Monday, September 17, at the Brickdam Cathedral. The service is scheduled to begin at 3pm.

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