Roman Catholic priest, Fr Henry Charles, who faced heavy criticism during his very brief stint as head of the Integrity Commission, passed away yesterday morning when he sustained a massive heart attack at his office at St Mary's RC Church in St James, where he was the parish priest.
He was described by his peers as one of the brightest minds and a man of great intellect who will be greatly missed.
Charles, who celebrated his 69th birthday last Wednesday, was supposed to officiate at a funeral service at St Mary's but around 10.30 a.m., as the congregation awaited his arrival, he was found dead in his study.
Archbishop Joseph Harris said he was surprised at Fr Charles’ passing.
“All of us are very shocked because when he ended a meeting on Monday night he seemed to be in good health, so it was a shock to all of us.”
The Archbishop added: “Fr Charles was one of the most senior members of our clergy. He was a man of great intellect and a person we could call on for advice and his leaving us leaves a deep void, and apart from that he was a very good man and a very warm personality and we are all hurt at his untimely passing.”
Fr Clyde Harvey said it was an irreplaceable loss to the Catholic community and Trinidad and Tobago.
“He was tremendous human being and one of the finest minds I have known and he was also a man of many facets. Did you know he was great cook? So his passing is a shocking and tremendous loss to both the diocese and to me personally.”
According to the Archdiocese, “Fr Charles was born on January 9, 1944 and was ordained a priest by Archbishop Anthony Pantin on June 27, 1971. Fr Charles was a past student and Island Scholarship winner of St Mary’s College. He studied for the priesthood in Ireland, at the local seminary of St John Vianney and the Gregorian University in Rome.”
The Archdiocese continued: “He had a doctorate in ethics and was rector of the Regional Seminary. After his tenure as rector, he studied civil law and was admitted to practice at the local bar on January 13, 2001.
“He was one of the finest minds in the Caribbean Church today. He had a unique gift for friendship and used his many talents to explore critically many aspects of life which made his homilies and lectures life-giving experiences for those who listened.”
Charles is survived by his brother, Herbert Charles, a member of the St Mary’s College community and parish priest of St Patrick’s Church, Newtown.
But Henry Charles' career was not without some controversy.
In May 2009 he was appointed to head the Integrity Commission, but that appointment soon came under threat when newspaper columnist Kevin Baldeosingh accused the priest of plagiarism, claiming there was a marked resemblance between two newspaper columns written by Charles and published in the Trinidad Guardian and two articles published in the New York Times and National Catholic Weekly in the United States.
Days after the accusation, Charles admitted to the mistake and resigned his position with the Integrity Commission, stating that there was an oversight on his part.