Vasai bishop: for the Church, Easter represents “springtime,” 130 baptisms planned

April 1, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Mumbai, March 24, 2014: All catechumens are adults who prepared with lay catechists for over a year. For Mgr Felix Machado, conversions are “a sign of a vibrant faith that knows no fear.” This year, Holy Week falls in the middle of India’s general election. Yet, Hindu fundamentalists inspire no fear. Baptising and being baptised are “our constitutional right to religious freedom,” said the prelate who just a month ago met Pope Francis.

Vasai ChristiansOn 19 April, Good Saturday, 130 adult catechumens will be baptised in the Diocese of Vasai (Maharashtra). This, Vasai Bishop Felix Machado told AsiaNews, is “a sign of a vibrant faith. For the Catholic Church, it also represents springtime,” as it does for all Catholics and for Indian society as a whole.

The adults getting ready for their baptism, said Msgr. Machado, “were prepared and followed by lay catechists, in accordance with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The perseverance and missionary zeal of the laity is to be commended.”

“The ceremony itself will occur in the middle of the election, but I am not afraid of the political climate that could prevail in those days. We will be in the middle of Holy Week. I am sure that religion will be a light to all the people.”

The elections, which begin on 7 April and end on 12 May, will involve more than 800 million eligible voters.

Some fear that the country’s minorities, including Christians who are 2.3 per cent of the population, could be targeted by Hindu fundamentalists for political reasons.

“Freedom of religion is a constitutional right,” Mgr Machado noted. “I hide nothing. As law-abiding citizens, I and the 130 catechumens will uphold Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees ‘Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion’.”

For the bishop, “some political parties are hostile to us, making baseless accusations of forced conversions.” This, in his view, is “an insult to the people.”

“In fact, I try to shake up would-be converts,” he explained. “Some would like to be baptised in just six months, but I try to make them understand that they need a more thorough preparation, something that can last more than a year. Their patience and perseverance are tokens of [the country’s] religious freedom.”

About a month ago, Mgr Machado was in Rome, where he met Pope Francis for the first time. He discussed Gaudium Evangelii with the Holy Father, telling him how the apostolic exhortation has inspired him in his mission as bishop.

“Typically, people follow Christianity as long as it is easy,” the prelate toldAsiaNews. “However, the real test is to live it when it is difficult.”

At the same time, “Pope Francis said that the Church should live with the poor. He has articulated so well what we have been trying to do for years.”

– asianews

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