Cardinal Gracias: Asian Church walking with Pope Francis

April 6, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

The Archbishop of Mumbai talks about the new bishop of Rome and his impact on the Church in India and across the continent. The words “journeying, building, professing” that the Holy Father used in his first Mass with the cardinals are important for the East as well. Such is the Easter message.

Pope FrancisMumbai, April 04, 2013: “The election of Pope Francis is an experience of resurrection” because, together with Benedict XVI’s renunciation and the insecurity felt by the Church, it bears witness to the meaning of Easter. “If we stay with the Gospel, the Risen Lord will always be with us,” said Card Oswald Gracias in his reflection. The archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) shares with AsiaNews his thoughts about Pope Francis, whose invitation not to be discouraged and not lose hope touches “in a personal way” the Church in India and Asia.

Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation brought a great amount of uncertainty in the life of the Church. For me, it was personally distressing! We were very surprised and deeply saddened by this unexpected announcement. But in just five ballots, we had come to a consensus and the required two-thirds majority for Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The election of Pope Francis in five ballots was an experience of resurrection. The Lord is with the Church, the Lord gives hope and empowers us with Resurrected Life in each of our own lives and we are enabled to live in the newness of life, to live and share the Gospel within and around us.

The election of Pope Francis is certainly an experience of resurrection. After feeling despondent and confused, if only we trust in the Lord, He will show us the way. For, as disciples of Jesus, we can never be discouraged or feel defeated. If we stay with the Gospel, the Risen Lord will always be with us. This is the message of Easter.

The three meaningful words are journeying, walking with the Lord; building a brotherhood of unity and love through dialogue and service; and confessing His compassion and mercy by our life and our work.

A Christian journey is always in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness that God asked of Abraham, when He called him to follow His leading.

Second, as the Holy Father said, “Building is another form of movement in our life.” He said we are “building the Church, the Bride of Christ, upon that cornerstone that is the Lord Himself.” The Church of Christ is a community of faith, hope and love. She should never cease to proclaim the Good News to those in darkness and despair, and bring hope to the poorest, the weakest and the least important.

Third, said Pope Francis, is “Confessing”. We can journey as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess the mercy and compassion of God, our Father in Jesus Christ, we shall build in vain. The Church with all its human frailty is chosen to be the Bride of Christ because God never tires to show us His mercy and forgiveness. Christ’s salvation, which implies a new creation and new life, is ours, not because of any effort of our own, but because of the free love manifested by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For the Church in India, the pontificate of Pope Francis, as it is unfolding, resonates for us in India and Asia. For centuries, the Church in India has tirelessly served the poorest of the poor: the disadvantaged, the weakest in society, the vulnerable and the defenceless. The Church in India understands with words fulfilled the Mission of Jesus to serve the poorest with the Love of Jesus.  Pope Francis’ deep love for the poor, his strong defence of human rights and his great openness to dialogue came out clearly in his sharing and conversations.

For the Church in India and Asia, in the face of misunderstanding, suspicions and intolerance, the pope’s message of not being discouraged, for us means to be tireless in our efforts  to work for peace and dialogue, tranquillity in spite of obstacles and difficulties. The Church must continue her mission of journeying.

We are a pilgrim people, a pilgrim Church, and with the luminous light of the Resurrection, in our daily pilgrimage, we are being renewed even as we pilgrims go onwards confessing Jesus to the world.

The baptisms in the Church in Mumbai and India spring hope in the hearts. Jesus draws people to himself. This is our mission: introduce Jesus to people, primarily with the witness of our lives and works of faith.  This is the New Evangelisation, and we pilgrim with hope inscribed in our hearts, share with joy the Good News.

In the Year of Faith, we live our faith more authentically with the Resurrection, proclaim our faith more confidently, and strengthen ourselves to transform our own lives with the power of the resurrected Jesus.

–  oswald gracias / asianews

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