Bishop Harry: Building bridges and guiding flock on visionary path

By Commodore Shemal Fernando, RSP, USP, MSc

With the appointment of Rt. Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera as the new Bishop of Kurunegala, he becomes the first Sri Lankan Bishop to serve in three dioceses. Popularly known as ‘Bishop Harry’ his name will surely be etched in the annals of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka.
Bishop Harold Perera

Bishop Harry was firstly ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Colombo and his first elevation to the highest ecclesiastical position of a Chief Shepherd was to serve as the Bishop of Ratnapura. Next, he was appointed as the Bishop of Galle and lastly as the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese of Kurunegala.

Referring to Rt. Rev. Dr. Anthony Leopold Raymond Peiris who spearheaded the Diocese of Kurunegala as the first bishop for 22 long years from 1987, Bishop Harry says that Bishop Raymond sailed the ship to the waters and his task now is to sail it to the deep. The diocese which covers 4,763, consists of 30 parishes and 53 priests.

Bishop of Galle

Bishop Harry was installed as the 6th Bishop of Galle on March 8, 2005, at the Queen of the Holy Rosary Cathedral in Galle. This is one of the oldest dioceses in Sri Lanka and has a history of 115 years. He assumed duties at a very crucial juncture in the history of this country, just after the tsunami had devastated many coastal areas including the southern belt.

The Diocese of Galle will remember Bishop Harold for his work in resurrecting it after the tsunami, his missionary and evangelizing efforts and his unmatched apostolic zeal.

As Chairman of Caritas Sri Lanka, he harnessed available resources to construct thousands of houses and several school buildings. His determination and inspiration in completing the renovation of the famous shrine of St. Mary in Matara for the centenary celebrations are indeed remarkable.

Bishop of Ratnapura

Bishop Harry was appointed the second Bishop of Ratnapura and took canonical possession at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ratnapura on March 22, 2003, soon after his episcopal ordination at St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena on March 18, 2003.He served the diocese till February 15, 2005. Later he functioned as the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese from July 2006 to May 2007.

Early life

Bishop Harold was born on June 9, 1951, the second son of Michael Perera and Persona Jayamaha, both of whom are now deceased. His elder brother was Gabriel Joseph Perera, who is also deceased. His surviving relatives are his brother’s widow, the two children and their families.

He received his primary education at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic School, Pamunugama and joined the St. Aloysius’ Seminary, Borella, on January 13, 1962 to prepare himself for the priesthood. Later he entered the Intermediate Seminary, Haputale in 1971 and the National Seminary, Ampitiya in 1973 for his studies in Philosophy and Theology.


He was ordained as a priest on July 5, 1980, by the then Archbishop of Colombo, Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando. He did his spell of parish work as an Assistant Priest at Dalugama and as Parish Priest at Kurana, Thudella and Liyanagemulla. He left for Rome n 1986 for higher studies, where he successfully completed a Bachelor of Theology degree at the Urban University and a Master of Arts (Theology) degree at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Archdiocesan appointments

Bishop Harry served as the Procurator General of the Archdiocese of Colombo from 1992 to 1998 and as the Archdiocesan Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies from 1998 to 2001. He concurrently served as Administrator of the Archdiocesan Estates, Member of the Archdiocesan Curia, Member of Archdiocesan Personnel Board, Member of the Archdiocesan College of Consulters and Member of the Archdiocesan Senate from 1996 to 2003.

National Seminary

He was the Bursar at the National Seminary, Ampitiya from 1983 to 1991 and also served as a lecturer and member of the academic staff. In 2001, he was appointed Director of the Philosophate at the National Seminary and served in this position until he was elevated to episcopal status.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Bishop Harold held many appointments in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka. In 2003, he was appointed the Chairman of the Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism; in 2004, Chairman of the Finance Committee and Bishop in-Charge of Youth, S. V. P. and Legion of Mary; in 2005, Secretary of the Tsunami Task Force; in 2006, Member of the Peace Task Force; and in 2007 Chairman of Justice, Peace and Human Development as well as Chairman of Caritas Sri Lanka.

Silver jubilee

Bishop Harry is the first Bishop and 25th priest of his native parish of Pamunugama. His silver jubilee of the Sacerdotal Ordination was celebrated on July 5, 2005 there.

The words of Bishop Harold to priests, religious and lay faithful to, “bloom where you are planted” will surely guide his flock on a visionary path, while building bridges of friendship with diverse ethnic and religious communities in Kurunegala. Ad multos annos !

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