Pope’s trip opens major opportunity for Church in Asia

A look back at a highly successful papal visit.

 Posted on August 20, 2014, 1:58 PM

It is always unnerving to hear a pope speak about his own mortality. When Francis told journalists on his flight home from South Korea yesterday that he expected his papacy to “last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father” it was certainly unsettling. Some reports say he laughed as he said it, but it can’t be dismissed entirely as a joke: ever since he was elected, at the age of 76, he has pursued his mission with an uncommon urgency.

As the Pontiff completed his incredibly successful South Korean visit on Sunday, a Vatican spokesman noted that “Pope Francis has said clearly that Asia is a priority”. A quick glance at the Pope’s schedule confirms this: he will visit Sri Lanka and Philippines in January, meaning he will have visited Asia twice before he has set foot in any western country outside Italy.

Why has a pope who is in such a hurry made a continent where only three per cent of the population are Catholic a priority? Perhaps it is because Francis sees Asia as the spiritual battery that will power the Catholic Church in the 21st century. More than half of the Asian faithful live in the Philippines, a country that seems poised to take on a global leadership role, with its remarkable new generation of bishops and outstandingly devout laity. South Korea, too, is a Far Eastern Catholic powerhouse and a superb place for Francis to make his pitch to Asia. The number of Catholics there doubled between 1985 and 2005, and one in 10 South Koreans has now adopted the faith.

What does Catholicism have to offer Asia? The combination of deep spirituality and social engagement, embodied so well by Francis, seems deeply attractive to many Asians. With an Argentine pope at the helm, the Catholic Church is no longer tarnished by the claim that it is a European import and Trojan horse for avaricious foreign powers. “Christians don’t come as conquerors,” he told Asian bishops in one of the most significant addresses of his visit.

But Francis wasn’t willing to sit back and simply applaud the dynamism of the Asian Church. He challenged young Catholics to build “a holier, more missionary and humbler Church”. Without this transformation, he seems to think, the faithful won’t be able to evangelise a continent that regards Christianity with a mixture of puzzlement and suspicion.

It is difficult for Catholics to effectively evangelise those Asian countries that have no diplomatic relations with the Holy See. There are seven of them: the first among them, of course, is China, with an estimated eight to 12 million Catholics. It was heartening that the Chinese authorities allowed Francis to become the first pope to fly over the country.

(When St John Paul II visited South Korea in 1989 they refused to allow him to enter Chinese airspace.) But the path to reconciliation with China will be long and difficult: Chinese Catholics were reportedly banned from travelling to South Korea for the papal visit. Nevertheless, some 500 made it to the Mass at the World Cup Stadium in Daejeon. But we must hope that the Holy See will one day also enjoy full diplomatic relations with China, as well as with Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam.

Francis appears to have created a new opening for the Church in Asia. There is no doubt that he will seek to expand it during the remainder of his pontificate. None of us – not even Francis – can know how long that will be. That is in God’s hands. But we must pray that it will be long enough to equip Catholics take the Gospel to the millions of their fellow Asians who have never heard it.

Source: Catholic Herald

Mumbai group trains leaders based on Bible

The program stresses knowing Jesus clearly through prayers and bible reading.

 Posted on August 20, 2014, 8:53 AM

Mumbai :

A group of people in Mumbai attempts to build up a healthy society by creating “value based leaders” focused on Christian principles of love, understanding and forgiveness.

Some 30 people attended the latest three-day “Power to Lead” program that began on Aug. 8.

The program, a unique values-based leadership movement, aims at molding leaders to be agents of positive change. Began nine years ago the Power To Lead Movement has empowered over 300 leaders, who are already making a substantial difference in Mumbai.

The discussions and talks during the program focused on how display “values based leadership’ in a world that is “Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA), said a press release.

The talks on leadership are integrated with biblical concepts, prayer and management principles. The learning process included group activities aimed to bring out the leadership qualities of the participants.

Values-based leaders need to know and love oneself and understand the path one may be taking, which may be flawed and incomplete.

The program stresses knowing Jesus clearly through prayers and bible reading. It also stresses that each person is born for a purpose with different talents and all must use their unique talents to achieve the purpose.

The trainers included Ruth D’Souza, Smarta, Vincent D’Silva, Fathers Roland Fialho, Keith D’Souza, Mario Mendes and Cleophas Fernandes.

Press Release

Cardinal Cleemis meets Narendra Modi

The Office of the Prime Minister in its Tweets said the cardinal “called on the PM.”

 Posted on August 19, 2014, 12:43 PM

New Delhi :

Cardinal Cleemis Thottunkal, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), visited Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday.

The Office of the Prime Minister in its Tweets said the cardinal “called on the PM’ and published a picture of the prelate presenting a gift to Modi.

“It was a courtesy call,” according to a government press release.
The meeting comes soon after the bishops expressed concern over increasing attempts against religious freedom in the country, while they extended support for Modi.

The bishops’ Aug. 6-8 standing committee meeting in a statement reiterated the support of the Catholic Church to the democratically elected NDA Government and extended their greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The statement also extended support his efforts to lead the nation to new heights of peace and prosperity for all.

However, the statement also expressed over certain sporadic events of violence against Christians in certain parts of India. One of them was an unprecedented move in Chhattisgarh where 50 villages passed a resolution in Gram Sabha, denying entry to Christian Priests in the villages, a move fortunately foiled by the timely intervention of the District Administration.

The bishops also urged the Central Government and the State Governments to keep constant vigil over such sinister moves designed to weaken the very character and nature of our secular and democratic Constitution.

The Bishops’ Committee also expressed deep concern and anxiety over certain statements made by responsible and highly placed persons in the Judiciary favoring particular religion and its sacred books to be included in the school curriculum.

They also had expressed apprehension on certain moves on the part of the Government and the Judiciary to bring about the uniform civil code and to legalize euthanasia.

Fr Cedric Speaks

Interview of the month : Fr. Cedric Speaks.

“To Serve the Faith and to Promote Justice” month

1. Fr Cedric, can you share with us your vocation story?

cedric-prakash1Perhaps, like for so many of us, the story of my vocation was a gradual unfolding. I guess it would have begun in my family. The fact that my mother and father nurtured us in the faith ensured that we never missed the daily family rosary. We missed daily mass only when someone was really very sick. As children, we were always taught to love our faith. Then beginning in std VIII, I started visiting Jesuit mission stations along with some of the Jesuit fathers, first in the Bombay missions and later, in Gujarat. I felt inspired by the lives and the work of the Jesuits, the way they served the poorest of the poor in the remotest of places; bringing the ‘good news’ to the people there.

After my graduation I spent over a year working with the AICUF and then another 14 months with the Taize community based in France. Both these chapters in my life were significant stepping stones in the answering of this call. So the story of my vocation was not as dramatic as that of Saul – been thrown down from a horse – but that gradual, consistent call to which I finally said “Yes” exactly forty years ago, on 16th July, 1974, when I entered the novitiate in Ahmedabad.

2. Can you recall and share an unforgettable event or experience that has affected and shaped your life deeply?

Wow, what a question! There are several unforgettable events / experiences that have affected and helped shape my life – highlighting just one, would in fact be an ‘injustice’ to the many others, but I will risk doing so:

From June 1973, I was in Taize, France, as part of an intercontinental team helping prepare the World Council of Youth which had to take place in August 1974. One member of our team was a young French lady, Claire, who had taken a break from her medical studies to be part of the team. During these months of preparation, Claire and I must have had two long conversations. She hardly spoke English and my French was all too raw – but what she shared with me was that she and her boyfriend Philip, after completing their medical studies, would go to a remote village in Africa and minister to those who had practically no access to medicare. I always wondered why a young French woman, who had everything in life, would want to go and give up so much to serve others. But in the course of our conversations, she was also able to share with me her motivation and that was simply her love for Jesus and the fact that she wanted to serve others because HE so desired it.

Sometime, early in January 1974, Claire just left our group. A few days later, we were told that she was suffering from a very severe type of leukemia; we were also told that her father was one of the most well known cancer specialists in France. A few weeks later, some of us went to visit Claire in the hospital. I easily recognized the warm cheerful face and the smile which radiated love, but I was too shocked to see her totally emaciated. Where was that young vivacious vibrant young lady who had come to inspire me? Claire could hardly talk but she told us one thing, and that is to give our best to life because of Jesus. She passed away a few weeks later.

In a memorial service which was held a little after Easter, her father read out extracts from her personal diary. It was simply amazing of how in a short span of twenty two or twenty three years, Claire gave so much to the world she lived in; she dreamt, at that time, of a more humane, just and compassionate world and she wanted to be part of that effort. God willed otherwise and took her to himself and I really wondered why. Today I am quite certain that Claire has been a source of inspiration to me and to several others who in some small way have tried to follow in her footsteps.

3. What was your vision as a young man joining religious life, and what is it today?

When I joined the Society in 1974, the world was certainly in turmoil. Plenty of things were happening in the western hemisphere and later on, the ‘emergency’ in India. For us Jesuits, we also had the 32nd General Congregation which was indeed a defining moment in our lives. As a young man when I joined religious life, the mandate of GC 32 became my vision: ‘to serve the faith and to promote justice’. The more I try to realize this vision in my life, the more I realise that they not only complement each other but are also non-negotiables in my life as a religious. It was then and it continues to be so today. Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ reminds us that “the Church, guided by the gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might” (#188)

Yes, this is my vision and perhaps a vision for all – yesterday, today and tomorrow!

4. Who is the person / saint you admire the most and why?

There are several persons / saints who I admire – high up on the “official” ones are Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi and Teresa of the Child Jesus. Then, closer home are Mother Teresa, Oscar Romero and Rupert Mayer. So once again, it is a real difficult act to single out just one; however, in the context of today, Oscar Romero does mean a lot to me. As a Bishop, he left no stone unturned to take sides with the poor and marginalized and to speak out against powerful vested interests and unjust systems. He very clearly showed that Christian discipleship is about being a servant and not being a ‘Lord and master’. He sacrificed his life because of this, but we all know that his martyrdom was not in vain. Needless to say, his real conversion began when his Jesuit friend Rutilio Grande, a great promoter of liberation theology, was brutally gunned down on 12th March 1977.

5. What is your opinion about the Church today?

In the last year or so, I think the Church has come a long way. Thanks very much to Pope Francis and the way he has gone about in ‘word’ and ‘deed’. He has set an example by identifying himself with the many illegal immigrants in the island of Lampedusa last June. Earlier and this year too, he had no qualms about washing the feet of women, non-Christians and others at the Maundy Thursday service. He has been strong and unequivocal in matters related to injustice, the market-driven economy, child abuse by clerics and the way the Church has alienated herself from the realities of today’s world.

However, despite his many efforts, the Church in general is still very hierarchical and patriarchal – so much of the life of the Church is centered around bishops, priests and religious. We suffer from what I call a ‘Church Compound Mentality’. Our focus is often on rituals and on rites which in other words is about power and money. We spend more time quibbling on what words to use at mass and whether we should put plastic or natural flowers on the altar rather than in the accompaniment of the people of God. The Church soft-peddles its stand generally when it needs to speak out against injustice and against the powerful, and unfortunately this they call ‘tact and diplomacy’. We see instances even today of how Church dignitaries cosy up to the government in power, rather than on real issues which plague the people of the day. An important meter to gauge what is happening to the Church today is to see how many of us are taking ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ seriously. We need to take a closer look at this important pastoral from Pope Francis and see how best we can internalize it in our daily personal and collective lives.

6. You are known for your work for social justice. What inspired you to take up this ministry in particular?

As a Jesuit novice, we were fortunate to have the privilege to be part of a defining moment of our Jesuit history. GC 32 challenged and mandated us to go beyond the ordinary, to involve ourselves deeply among those who are victims of injustice, to take a stand for what is right. So there is no doubt, that I was personally touched and inspired by GC 32.

7. What is your definition of the word – ‘freedom / liberation?’

In a way, it is indeed difficult to define ‘freedom/liberation’. Firstly, I think it cannot be confined to mere words. I believe that Nelson Mandela who served several years in prison and in solitary confinement, was a free man because he believed in something: freedom for his people. So freedom is primarily an attitude. It is an attitude of belief; even perhaps faith!

cedric1I cannot be totally free if the people around me are not free or if in some way I do not become an instrument of and for their liberation.

Freedom is also action: my involvement, my engagement – in the small simple, ordinary things or in the struggles of others. Freedom is ultimately the courage to answer a call, to transcend my own nothingness, my narrow-mindedness, my self-centredness and all for a greater good.

Freedom / liberation is about ‘MAGIS’.

8. What is your message to the readers of DNC TIMES?

We are all on a journey, a pilgrimage – a very short one at that. We need to make the most of the opportunities that we have wherever we are, not for ourselves but to ensure that the world we live in is more human, more just, more equitable for all. We all can certainly contribute towards this. Let’s begin now!

by Sharath George SJ

         Sch Sharath George,SJ

Kerala archbishop criticizes Congress party

Archbishop Thazhath’s letter was focused on the poor management of state’s education department.

 Posted on August 17, 2014, 8:08 PM
    • Archbishop Andrews Thazhath


Thrissur :

Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Thrissur in Kerala has written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi criticizing Kerala’s the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government.

Archbishop Thazhath’s letter was focused on the poor management of state’s education department, the Hindu said in a report.

“A particular group has hijacked the Education Department and universities in the State. The education policy of the State is absurd. Public education and higher education are in chaos. A political party is handling the department as its private property,” he said.

Archbishop Thazhath heads the Education Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council.

Congress should not assume that the church would always support the party irrespective of its policies.

The state was neglecting the fact that the Catholic Church had made major contributions in the fields of education and health, he added.

“The Congress party should realize the changing mood and political situation in the State and the Centre. Catholics will not shy away from supporting other secular parties and even Independent candidates.

Source: The Hindu

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