Dialogue, Only Way To Go Forward – Cardinal Gracias
Bengaluru: Oswald Cardinal Gracias stressed the necessity and importance of dialogue with all sections of people. He was addressing the media in Bangalore on February 12 prior to the 34th Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Plenary Assembly to be held from February 13 to 19 at St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences.
Cardinal Gracias who was speaking on the theme- ‘Dialogue: The Path to Truth and Charity,’ said dialogue is the tapestry of different cultures, languages and ethnic diversity. The Cardinal who is also Archbishop of Mumbai accentuated on the need for and significance of consistent effort in dialogue for unity and harmony in the society. The Cardinal called for a variety of dialogues, particularly cultural dialogue for the whole country. Church has always stood for service of the society, prominent among them included justice, truth, charity and dialogue which are meant for people to know each other. In such a situation, all blend together as one family.
The Catholic Church in India, at the start of a new decade, would move forward to a dialogue with all groups in society. This could include civic bodies, government and non-governmental organizations so as to create a peaceful and harmonious environment for all to live as true citizens of the rich land, India.
The Cardinal who is one of the eight consultants of Pope on matters of importance assured all the citizens of India that the Catholic Church in India would continue to live the gospel values of peace, joy and harmony and would always work for the whole humankind. He further said, “I place into the Lord’s hands this Plenary Assembly and pray that the fruits of the week-long deliberations may inspire us to continue to build bridges, first by understanding the other person and then walking along with him/her, irrespective of his caste, creed, colour.”
About 192 bishops are expected to attend the Biennial Assembly. The Assembly of over 200 bishops would discuss on the theme. They and resource persons would discuss on the Indian situation, the Church’s commitment to Dialogue, Dialogue with peoples of other convictions and Dialogue with creation. Intensive meetings and discussions after experts speak on various topics and relevant aspects of the main theme would fetch the final statement of the Assembly for bishops to strive to implement them in the next two years. Reports of various commissions and committees including finances and national centres coming under the CBCI would be presented and taken up for approval.
In reply to a query on the novelty of the theme, the Cardinal whose term as Archbishop has been extended by Pope said CBCI had the same theme 20 years ago and it might come up again. The Church wanted to give an impetus and vitality to this theme with more networks to improve the Dialogue. He also said in reply to another question that the Church looked forward in dialogue for anybody having anxiety as the Church was second to none for many services. The church was a pioneer in education, medical and health services besides social upliftment. Church always stood as the light of the world and helped others as well to witness the same light and truth. The church is always identical with such lofty ideals.
Dialogue is not practical with people having ‘shut brain’. Only Christ’s message would work in conflict situations Quoting Pope Francis, he said Dialogue is the only way forward. Regarding Pope’s visit to India, Cardinal Gracias said, ‘Pope may visit India.’ Pope likes the idea and when he (Cardinal) met the PM to learn about it the Modi government is still searching for a proper slot and no time frame was fixed either. Regarding CAA and NRC, the prelate said he mentioned to the government that there would be no harm in back-tracking the stand as equity and fairness to be executed if that is good for the country and people. Statements of both sides to be discussed and a solution found through dialogue.
On the question of why the laity is overlooked, bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios, Vice – President said laity has never been ignored. The relationship with God is more important. All should strive for the overall development and get inspiration from God. Both should remain as one party and not like the ruling party and Opposition. There would be specific statements on various issues. On the remark on Love Jihad, the bishop said it was not a phenomenon specific to Kerala. Marriages between different communities could be acceptable but forcing a person to marry a person of a different faith is not right. If it is done with freedom, it would be acceptable but not with compulsion.
The problem of nuns with a bishop in Kerala, Bishop Joshua said they are all human beings. ‘We have to wait as the matter is sub judice. An administrator has been appointed in his place. We (Church) hate sin (and not the sinner).’ The nun in question wanted to meet the Cardinal and he had given the appointment but due to the security problems and other inconveniences for the nun, the matter had to be dropped. The legal aspects are different and to be respected but the internal settings of the congregation seemed to have been broken and it is for them to handle.
The CBCI President said the laity should have a greater and more active role in the Church. The Pope is for decentralization. When asked about the Church’s stand on abortion which has been legalized from 20 weeks to 24, the Cardinal said, ‘we are going to disaster.’ India is top on cases of abortion. How come, Sudheendra Kulkarni, former RSS chief, is going to address the bishops, Cardinal said they had been meeting for years and the doors between the RSS and Church are not closed.
Bishop Joshua speaking at the joint press conference said the CBCI is the Apex Body of the Catholic Church in India which has about 22 million followers in India. The CBCI is made of 175 dioceses with over 200 active bishops and 64 retired bishops. Over 2000 years of presence of Christianity in India with the arrival of Apostle Thomas in the first century after Christ, the Church had been involved in nation-building as an integrated community of the Nation. The Catholic Church in India runs over 54,000 educational institutions which impart education to nearly six crore children and youth. Besides, over 20,000 hospitals, clinics, dispensaries and other health care centres.
Bishop Joshua who is also Interim Secretary-General, said the dioceses are divided into 14 regions based on the culture, language and other considerations. The Catholic Church, along with other Christian Churches and Religious Sects, is promoting harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people in India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities. The Church had been committing itself to take action to promote a culture of peace and dialogue at local, regional and national levels through selfless and dedicated services. Bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios said faith is the expression of various communities. The dialogues need to be with God, people, our own consciousness and nature. We have to respect the views of others. He pointed out who would liberate the people with all sorts of problems. Quoting Jesus, he said, “I am the way, truth and life.”
Bishop Joshua honouring Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore said Archbishop Peter is the shadow of God and Fr Jayanathan, VG and Media in-charge of the Assembly is the shadow of Archbishop Machado. And Fr Jervis D’Souza, Deputy Secretary-General, is the guiding star who was behind the entire arrangements. To the media, he said, ‘you are the officials today.’
Earlier, Fr Cyril Victor, Director, Archdiocesan Communications Centre, read a passage from the scripture and led the prayer at the inception of the press meet. Fr Jayanathan initiated and introduced the agenda and welcomed all. J A Kanthraj, PRO and spokesperson of Archdiocese thanked Oswald Cardinal Gracias and all others.