Malcolm Ranjith

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Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don
Cardinal, Archbishop of Colombo
Cardinal Ranjith.jpg
SeeColombo, Sri Lanka
Appointed16 June 2009
Installed5 August 2009
PredecessorOswald Gomis
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of S. Lorenzo in Lucina
Ordination29 June 1975
by Pope Paul VI
Consecration17 June 1991
by Nicholas Marcus Fernando
Created cardinal20 November 2010
by Benedict XVI
Personal details
Birth nameAlbert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don
Born (1947-11-15) 15 November 1947 (age 73)
Polgahawela, Sri Lanka
NationalitySri Lankan
DenominationRoman Catholic
ParentsDon William and Mary Winifreeda
Previous post(s)
Coat of armsAlbert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don's coat of arms

Patabendige Don Albert Malcolm Ranjith (Sinhala language: පටබැඳිගේ දොන් ඇල්බට් මැල්කම් රංජිත්) (born 15 November 1947), often known simply as Malcolm Ranjith or Albert Malcolm Ranjith, is the ninth and current Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, serving since 2009. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2010.

Ranjith previously served as auxiliary bishop of Colombo (1991–1995), Bishop of Ratnapura (1995–2001), Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (2001–2004), Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia and East Timor (2004–2005), and Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2005–2009).[1]

Early life and education[edit]

The eldest of four children,[2] Malcolm Ranjith was born in Polgahawela to Don William and Mary Winifreeda. He studied at De La Salle College in Mutwal before entering St. Aloysius Seminary in Borella in 1965. From 1966 to 1970 he pursued studies in theology and philosophy at the National seminary in Kandy. He was thereafter sent by the then Archbishop Thomas Cooray to further his priestly studies in Rome. He graduated from the Pontifical Urbanian University with a Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.) degree.

On 29 June 1975, Malcolm Ranjith was ordained to the priesthood by Pope Paul VI in St. Peter's Square. Later he joined the tutorial staff of St. Thomas' College, Kotte,[3] before pursuing post graduate studies at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, from where he obtained a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture in 1978; his thesis centered on the Epistle to the Hebrews. During his time at the Biblical Institute, he studied under Carlo Martini and Albert Vanhoye (both future cardinals), He also attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he undertook scriptural research as a postgraduate student.[citation needed]

Priestly ministry[edit]

Upon his return to Sri Lanka, Ranjith became an assistant parish priest in Pamunugama in 1978, later serving as a parish priest in Payagala and Kalutara. His pastoral work among the poor but religious people in these fishing villages led him to become involved with social justice. He also established "Seth Sarana", a center for relief of the poor in the Archdiocese of Colombo. He once said that "love for the liturgy and love for the poor ... have been the compass of my life as a priest."

In 1983, Ranjith was named the National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies. He revived the Society of the Holy Childhood and, as Diocesan Co-ordinator for Human Development, he introduced bold initiatives in areas such as housing, fisheries, and various self-employment projects.

Episcopal career[edit]

Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo[edit]

On 17 June 1991, Ranjith was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo and Titular Bishop of Cabarsussi. He received his episcopal consecration on the following 31 August from Archbishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando, with Bishops Thomas Savundaranayagam and Oswald Gomis serving as co-consecrators. He served as the Vicar General in charge of Parochial Apostolate and Lay Apostolate from 1991 to 1995. His peers elected him the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka as well. He was Chairman of the Organising Committee for the Beatification of Ven. Joseph Vaz and the visit of Pope John Paul II to Sri Lanka in January 1995.

In 1994, Ranjith led a commission that denounced the theological work of Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya. He charged that he had questioned original sin and the divinity of Christ, as well as supporting women's ordination. Ranjith was supported by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who backed his position.[4]

First Bishop of Ratnapura[edit]

Ranjith was appointed bishop by the Holy See to the newly created Diocese of Ratnapura, taking office on 2 November 1995. His appointment was hailed as a welcome spark to kindle the fire of missionary zeal in the hearts of the clergy and laity in his diocese.[citation needed]

Ranjith promoted inter-faith dialogue in Sri Lanka, as he believes it can eliminate potential causes of tensions and disagreements between the religious and ethnic groups that make up the country. He once said that "dialogue is vital and fundamental and as Catholics we must celebrate the richness of the Word of God incarnate in our life, families and communities".[citation needed]

Adjunct Secretary[edit]

Ranjith is also the first Sri Lankan Bishop to be appointed to the Holy See's civil service. On 1 October 2001, he was named Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and simultaneously appointed President of the Pontifical Mission Societies by Pope John Paul II. It is the Pope's ministry for the coordination of the missionary efforts of the Church and involves overview and growth of the local Churches in mission countries.

This Ministry coordinates over 1100 Archdioceses, Dioceses, Apostolic Vicarates and Apostolic Prefectures as well as Sui Juris Missions. The Adjunct Secretary is the President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, which are the instruments of the Pope for enhancing support through prayer and contributions for the mission of the Church.[citation needed]

Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia and East Timor[edit]

Ranjith is the first Sri Lankan bishop to be appointed an Apostolic Nuncio. He was appointed titular archbishop of Umbriatico and the Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia and to East Timor on 29 April 2004.[5]

During his tenure as Apostolic Nuncio he was instrumental in enhancing mutual relations between the Holy See and Indonesia. He won the admiration of the Church hierarchy for the important role he played in assisting the establishment of cordial relations between the local Churches and government authorities, whilst ensuring respect for the rights of the local Catholic Church throughout the country.

Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship[edit]

Archbishop Ranjith was appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on 10 December 2005.[6] He once described the liturgical reforms inspired by the Second Vatican Council as "a mixed bag of results." While praising the use of vernacular languages, he also criticized the "quasi total abandonment" of Latin and the "acceptance of all kinds of 'novelties' resulting from a secularizing and humanistic theological and liturgical mindset overtaking the West." He has also lamented the "banalization and obscuring of the mystical and sacred aspects of the liturgy in many areas of the Church in the name of a so-called Konzilsgeist (spirit of the Council)."

Ranjith opposes the reception of Communion in the hand and standing, once saying, "I think it is high time to ... abandon the current practice that was not called for by Sacrosanctum Concilium, nor by Fathers, but was only accepted after its illegitimate introduction in some countries."[7] A staunch supporter of the Tridentine Mass, Ranjith once said that bishops who opposed Summorum Pontificum were allowing themselves to be "used as instruments of the devil," accusing them of "disobedience ... and even rebellion against the Pope."[8] He once said, "I'm not a fan of the Lefebvrians ... but what they sometimes say about the liturgy they say for good reason."[9]

Archbishop Ranjith is fluent in ten languages namely; Italian, French, German, Hebrew, Greek, Spanish, Latin, English, Sinhala and Tamil.

Styles of
Albert Malcolm Ranjith
Coat of arms of Malcolm Ranjith.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Archbishop of Colombo[edit]

On 16 June 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Metropolitan Archbishop of Colombo, naming Joseph Di Noia as Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.[10] In a letter to Archbishop Ranjith, Pope Benedict said, "I wish to express my sincere thanks for the fidelity, the commitment and competence with which you exercised that [Divine Worship secretary] office." Pope Benedict also expressed that "we have reason to be encouraged by the good you will be able to perform among the peoples of your land."[11]

Archbishop Ranjith was among 34 metropolitan archbishops to receive his pallium from Pope Benedict on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on 29 June 2009.[12] The Archbishop was greeted with warmth and solemnity upon his arrival in Sri Lanka on 31 July 2009. Upon his arrival he was received by the President of Sri Lanka, such high-profile reception being due to the status of the Archbishops of Colombo as leaders (Metropolites) of the Catholic community in the country. Archbishop Ranjith took formal canonical possession of the Metropolitan See of Colombo in a private ceremony on 5 August 2009 and celebrated the Mass for the solemn beginning of his pastoral ministry as Archbishop of Colombo on 8 August 2009, when he was publicly installed in the cathedra of the Archbishops of Colombo.

On 7 October 2009, Archbishop Ranjith issued new liturgical guidelines in his diocese. These include a recommendation for "all faithful, including the religious, to receive Holy Communion reverently kneeling and on the tongue", as well as laymen being forbidden from preaching.[13] In addition to this, priests are forbidden to bring elements or styles of worship from other religions into the liturgy.

In April 2010, Archbishop Ranjith was elected and took office as President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka.


On 20 October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI announced a Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals to be held on 20 November 2010, and made public the names of 24 Prelates he intended to raise to the Cardinalate on that occasion, Archbishop Ranjith being among those chosen for promotion to the Sacred College.[14] Accordingly, Archbishop Ranjith was created a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church at the Consistory of 20 November 2010, and was assigned the title of Cardinal-Priest of San Lorenzo in Lucina. On 13 February 2011 Cardinal Ranjith took possession of his titular church in Rome.

Cardinal Ranjith participated as a cardinal-elector in the 2013 conclave which elected Pope Francis.[15]

In addition to serving as archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Ranjith serves as a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.[16] These memberships will be renewed every five years until his 80th birthday when he loses them on the same day he loses the right to vote in a conclave.


  1. ^ "Albert Malcolm Ranjith Cardinal Patabendige Don". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  2. ^ "Archdiocese of Colombo - Archbishop". Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  3. ^ "Most Rev. Dr. Malcolm Ranjith: God's chosen Chief Shepherd for Sri Lanka". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013.
  4. ^ "Papabile of the Day: The Men Who Could Be Pope". National Catholic Reporter. 28 February 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 29.04.2004" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 27 April 2004. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  6. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 10.12.2005" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 10 December 2005. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  7. ^ "Ranjith on Kneeling for Communion during the liturgy and Communion on the Tongue". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  8. ^ "News Features".
  9. ^ "Liturgy and the poor, the treasures of the Church". Archived from the original on 24 October 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  10. ^ "OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS, 16 June 2009 (VIS)". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Benedict to Ranjith: "Sincere Thanks" for Fidelity and Competence in CDW Role". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  12. ^ "BEING A PASTOR MEANS BEING AVAILABLE TO OTHERS, 29 June 2009 (VIS)". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 October 2009. Retrieved 16 October 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Cardinal electors – Conclave of March 2013 – Arranged in alphabetical order". Salvador Miranda. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  16. ^ "NOMINA DI CARDINALI MEMBRI DEI DICASTERI DELLA CURIA ROMANA". Archived from the original on 18 January 2012.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Arnaldo Clemente Canale
Titular Bishop of Cabarsussi
17 June 1991 – 2 November 1995
Succeeded by
José María Pinheiro
Diocese created Bishop of Ratnapura
2 November 1995 – 1 October 2001
Succeeded by
Harold Anthony Perera
Position created Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
1 October 2001 – 29 April 2004
Succeeded by
Henryk Hoser
Preceded by
Joseph Hisajiro Matsunaga
Titular Archbishop of Umbriatico
29 April 2004 – 16 June 2009
Succeeded by
Santo Rocco Gangemi
Preceded by
Domenico Sorrentino
Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
10 December 2005 – 16 June 2009
Succeeded by
Joseph Augustine Di Noia
Preceded by
Oswald Thomas Colman Gomis
Archbishop of Colombo
16 June 2009 –
Preceded by
Joseph Vianney Fernando
President of the Sri Lankan Episcopal Conference
22 April 2010 – 21 February 2017
Succeeded by
Julian Winston Sebastian Fernando
Preceded by
Luigi Poggi
Cardinal-Priest of San Lorenzo in Lucina
20 November 2010 –
No prior officeholder Vice-President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences
1 January 2019 –
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Renzo Fratini
Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia
29 April 2004 – 10 December 2005
Succeeded by
Leopoldo Girelli
Apostolic Nuncio to Timor-Leste
29 April 2004 – 10 December 2005