Cardinal Gracias: The desecration of Our Lady of Lourdes, a vulgar and shameful act

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Desecration of the church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Idinthakarai, Tamil Nadu

Desecration of the church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Idinthakarai, Tamil Nadu

Mumbai, September 12, 2012: The president of the Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) condemns the acts of vandalism committed by police in Idinthakarai which exploded after (peaceful) antinuclear protests in Kudankulam. Police agents destroyed two statues of the Madonna and have urinated on them.

The desecration of a church is a “vulgar, thoughtless and shameful” act “even more unacceptable” when carried out by law enforcement officers, says Card. Oswald Gracias, President of the Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).  The cardinal condemns the acts of vandalism committed by police officers in the church of Our Lady of Lourdes in the village of Idinthakarai (Tamil Nadu), in violence that erupted during the protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

Two days ago, a new peaceful demonstration to stop the construction of the plant turned into a nightmare for the local community. Police opened fire on the crowds to disperse them, killing a fisherman. A 6 year old girl lost her life, crushed by the fleeing crowd. Then, some agents raided Our Lady of Lourdes Church destroying two statues of the Virgin Mary, and urinating on them (see 11/09/2012, ” Police violence against antinuclear protesters: two dead and a church profaned “).

“The police – says Card. Gracias – has the duty to protect churches and places of worship, because all must be respected. Nothing can justify such an atrocious act.  It is a mark on the secular credentials of India, which challenge our national conscience. ”

The local community – mostly Catholic and devoted to fishing – have been opposed to the construction of Kudankulam plant for several years. According to the people, it is not safe, and will have an impact on the environment dangerous for the lives and livelihoods of the inhabitants. For the authorities of Tamil Nadu, however, the system is safe and is the best way to make up for the energy shortage in the area. In addition, according to the government “hidden” foreign and Catholic NGOs are behind the protests, funding anti-nuclear activists. For this reason, last February the state froze the bank accounts of four NGOs, including the two headed by Msgr. Yvon Ambroise, Bishop of Tuticurin (epicenter of the protest, ed.)

The President of the CBCI points out: “The Catholic Church has always expressed solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need all over India. We reaffirm our commitment to ensure economic and social justice for our fellow citizens.” According to the cardinal, “true development safeguards the dignity of the human being. It is our duty to accept responsibility for each other, and the growth of India as a whole. At the same time, we must create conditions of justice and peace in which individuals and communities can truly flourish”.

– asianews

Catholic bishops convene biennial meet *Bishops challenged to offer hope to disillusioned Indians

February 2, 2012 by  
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Catholic bishops convene biennial meetKarnataka, February 01, 2012: Call on church leaders to work together for a better future. Cardinal Oswald Gracias today called the Church “the conscience of the nation” during his presidential speech at the opening of the 30th general body meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in Bangalore.

During his speech, he called for the Church as a whole to meditate on what it has done for good and where it has failed. Noting that the CBCI is committed to the welfare of the nation and its people, Cardinal Gracias said “we will dedicate all our energies towards that goal.”

The cardinal, who is also the archbishop of Mumbai, said the growing gap between the rich and poor was one of the biggest challenges facing the nation. He regretted that the opportunities offered in the country were limited to the rich and the prosperous.

Cardinal Gracias expressed the hope that the biennial meeting, which had as its theme “The church’s role for a better India,” will generate enthusiasm and hope among the Christian community. A record 170 bishops and church leaders from different dioceses of the country are attendeding the February 1-8 meeting in Bangalore, called the Vatican of the East.

The proceedings began with Mass of the Holy Spirit led by Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio. He urged the Christian community in the country to work with “single-heartedness” and without expecting honor or profit for a better future for all. In his keynote address, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, called the Christian leaders to be “trustworthy in the household of God and to themselves.”

He reminded the leaders that God has entrusted the people into their hands and it was the responsibility of the leaders not to abuse that trust. Archbishop Albert D’Souza, secretary general of the CBCI, presented the bishops’ report for the year 2010-2011 during the inaugural meeting. The CBCI is an umbrella organization of all the Catholic bishops of India, belonging to the Latin, the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara Rites.

Bishops challenged to offer hope to disillusioned Indians

Father Rudolf C Heredia

Father Rudolf C Heredia

Karnataka, February 02, 2012: A Jesuit social scientist has challenged Catholic bishops in India to review and revise the Church’s works to help create a better India.

“We need a renewal of our vision and mission to inspire an agenda for action,” Father Rudolf C. Heredia told the 30th biennial meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

Around 170 bishops from India’s 164 dioceses are attending the February 1-8 plenary meeting to address the theme, “The Church’s role for a better India.”

Father Heredia, the keynote speaker, urged the prelates to discern what Christ would do in modern world instead of just repeating what he did in his time.

“A slavish repetition of what was done centuries ago can only mean a dead one,” he warned.

The challenge in India now is to offer hope to millions who seem disillusioned with democracy’s failure to bring justice to the poor and the marginalized.

“A just society no longer seems to be the first priority of our ruling elites, who have been the principal beneficiaries of our first freedom struggle,” said Father Heredia.

According to him, the current social unrest and corruption in India are the outcome of the rulers pursuing in the name of good governance a “hidden agenda of growth” that only benefited them.

So much so, those excluded see no difference between present democracy and the old colonial rule, the Jesuit priest remarked.

Vote-bank politics that encourage exclusive cultural and religious identities now threaten India’s multi-cultural , and pluri-religious society, he warned.

For him, slums, poverty, destitution and farmers’ suicide amid opulence and while venture capitalism prospers are “disgraceful, despairing other side of the slogan “India shining.”

In this context, the Church should give “prophetic witnessing” not individually but through its vast network of institutions as shown by Blessed Teresa of Kolkata and her Missionaries of Charity nuns.

Father Heredia noted that the saintly nun is the second most recognized name after Mahatma Gandhi in India because people of all religions could see hope in what she did for the poor.

He urged the prelates to bring the Church from out of its current positions on the margins to the mainstream and create critical citizenry that would demand justice from the government.

He noted that better organized groups have taken advantage of popular movements in independent India.

The Jesuit social scientist questioned if the bishops are serious about their commitment to integral development of all people or just satisfied with “partisan gains for our institutions and people.”

– ucan

Nun urges new domestic worker law

January 13, 2012 by  
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Nun urges new domestic worker lawMadhya Pradesh, January 10, 2012: A Catholic nun is urging the federal government to enact a new law which would protect domestic workers and guarantee them basic employment rights.

“Domestic workers are the most vulnerable to sexual harassment and there is no legal protection,” said Sister Rosily Panjikaren at a rally yesterday in Indore, in Madhya Pradesh.

More than 600 people had joined the rally to mark India’s International Domestic Workers Day.

Sr. Panjikaren, a member of the Servants of the Holy Spirit congregation and director of the Indore Domestic Workers’ Solidarity, also urged the government to set a minimum daily wage for these workers.

Church groups and other affiliates of the National Domestic Workers’ Movement organized similar events in other parts of the country.

Sr. Panjikaren said it is wrong for people to look upon domestic workers as mere servants and deny them legal rights and health schemes.

Women domestic workers are mostly illiterate and poor and cannot negotiate better wages and for other basic employment rights, the nun explained.

She called for the establishment of an independent registered union to speak out against the “injustices meted out to domestic workers on a regular basis.”

Indore’s assistant labor commissioner, R G Pandey, agreed to assist the nun in her efforts.

Nirmala Deore, a domestic worker, said she and many others work long hours for little pay and get no holidays.

“We want people to stop calling us servants and respect us as employees,” she said.

– ucan

Ordination for ethnic Nepalese priest

January 4, 2012 by  
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Father Samuel SimickNepal, January 03, 2011: An ethnic Nepalese Jesuit priest from India has been ordained in the country’s poorest parish.

Father Samuel Simick, 32, was ordained on December 31, in Maheshpur parish, around 600 kilometers east of Kathmandu, by Nepal’s apostolic vicar Jesuit Bishop Anthony Sharma.

He joins three other priests, a diocesan and two Jesuits, who were ordained there by Bishop Sharma last year.

The ceremony, concelebrated by about two dozen priests, was held at the Moran Memorial School in Maheshpur, which is set amidst tea gardens.

Family and friends of the priest from India, and over 500 other Catholics from acrossNepalattended the ceremony despite a series of transport strikes gripping the country.

The ordination of Fr Simick, who hails from northern West Bengal, increases the number of priests working in Nepal to 68, eight of whom have been ordained by Bishop Sharma since being made apostolic vicar in 2007.

– ucan

ICYM organizes program for orphans

November 15, 2011 by  
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ICYM logoKarnataka, November 14, 2011: The volunteers of the Indian Catholic Youth movement (ICYM) in Bangalore organized a program for 700 orphans around the city on the eve of the Children’s Day.

Some 130 students of the Sampurna Montfort college too joined the volunteers in their efforts to make the day special for these children from nine orphanages.

The event included 20 game stalls, snack bars, cultural activities, and a magic show.

“The day was super. We had so many games and I won a lot of prizes. Apart from games, I really liked the cultural activity since we all got to dance,” said Ravi Kumar.

Ashok, another boy, liked the magic show. “It was funny to see the expression of the children when the magician made individual rings into a long chain and then made it disappear,” he said.

Sean Paul, a volunteer from ICYM, said, “We should all do this. Isn’t it the responsibility of people like us to give back to society?”

ICYM has been celebrating Children’s Day for four years now. Two years ago, Montfort College joined them.

“We wanted to expose youngsters to how different society can be from what they have experienced. When we did it on a trial basis the first time, the response was wonderful. We have been doing it ever since,” said Fr. Divya Paul, director of ICYM and head of psychology department at Montfort College.

He hopes that youngsters will find inspiration from such occasions.

“It is a powerful learning experience for them when they realise that something so small can bring so much joy. Imagine the joy when we do something bigger? That could actually change someone’s life,” he said.

– dna

Church cheers first tribal Tripura priest

November 10, 2011 by  
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OrdainTripura, November 7, 2011: The first priest from the tribal Tripura group was ordained in southeastern Chittagong on November 4.
Holy Cross Bishop Moses M. Costa of Chittagong ordained Gabriel Lawrence Tripura to the priesthood at Holy Rosary Cathedral in the port city earlier Monday.
About 800 Catholics including three bishops and 25 priests attended the event.
According to local Church sources the program was shifted to Chittagong from the priest’s home parish at Thanchi in Bandarban district of the Chittagong Hill Tracts for security, political and financial concerns. However, the home parish was set to offer a reception to the newly ordained priest yesterday.
The local Church sees the ordination as a milestone in more than 50 years of evangelization among the tribal people in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Theme: “Our God with struggling People”

November 8, 2011 by  
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DLS Poster FlashIndia, November 08, 2011: ‘Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people …; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them….’ (Exodus 3:7- 8)

Dalit Liberation Sunday will be jointly celebrated by the member churches and organisations of the National Council of Churches in India and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on the 11th of December 2011 aiming at the empowerment of the local congregations for Dalit liberation. Dalit Liberation Sunday has been observed on the nearest Sunday to the International Human Rights Day (IHRD December 10th) commemorating the importance of it. To endorse the struggles that the Dalits carried out in the recent past for the human dignity, livelihood, development, this Sunday will be celebrated with special order of worship, rallies, folk art forms, and fellowship of solidarity.

This year the theme, “Our God with struggling People”, will help us to reaffirm the fact and faith that our God sees the pains and agony of the Dalits and hears the cries of them for equality and justice. The assuring faith that God, who had appeared Moses as the fire in the burning bush, has been with the struggling Dalits, gives endurance for them.

Posters and worship orders are started to send to the member churches of NCCI. The cover page of the worship order and the posters are designed using a painting. It depicts God in Trinity who is with the struggling people. God the Father/Mother appeared in the burning bush, Jesus who was bruised and crucified to death, and the uniting Holy Spirit are portrayed in this painting.

The member churches are requested to use their creativity and human resource to make this day meaningful. The soft copies of the special worship orders also will be sent to the member churches, which could be translated into the vernacular languages and used in the local congregations. Let us join together to celebrate this occasion for the liberation of our Dalit brothers and sisters.

– rev. sunil raj philip
executive secretary, commission on dalits
national council of churches in india

Mission Congress rekindles faith among tribal Catholics

November 4, 2011 by  
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Christian workChhattisgarh, November 4, 2011: Catholics in central India have resolved to revive the faith European missioners introduced among their ancestors more than a century ago.

Around 1,600 delegates from 200 parishes spread over five dioceses in Chhattisgarh attended a mission congress that ended October 28, during which attendees were urged to be better witnesses for their faith in the predominantly Hindu nation.

“We need more light of Christ these days since there is too much darkness in the world,” Bishop Paul Toppo of Raigarh said in his keynote address to the congress.

Jesuit missioners from Belgium first introduced the Catholic faith to Oraon tribal people of central and eastern India.

Chhattisgarh state has 410,035 Catholics, mostly tribal and dalit people, in a population of 20.8 million.

Congress attendees acknowledged the pioneering missioners’ hard labor and the persecution suffered by the early Christians, and resolved to live their faith boldly and to preserve their culture.

They also resolved to organize spiritual programs in an effort to revitalize Catholic faith, and to implement new campaigns to curb social and human rights problems including alcoholism, human trafficking, and government corruption that have hindered the spiritual and economic growth of Catholic communities in the region.

Bishop Emmanuel Kerketta of Jashpur expressed his gratitude for the work of early missioners in educating people for service to the Church and the nation.

The Oraon tribal prelate said missioners from the region now serve the Church throughout the world.

– ucan

New Syro Malabar diocese for Delhi soon?

October 31, 2011 by  
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New Syro Malabar diocese for Delhi soonDelhi, October 31, 2011: Syro Malabar Major Archbishop George Alencherry has urged his people to do penance and pray for a new Oriental diocese in the Indian capital.

The head of Syro Malabar Church (SMC) made the appeal yesterday at the 12th convention of SMC Catholics in Delhi.

More than 10,000 people attended the convention. The dignitaries included Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, who indicated the possibility of a new SMC diocese in Delhi in near future.

Major Archbishop Alencherry said the new SMC diocese ‘is possible in Delhi but it is up to Rome to decide about the establishment.’

The Syro Malabar Catholics living in Delhi and surrounding areas have for years demanded a separate diocese to help their spiritual growth.

Although SMC is a sui juris (self governing) Church, its jurisdiction is restricted to Kerala state in southern India.

The Latin rite bishops, who are the majority in the country, oppose new Oriental dioceses outside Kerala saying such structures would give counter witness to Christian unity and affect works of evangelization.

The SMC Catholics living outside Kerala come uder Latin rite dioceses. Delhi archdiocese has created 23 personal parishes for SMC Catholics.

The major archishop, who took over the SMC in May, lauded the unity and harmony among the three ritual Churches in India. He urged the gathering to “protect and cherish” their distinct culture and tradition while continuing to “spread love and unity.”

The apostolic nuncio told the gathering that “your dream of a new diocese may realize soon,” and offered to pray for it.

He also asserted that every Catholic has a right “to live his rite wherever he lives” and every bishop is called to be the minister of their community. He said that all Christians are called to evangelize and all should work in peace and harmony.

Auxiliary Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Delhi, who represented the Latin-rite, did not mention anything about the new diocese. He called the faithful to be the “ambassadors of peace, love and unity.”

The convention started with a solemn concelebrated Mass led by Major Archbishop and assisted by Bishops Gratian Mundadan and Mulakkal and some 30 priests.

– Jessy Joseph

Major Archbishop Alencherry meets Pope

October 19, 2011 by  
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Major Archbishop Alencherry meets Pope

Major Archbishop Alencherry with Pope Benedict XVI at Rome

Kerala, October 18, 2011: Major Archbishop George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Church along with some of its members met Pope Benedict XVI at Rome yesterday.

The pope termed the visit of the prelate and members of second largest Eastern Catholic Church a ‘significant one’.

Noting that life for Christians has been complicated by sectarian mistrust and violence, he said “but I would urge you to continue to work with people of all religions to maintain peace and harmony…”

He said within the Church itself, there are encouraging signs of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life which will “help you to maintain your pastoral outreach”.

The pontiff said “your predecessor, late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, has left a legacy upon which you and your brother Bishops will surely wish to build.”

He encouraged them to continue the good work in fostering vocations among young men and women.
In this regard, he mentioned the two holy patrons of the Rite, Saint Alphonsa Muttathupadathu and Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara.

Pope Benedict also spoke of the ongoing challenges in the formation of the clergy and religious, in Christian family life and in the pastoral care of the faithful.

The pope asked them to be mindful of the essential need for cooperation with Catholic Bishops and pastors of other rites.

– ucan, vatican radio

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