Sister Angela Liu Lijun, a former coordinator of the Radio Veritas Asia (RVA) Mandarin Service, once met a priest in China and asked him how he learned theology. He replied that an elderly priest taught him in the days when religious activities had just been revived after the
Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

"But I would also have to say that I graduated from the 'RVA seminary' because I learned so much from listening to Radio Veritas Asia programs on theology and philosophy," said the priest.

The story was shared earlier this month as part of the celebrations commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Mandarin Service at RVA headquarters in Manila.  

Religious persecution began when the Chinese communists took over in 1949.

"Missionaries were expelled and Catholics suffered oppression and lost their link with the universal church," said Father Raymond Ambroise, executive secretary of the Office of Social Communication of the Federation of Asia Bishops' Conferences.

"In 1956, some Asian bishops convened a meeting in Manila to express their concerns and explore ways to answer the needs of Chinese Catholics," said Father Ambroise.

The bishops decided that radio was the best way to let Chinese Catholics hear the message of the church and so the Mandarin Service was established.

"But their work was and is not without difficulties," said Father Ambroise. Chinese authorities interfered and blocked their signal and, recently, their website too, according to the priest.

Besides reviewing history, Radio Veritas Asia workers used the event to find ways to use the internet to strengthen communication with Chinese Catholics. Three months ago, the Mandarin Service set up a Wechat public account that has had 600,000 visitors.

A Wechat management team is responsible for editorial planning, user interaction and promotion with help from volunteers. "There are a lot of procedures to set up a website or smartphone app in China, but using Wechat — with 600 million users­ — is much easier," said Ruo Wang, a layman who manages the account.


Catholic media development in the internet era

There were a few scattered Catholic websites in China in the late 1990s. Then the Shanghai Diocese and the Hebei Faith Press, a national Catholic newspaper, launched officially registered websites in 1999 and by 2005 about 60 active websites had been launched, according to Annie Lam, researcher at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong who delivered a keynote speech entitled, "Overview of Catholic Media in China" during celebrations to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Mandarin Service.

As for the content, Lam observed that these websites mostly reposted Chinese church news taken from websites outside China, though there is some original reporting coming through. The Catholic media also use multimedia to tell news stories but sometimes they overdo it with too many images, she said.

"Most websites still avoid posting controversial news," she noted.

Established in 1976, the Mandarin Service is one of 15 language services from the RVA. Besides producing audio, the Mandarin service also creates video programs.

Internet development has helped the Mandarin service reach out further. Now people can download programs and listen any time. Besides Wechat, the RVA has accounts on Facebook, Youku and YouTube so it's convenient for Chinese Catholics to connect to the voice of the Church.

"Forty years was not very long but God's grace [was there] every moment," said Bishop Phillip Huang of Hualien, chair of Taiwan bishops' social communication office.

RVA programs were a vital source of support for Catholics who were isolated from the physical community of the church, the bishop said. "In some cases, it also helps non-believers obtain teachings and guidance," he said. "Some get baptized and become the children of God."

Pope Pius XII had the idea of establishing a permanent Catholic radio station in Asia but it was Pope John XXIII who implemented the idea. Radio Veritas Asia was established on April 11, 1969 and two months later the Mandarin Service began its initial broadcast. Pope John Paul II in 1999 referred to Radio Veritas as an "excellent instrument of mission."

Pope Francis recently offered some excellent insight and advice at a mass for teens. Here are 10 of his key messages:

  1. Love, in other words, is the Christian’s identity card, the only valid “document” identifying us as Christians.  If this card expires and is not constantly renewed, we stop being witnesses of the Master.
  2. Before all else, love is beautiful, it is the path to happiness.  But it is not an easy path.  It is demanding and it requires effort.
  3. To love means to give, not only something material, but also something of one’s self: one’s own time, one’s friendship, one’s own abilities.
  4. At this point in life you feel also a great longing for freedom.  Many people will say to you that freedom means doing whatever you want.  But here you have to be able to say no.  Freedom is not the ability simply to do what I want.  This makes us self-centred and aloof, and it prevents us from being open and sincere friends.  Instead, freedom is the gift of being able to choose the good.  The free person is the one who chooses what is good, what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort.
  5. Only by courageous and firm decisions do we realize our greatest dreams, the dreams which it is worth spending our entire lives to pursue.  Don’t be content with mediocrity, with “simply going with the flow”, with being comfortable and laid back.
  6. Don’t believe those who would distract you from the real treasure, which you are, by telling you that life is beautiful only if you have many possessions.
  7. Be skeptical about people who want to make you believe that you are only important if you act tough like the heroes in films or if you wear the latest fashions.
  8. Your happiness has no price.  It cannot be bought: it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.
  9. Love is nurtured by trust, respect and forgiveness.  Love does not happen because we talk about it, but when we live it: it is not a sweet poem to study and memorize, but is a life choice to put into practice!
  10. Be like sporting champions, who attain high goals by quiet daily effort and practice.  Let your daily program be the works of mercy.  Enthusiastically practice them, so as to be champions in life!  In this way you will be recognized as disciples of Jesus.  And your joy will be complete.

-Fr. Jim Martin meets people where they are — online by  Elizabeth Elliott:For the millennials and the ones not in church do you feel like a virtual parish priest for them? I see it as a ministry, and Jesuits are taught to meet people where they are. I think social media is a private way for people to explore their spirituality.”
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RISE UP AGAINST THE DADRI AND KANPUR COMMUNAL LYNCH-MOB KILLING! Citizen's Protest Vigil at Jantar Mantar on 2 October

Posted: 01 Oct 2015 09:39 PM PDT


Join a Citizens' Protest Vigil 
on 2 Oct at Jantar Mantar 3pm onwards !

A 22-year old young Muslim man is lying in hospital, brutally beaten up by a bloodthirsty mob. His 52-year old father is dead. Killed, bashed to death with bricks, by the same mob. Their ‘crime’? The ‘mob’ claimed they had killed a cow and eaten beef. Rumours flew, an announcement was made a local temple, and the mob indulged in a bloodthirsty orgy! At whose instructions did the ‘mob’ get organised?

A few days back, Prime Minister Modi informed us that the “most fundamental debate” for youth in India was the choice between Windows, Android and iOS. Earlier, Modi went to Ireland and chose to scorn the concern for secularism in India (as he habitually does in the never-ending foreign trips). Today, 22-year Danish, battling for his life in a hospital, brings out the complete farce of Modi’s statements. The “most fundamental debate” for youths like Danish is to how to keep alive in a country where emboldened communal fascist goons can literally kill people in the name of what they eat or any other pretext to whip up communal frenzy!  

This murder is NO aberration. It is the tragic culmination of a systematic campaign of hate mongering and witch-hunt. It is the chilling enacting of VHP leader Praveen Togadia’s threats that beef eaters will face the reaction of “Indian culture”. Over the past weeks and months, “Indian” has been equated with “upper caste, Brahminical Hindu”, beef eating has been stigmatised and criminalised, and the cow has been wilfully and opportunistically used to polarise communities and spread hatred. 

The logical culmination of this abhorrent campaign is what we witnessed in Dadri. Modi himself during the Lok Sabha election campaign gave speeches whipping up hate against 'Pink Revolution' - that is, the meat industry, which he called 'murder' of 'animals' and 'cows' for 'mutton' and 'beef'.  No wonder then, that the sitting BJP MP from Noida has said it is simply “action and reaction” (echoing Modi’s words after the organised Gujarat genocide). 

No wonder then, that a former BJP MLA claims that the lynch mob were “innocent children”, ‘excited’ by the grave “crime” of someone eating beef. The victim has become the accused! Ironically the UP police have taken meat from the victim's fridge for forensic tests to check whether or not it is beef! We need to say loud and clear - it is not a crime to eat beef. EVEN if it is found to be beef, the mob had no right to break into a house and attack and kill anyone.

Some members of the mob have been arrested. But the real leaders of the lynch mob are those who have organised systematic hate campaigns, normalised the criminalisation of beef, and normalised the politics of policing of every aspect of our daily lives-what we wear or what we eat, whom we love and even what we think! 

Demand immediate action against the perpetrators and masterminds of such mob-lynching. Demand withdrawal of all laws that criminalises people's food habits.

We appeal to the people of Delhi to participate in a Citizen's Protest Vigil at Jantar Mantar on 2 October from 3 pm against the spiralling fascist bid to fan communal hate and orchestrate communal killing. 

Please join with your banners and placards.

- Concerned Citizens of Delhi and Neighboring areas

Six Outrageous Things BJP Leaders Have Said About Dadri Murder
NAUJAWAN BHARAT SABHA reports on systematic attempts of 'Sangh Parivar' to foment communal tension in Delhi // Beef murder bid to stir hatred ahead of polls? // SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN: The fight is now over your right to not be killed for what you eat
It is plain as daylight that the front organisations of the RSS/BJP are stirring up communal violence to polarise the Indian population and secure a political constituency based upon hatred. Communal voting is only possible in an atmosphere of hatred, and that is what this 'Parivar' is determined to do. Their cadre consider the 2014 elections as a mandate for totalitarian rule and free rein to their hooliganism. Contrary to all norms of journalism, a prominent section of the Hindi press is aiding and abetting this programme, just as they did during the campaign to destroy the Babri Masjid in 1990-92. This a recipe for permanent social conflict. It is shameful that senior elected representatives, who took their oath of office upon the Constitution are presiding over an open subversion of the rule of law. If this is their definition of nationalism, India is headed for unending strife.

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The Big Bang theory and evolution do not eliminate the existence of God, who remains the one who set all of creation into motion, Pope Francis told his own science academy on Monday.

In addition, God's existence does not contradict the discoveries of science, he told a gathering of members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

"When we read the account of creation in Genesis, we risk thinking that God was a magician, complete with a magic wand, able to do everything. But it is not like that," he said. "He created living beings and he let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave each one, so that they would develop and reach their full potential."

God gave creation full autonomy while also guaranteeing his constant presence in nature and people's lives, he said.

The beginning of the world is not a result of "chaos," he said, but comes directly from "a supreme principle that creates out of love”.

"The Big Bang, which today is held as the beginning of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator, but requires it," he said. "Evolution in nature is not at odds with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve."

Members of the academy, many of them renowned scientists and philosophers, were meeting at the Vatican October 24-28 to discuss "Evolving Concepts of Nature”.

Source: Catholic News Service

Dear Friends,


JESA Dispatch 248 brings for you an appeal for supporting the flood-affected people in Kashmir, as well as the full text of Mr Nariman’s speech.

Mr Fali Nariman’s speech is of historic significance. The content of his speech is nothing less than prophetic utterance in favour the minorities in India.

Let us demonstrate our feelings of compassion by concrete expressions of support.

I thank Fr Prakash Louis and Fr Anthony Dias for sharing these contents.


In solidarity,




JESA Dispatch 248: Mr Fali Nariman's Historic Speech and An Appeal for helping the Flood-affected people of Kashmir


Transcript of Mr.Fali S. Nariman’s 7th Annual Lecture of National Commission of Minorites: “MINORITIES AT CROSS ROADS: COMMENTS ON JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS” delivered on Friday, 12th September, 2014

at Speaker Hall (Annexe), Constitution Club of India, Rafi Marg, New Delhi

Organized by The National Commission of Minorities



The elections in April-May, 2014 this year have put a strong majoritarian Government in power at the Centre.  I welcome it.


Whilst I welcome a single-party majority government, I also fear it.


I fear it because of past experience with a majoritarian government in the nineteen sixties and nineteen seventies: when the then all-Congress Government had unjustifiably imposed the Internal Emergency of June 1975.  And rode rough shod over the liberties of citizens.  I cannot forget it nor can I condone it.


My wife and I have lived through it and we know how a very large number of people suffered.


Traditionally Hinduism has been the most tolerant of all Indian faiths.   But - recurrent instances of religious tension fanned by fanaticism and hate-speech has shown that the Hindu tradition of tolerance is showing signs of strain.  And let me say this frankly – my apprehension is that Hinduism is somehow changing its benign face because, and only because it is believed and proudly proclaimed by a few (and not contradicted by those at the top): that it is because of their faith and belief that HINDUS have been now put in the driving seat of governance.


Jawahar Lal Nehru was a Hindu.


But he never looked upon the diverse and varied peoples of India from the stand point of Hinduism.  He wrote in that most inspiring book “The Discovery of India” that “it was fascinating to find how the Bengalis, the Canarese, the Malayalis, the Sindhis, the Punjabis, the Pathans, the Kashmiris, the Rajputs, and the great central block comprising of Hindustani–speaking people, had retained their particular characteristics for hundreds of years, with more or less the same virtues and failings, and yet they had been throughout these ages distinctively Indian, with the same national heritage and the same set of moral and mental qualities.


Ancient India, like ancient China (he wrote), was a world in itself.  Their culture and civilization gave shape to all things.  Foreign influences poured in and often influenced that culture, but they were absorbed.  Disruptive tendencies gave rise immediately to an attempt to find a synthesis.


It was some kind of a dream of unity that occupied the mind of India, and of the Indian, since the dawn of civilization.  And that unity was not conceived as something imposed from outside.  It was something deeper; within its fold, the widest tolerance of beliefs and customs was practiced and every variety was acknowledged and even encouraged.  This was Nehru’s great vision of the diversity and unity of India.


When someone told Panditji that Hindi was the predominant language of India, he agreed although he said he would have preferred it if it was Hindustani, and then he added (and I ask you to note what he added):


(I quote) “Quite frankly I do not understand the way some people are afraid of the Urdu language.  I just do not understand why in any State in India people should consider Urdu a foreign language and something which invades their own domain.  Urdu is a language mentioned in our Constitution.  I object to any narrow mindedness in regard to Urdu….” (Unquote).



And how right he was.  These words were said by him in December 1955.  They have proved prophetic.  Almost 60 years later, just last week, a Constitution Bench of 5 Judges of India’s Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to Urdu being made the second regional language in the State of Uttar Pradesh, where it is widely read and spoken.


It is a step and a very important step in the right direction. 


Some day in the future – for the good of the integration of India - Urdu deserves to be included not just in the Eighth Schedule where it lies with 21 other recognized Indian languages, but upfront in a trinity of National languages of India i.e. Hindi, Urdu and English.


When speaking of minorities.  Do remember that in some countries there is no linguistic equivalent for the expression.  In an official communication to the U.N. Sub-Commission (on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities), the Government of Thailand stated that the concept of “minorities” was unknown in that country.  The communication said (and I quote):


“Although this word has a Thai translation from the English for the purpose of communication with the outside world, it has no social or cultural connotation whatever”![1]


But for us in India we have a written Constitution and there is no difficulty in knowing who are reckoned as “minorities”.  Article 29 read with Article 30 provides that any section of citizens of India residing in India or any part of the territory of India having a distinct religion, language, script or culture of their own are minorities with the right – a fundamental right – to conserve their religion language script and culture.  One culture was anathema to the Founding Fathers.


Religious and linguistic minorities not only have a separate status under our Constitution.  They have also been conferred an additional fundamental right – a right which no ordinary law can take away – viz. to “establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”. 


The intention of the framers of the Constitution was to use the term ‘minorities’ in the widest sense. 


In the Constituent Assembly debates you will find mention of this intent (you will find it in Vol.VII of the Constituent Assembly Debates at pages 922-923).  It is recorded there (and this is an example given by our Founding Fathers in the debate during Constitution-making) – that Maharashtrians settled in Bengal or Bengalis settled in Maharashtra – even though Hindus settled amongst Hindus and hence not a religious minority in either State – are nonetheless linguistic minorities in each of the respective States and so have a fundamental right to protect their own language and culture; and additionally, to establish educational institutions “of their choice” to foster that language and culture.


By its very existence, then – and our Constitution recognizes this - every minority group whether religious linguistic or cultural in any part of India poses a challenge to – the predominantly majority community - a challenge to what has been elsewhere described as:


“the dynamics of governance amidst pluralism”.


This is the challenge for every government including a majority government, even a majority government that has a 2/3rd majority in Parliament.  It is – still pledged to safeguard and enhance minority rights – The Constitution has ensured that the dynamics of Governance amidst pluralism has to be tackled peacefully and with vision.


In every nation intolerance towards someone who looks, talks or worships differently (or who even lives or dresses differently) from the majority community has always been a basic human infirmity. 


Every tribal society in almost every part of the world has chosen a word to denote “foreigner” or “outsider”.[2] In Bhutan and Sikkim when most of the foreign visitors were from India – they still are from India - the term GYAGAR (Tibetan for “Indian”) was adopted to denote the “outsider” – an innocent term in itself, but the tone of voice or accent with which it was expressed conveyed something derogatory or contemptuous.


Whatever the source from which a minority derives its existence, religious, ethnic or linguistic, the rest of society has to make a conscious effort in coming to terms with it: but the fact of life is that the larger the majority community with greater political power the lesser the inclination to make efforts to build bridges.


Which explains – why generally speaking minorities because they are minorities are not well-treated, or at least do not feel well-treated, in different parts of the world – This is a theme that has been explored more fully in a recently published book by a Lebanese author M. Amin Maalouf (The book is titled “In the name of Identity”)[3].  He points out that those who claim a complex identity are often marginalised because others perceive them through the lens of only one aspect of their identity: their religion


Maalouf grew up in Lebanon and moved to France in 1976, at a young age.  He sees himself as both Lebanese and French.  He celebrates the ability of humans to maintain numerous identities.  He does not like the singular (what he calls) tribal identity of fanatics who are (as he says) “easily transformed into butchers”.  About fanatics he writes that any doctrine with which they identify can be and is perverted, including liberalism, nationalism, atheism and communism.  He believes in (what he calls) calming identity conflicts because as he says:

“it will mean making people, especially minorities, feel included”

a useful guide for us in India – if we all, majority and minority, move towards calming identity conflicts.   We need it particularly now when we are poised for greater economic development.


History shows several ways in which members of a society have tried to solve the problems posed by the presence of a minority group (“section of citizens”, as our Constitution describes them).  These ways or methods are four in number.


(1)            The first method is: forceful suppression and eradication:


-       Will Durant records in his Story of Civilization[4] – that in India in the middle–ages during the alien despotism of the Sultanates of Delhi, Sultan Ahmad Shah boastfully feasted for three days whenever the number of defenceless Hindus slain in his territories reached twenty thousand! 


The same method was adopted even in modern times as witnessed in the planned liquidation of six million Jews;


(2)            The second method is: coercive or hostile toleration:


-       Which is like the treatment of a sect of Muslims known as Quadianis (or Ahmediyas) in Modern day Pakistan.  The Ahmediyas, because they were in a minority and because the rest of the Muslims in their Parliament were in a majority, were declared officially and statutorily as non-Muslims in the Islamic State of Pakistan.  Today they are hardly “tolerated” – even as non-Muslims!


(3)            The third method is: by voluntary or involuntary assimilation or absorption.



-       As witnessed by forced conversion in the middle-ages which effectively destroyed the identity of religious minority groups.  The Ismaili Khojas and the Cutchi Memons of today were originally Hindus – who were forcibly converted to Islam during the invasions of Mahomed of Ghazni (AD 971 to 1030) and his successors.   They are now a recognized sect of Muslims in India, who practice the religion of the Prophet.


Our Constitution has consciously rejected these first 3 methods as contrary to the Indian ethos:

(4)            Our Constitution has consciously adopted the fourth way – Affirmative action for protection and preservation - as the only way – because at the time of the framing of the Constitution and for many years after that, this was the Hindu ethos i.e. – the true Indian ethos.


In the Indian Constitution, the provisions of Part III have been so drafted as not only to prevent disability for, or discrimination against minorities, but to create positive and enforceable rights on them.  And then Parliament has put in place since 1992 the National Commission of Minorities Act – the role of the Commission is to protect and preserve the minorities from attacks from outside.

It is this liberal approach to Fundamental Rights and protection of minorities that has helped – the minorities in India to progress, so far – as well as to conserve and protect their guaranteed rights.  Then why are the minorities at the cross-roads today

It is because the body set up by Parliament to protect minorities has omitted to take effective steps to protect them. 

We have been hearing on television and reading in newspapers almost on a daily basis a tirade by one or more individuals or groups against one or another section of citizens who belong to a religious minority and the criticism has been that the majority government at the centre has done nothing to stop this tirade.  I agree.


But do remember that every government whether at the Centre or State – whether composed of one political party or another – will do or not do whatever it considers expedient to advance its own political interests.  This is why in my view Parliament has in its wisdom set up an independent Minorities Commission to look after the interest of Minorities.  It is true that the National Commission for Minorities has functions defined in Section 9 of the Act, but the functions would definitely not preclude the Commission issuing Press Statements or filing criminal complaints regarding diatribes against minorities or protesting against hate speeches against minorities in general or against any particular minority community.  The Commission is specifically empowered to do two things:

(i)              To look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the minorities and take up such matter with the Authorities; and


(ii)            Suggest appropriate measures in respect of any minority to be undertaken by the Central Government or the State Government.



I would implore the distinguished members of the National Commission for Minorities (and believe me they are influential and distinguished) to read the Statement of Objects and Reasons for enacting the National Commission for Minorities Act.  This is what the Statement of Objects and Reasons says: (I Quote)

                  “The main task of the Commission – mark you – the main task of the Commission – shall be to evaluate the progress of the development of minorities, monitor the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution for the protection of the interests of minorities and in laws enacted by the Central Government or State Governments, besides looking into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the minorities.”

So the main task of the Commission is “protecting the interests of minorities”.  And how does one protect the interest of minorities who (or a section of which) are on a daily basis lampooned and ridiculed or spoken against in derogatory language?  The answer is by invoking the provisions of enacted law – law enacted in the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.  Otherwise the Commission is not fulfilling its main task which is the protection of the interests of the minorities. 

I do implore the Commission and its distinguished members to take steps as an independent Commission set up by Parliament and not controlled by government, to actively move to safeguard the interests of the minorities.  It is as important as giving educational facilities and improving the economic condition of the minorities which the Commission and Government are rightly pursuing. 

Those who indulge in hate speech must be prevented by Court processes initiated at the instance of the Commission because that is the body that represents Minorities in India.  Whoever indulges in such hate speech or vilification (whatever the community to which they belong) they must be proceeded against and the proceeding must be widely publicized.  It is only then that the confidence of the minorities in the National Commission for the Minorities will get restored.

I would respectfully suggest that if we minorities (through the statutory body set up by Parliament) do not stand up for the rights of minorities and protest against such hate speeches and diatribes how do we expect the Government to do so -?


A majoritarian Government is elected and exists mainly on the vote of the majority community.  On the other hand the Commission is an independent statutory body.  Its Chairman is not a Minister of Government.  And though it receives grants from the Central Government it is not expected to be a mere mouthpiece of that Government.


I come now to the second part of my talk this evening – about judicial pronouncements.

Before the nineteen nineties – and I emphasize this because it means that for almost forty long years after independence – on almost every occasion on which the minorities approached the Supreme Court of India complaining of State or Central legislation or executive action as infringing their fundamental rights, the challenge was upheld.  It was most heartening.  The Supreme Court of India functioned as a Super Minorities Commission – as it was meant to: this was long before a Minorities Commission got established by law made by Parliament. 

For instance, way back in 1952 a small minority group known as Anglo-Indians, who ran many reputed schools in Bombay, were adversely affected by an order passed by the then Government of Bombay.  The Order forbade state-aided schools using English as a medium of instruction to admit pupils other than Anglo-Indians or citizens-of-non-Asiatic descent.  Anglo-Indians could maintain and administer their schools and teach in English but only to Anglo-Indians; if they admitted other Indians they forfeited State aid - unless of course, they switched over to Hindi as the medium of instruction.  The effort was to encourage the use of the National language (Hindi) – which is a constitutional prescription. 

Although the object was laudable, the order was struck down by the Supreme Court because under the Constitution – Anglo-Indians which had a distinct language (which was English) had a fundamental right to conserve, the same and because the direct effect of the Order was to prevent Indians from entering Anglo-Indian Schools on grounds of race and language[5].

Seven years later, (in 1959), the same Supreme Court of India thwarted an attempt by the Communist-controlled Government of Kerala to take over the management of Christian Schools contrary to Article 30.  In an Advisory opinion given by a bench of seven Judges of India’s Supreme Court – rendered in a Presidential reference - large parts of the Kerala Education Bill were declared unconstitutional.[6]  This is well-known.  What is not so well-known is what Chief Justice S.R. Das (a devout Hindu) said in his judgment when (presiding over a Bench of 7 Judges).  He gave a peroration at the end of his judgment: which he wrote for himself and for five of his colleagues on the Bench. This is how it read:

“There can be no manner of doubt that our Constitution has guaranteed certain cherished rights of the minorities concerning their language, culture and religion.  These concessions must have been made to them for good and valid reasons.  Article 45, no doubt, requires the State to provide for free and compulsory, education for all children, but there is nothing to prevent the State from discharging that solemn obligation through Government and Government-aided schools and Art.45 does not require that obligation to be discharged at the expense of the minority communities.  So long as the Constitution stands as it is and is not altered, it is, we conceive, the duty of this Court to uphold the fundamental rights and thereby honour our sacred obligation to the minority communities who are of our own.”  (Unquote).


He then ended his peroration with these words: 

“The genius of India has been able to find unity in diversity by assimilating the best of all creeds and cultures.  Our Constitution accordingly recognises our sacred obligation to the minorities.”


Notice that the expression “our sacred obligation to the minorities” was used not once but twice in the same judgment.

Even the Judge who did not entirely agree with the views of Chief Justice S.R. Das and of his 5 Companion Justices – in the Kerala Education Bill case – (he was Justice Venkatarama Aiyar (a Brahmin whose portrait hangs in Court No.3)) had said (and I quote):

“But what is the policy behind Art.30(1)?  As I conceive it, it is that it should not be in the power of the majority in a State to destroy or to impair the rights of the minorities, religious or linguistic.  That is a policy which permeates all Modern Constitutions, and its purpose is to encourage individuals to preserve and develop their own distinct culture.”


Mark the words: “their own distinct culture”.

After the Kerala Education Bill Case, some State Governments said they found it increasingly difficult to regulate educational standards, and so the Highest Court in 1974 was requested to constitute a larger Constitution Bench to reconsider its previous decisions.  It did. 

Certain provisions of the Gujarat University Act 1949 had laid down statutory conditions for affiliation of colleges in Gujarat to the Gujarat University; they applied to all educational institutions including those run by minorities; they provided that teaching and training in all colleges affiliated to the University would be conducted and imparted by teachers appointed only by the University.  Since the provisions interfered with the minorities’ right to administer and run educational institutions “of their choice” – a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 30 – these provisions were challenged by the Ahmadabad St. Xavier’s College (managed by Jesuits).

The Court heard the case – this time sitting in a larger Bench of nine judges[7]  - for reconsidering the decision in the Kerala Education Bill case. 

But this Bench of 9 Judges in the end re-affirmed what was said by the Bench of 7 judges in the Kerala Education Bill case. It struck down the offending provisions as inapplicable to minority-run colleges.     One of the Judges sitting on the Bench was Mr.Justice H.R. Khanna, one of the most famous and the most noble of India’s Judges.  He was a votary of the Bharat Vikas Parishad which is a functioning social organization now chaired by Mr.Justice Rama Jois – a distinguished BJP Member of Parliament. 

In the St. Xavier’s College case Justice H.R. Khanna delivered a memorable judgment giving reasons why minority interests are so zealously protected in every society – especially in India.  This is what he said:

“The safeguards of the interest of the minorities amongst sections of the population is as important as the protection of the interest amongst individuals or persons who are below the age of majority or are otherwise suffering from some kind of infirmity.    The Constitution and the laws made by civilized nations, therefore, generally contain provisions for the protection of those interests.  It can, indeed, be said to be an index of the level of civilization and catholicity of a nation as to how far their minorities feel secure and are not subject to any discrimination or suppression.”

Khanna knew that it was the feeling amongst minorities about their security and about non-discrimination that mattered.

In an excellent treatise on the Role of the Supreme Court in American Government, Prof. Archibald Cox has written that constitutional adjudication depends upon a delicate symbiotic relation –

“The court must know us better than we know ourselves.  Its opinions may sometimes be the voice of the spirit, reminding us of our better selves

The judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the St. Xavier’s College case reminded all Indians of their “better selves”.

State-aided Minority Educational Institutions (MEIs) however, did not receive, the same favourable reception from the Supreme Court when Article 30 was invoked in the case of institutions of higher learning – in postgraduate courses in medicine, engineering and the like.

In these groups of cases (where I had been briefed and had appeared for some of the MEIs), different benches of the Supreme Court – at first – wavered as to how much, or how little, autonomy should be conceded to such minority educational institutions.  The cases shuttled from a bench of two justices, to a bench of five justices, then from a bench of five justices to a bench of seven justices (on 19th March 1994), and were ultimately referred to a bench of 11 justices (in TMA Pai Foundation vs. State of Karnataka). 

With the mandatory constitutional age of retirement of Supreme Court judges (at 65), the composition of the bench was entirely different from what it was in 1974!  In 2002 the difficulty the bench of 11 justices felt (in TMA Pai) – that’s what they said - was how to reconcile the provisions of Article 30(1) with the seemingly contrary provisions contained in Article 29(2):  

Article 30(1) provided:


“(1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”


But Article 29(2) provided as follows:


“(2).. No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.”


But in the Kerala Education Bill case (1958), an attempt had been made at a reconciliation – this is what the Court in the Kerala case said:

“The real import of Article 29(2) and Article 30(1) seems to us to be that they clearly contemplate a minority (educational) institution with a sprinkling of outsiders admitted into it’;”

The expression ‘sprinkling of outsiders’ was later explained (in bench decisions of the Supreme Court) as not restricting the number of outsiders so long as the minority character of the institution was not affected.

But the inarticulate major premise underlying the ultimate decision of the justices who constituted the majority in the 11-judge bench in TMA Pai Foundation (2002) was the strong suspicion that many of the MEIs, in receipt of state aid, were selling seats to the highest bidder and were thus disentitled to invoke the Fundamental Right to ‘administer’ the MEI in question. In the Kerala Education Bill case (1958), Chief Justice S. R. Das had warned that the Fundamental Right guaranteed by Article 30 to administer educational institutions would not include the right to ‘maladminister’ them.


In the view of most of the judges on the bench (in TMA Pai Foundation), state-aided MEIs, which had established institutions for postgraduate courses in medicine, engineering and the like, were claiming a Fundamental Right to administer them almost solely with a view to profiteering in the matter of admissions and allotment of seats. It was money and not merit that mattered to them. ‘Maladministration’ therefore became a convenient stick with which to beat the MEIs – not unjustifiably, at times – but only at times: not every time!


In my view, the ultimate majority decision in TMA Pai Foundation was not so much the result of a textual interpretation of the constitutional provisions as of the apprehension of the judges that treating the right of minorities under Article 30 as ‘absolute’ (as it had been described in the earlier cases) would totally negate the claim of the states to regulate MEIs – especially in higher education. My plea to the judges that not suspicion, but only concrete allegations and proof of such allegations in individual cases could deprive MEIs of their Fundamental Right to administer minority educational institutions established by them, was invariably met with stony silence!


Prior to the decision in TMA Pai Foundation (2002) Courts in India – i.e. our Judges – had shown a special solicitude for minorities since (ordinarily) they would not be able to find protection in the normal political process.  In other countries also, there has been a tendency for Courts, when dealing with minority rights, to conceptualize their role to that of a political party in opposition.[8]  In his foreword to a book written by Justice K.K. Mathew titled: Democracy Equality and Freedom published by Eastern Book Company way back in 1976, Prof. Upendra Baxi said that the Supreme Court of India regarded minority rights as one of the “preferred freedoms”.  He was right. But he wrote this more than 40 years ago. 

Minority rights are still regarded by the Courts (as they have to be) as fundamental rights, but (and I say this with regret) they are no longer regarded by the Judges of today as “preferred freedoms”.

The decision in TMA Pai was a un-mitigated disaster for the minorities.  Let me tell you why.  Article 30 (the right of minorities, religious and linguistic to establish and maintain education institutions of their choice) has now been placed by Court decision on a much lower pedestal than it was – or was intended to be.  It has been equated only with a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) – i.e. a mere right to an occupation (running an educational institution the Judges said is an “occupation” like any other):

Even though the fundamental right under Article 30 had been expressly made – deliberately made - not subject to any reasonable restrictions at all, the Bench of 11 Judges (by majority) relegated this right to a right to an occupation guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) i.e. therefore subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in public interest – i.e. subject to State regulation.

The Fundamental Right of MEIs have got devalued, because approximating the provisions in Article 30 to the provisions contained in Article 19(1)(g) mean, that as a matter of perception, the ‘reasonable restrictions’ imposed by ordinary law on this Fundamental Right – permissible under Article 19(6) – has also got subsumed in what was an otherwise unrestricted Fundamental Right guaranteed under Article 30!  


With the result that when the Right to Education Act 2009 – was challenged as unconstitutional before a Bench of 3 judges of the Supreme Court it was upheld – two of out of the Bench of three judges holding that even admissions to minority education institutions governed by Article 30 were required to conform to its provisions – however, it was only in May 2014 that the majority view on this limited point has been over-turned by a unanimous Bench decision of five Judges.[9]


As I said before – initially, when dealing with minority rights, courts in India had invariably conceptualized their role as that of a political party in opposition – until one of the political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP), in the early 1990s characterized the policy of the Congress Party (the ruling party in power at the Centre for more than 40 years) as an “appeasement of the minorities”.  The label stuck; “minority” became and has become an unpopular word. 

And after the same political party had included in its Election Manifesto in the general election of May-June 1991 the party’s resolve if and when it came into power to amend Article 30 to the disadvantage of minorities, ‘minority rights’ got less and less protected by Courts (including the Supreme Court of India) than they were before.

A large number of Judges of the Supreme Court today no longer pay much attention to what the great Chief Justice S. R. Das had said at the end of his judgment in the Kerala Education case. 


Way back in 1836 a lively Anglican priest and social reformer, the Rev. Sydney Smith[10] perceived the dangers of giving political power to the people.  Preaching in St. Paul’s Cathedral he ventured to suggest that:

“It would be an entertaining change in human affairs to determine everything by minorities.  They are almost always in the right.”


But the great democrat, Abraham Lincoln, frowned on such heresy.  In his First Inaugural Address in March 1861 he said that “the rule of a minority as a permanent arrangement is wholly inadmissible; so that rejecting the majority principle, anarchy and despotism in some form is all that is left”

So you see - for as long as people aspire to govern according to majoritarian values in terms of assumptions held by the majority, the minorities must always suffer – anywhere and everywhere.   Even Abraham Lincoln said so.

But with respect, I suggest that neither the view of the lively Anglican priest nor of the great democrat are valid. 


In my humble view there is – there has to be – a middle way.

Some years ago I read an article in the Times of India: an interview with Sulak Sivaraksa of Thailand.  He is a prominent activist and had been persecuted by many dictatorships in Thailand.  He has been forced into exile.  He was asked whether he felt that the major world religions needed to reinvent themselves in order to be more effective in “these troubled times”?  And Sulak Sivaraksa answered that every religion must go back to its original teachings and make itself more relevant today. 


He was then asked why there were great disparities in the way Buddhism was being practised?  And his answer was significant, and for us all -crucial.  This is what he said:

Quote. “I make a distinction between Buddhism with a Capital ‘B’ and buddhism with a small ‘b’.  Sri Lanka has the former, in which the state uses Buddhism as an instrument of power, so there are even Buddhists monks who say the Tamils should be eliminated.  Thai Buddhists are not perfect either.  Some Thai Buddhist monks have compromised and possess cars and other luxuries.  In many Buddhist countries, the emphasis is on being goody-goody, which is not good enough.  I am for buddhism with a small ‘b’ which is non-violent, practical and aims to eliminate the cause of suffering..." Unquote.


If I were to project myself into the mind of the founding fathers and review what they thought were the rights of minorities in the context of freedom of religion, I would lay great emphasis on the fact that whilst most of them started the business of Constitution making, by defining minorities with a big ‘M’, within a few years, they began to accept the fact that, in the vast Indian Union, in the smooth working of the Constitution the minorities had a great future if their sights were lowered – if they chose to accept “minority” with a small ‘m’. 

In 1984, at a conference in New Zealand to which I was invited, I heard its human rights commissioner (Justice John Wallace) say: ‘the minority view is generally right, provided the minority can carry the majority with it.’ His was the voice of mature experience, not of mere human-rights rhetoric.

When we in India discuss the state of our nation, we should never forget the historical context: Minority with a small ‘m’ must be the watchword.  Because minority with a small ‘m’ may help to carry the majority with it – provided always that the majority has the humility and statesmanship also to accept “majority” as a word with a small m.  ‘Majority’ with a small ‘m’ helps to instill a sense of confidence in the minorities.  The possibility of conflict arises only when one or other of these groups stresses the big ‘M’ factor.

Sorry for the bits of plain – speaking this evening.  Ladies and Gentlemen.

But I must tell you Hon’ble Minister that when a delegation of some members of the Commission came over some days ago to invite me to speak I alerted them and told them that they would not like to hear my views; I told them that I was pretty critical in my approach to minority rights.  But they insisted that I come and speak.  This is the reason why parts of this talk may not have gone down well with some of you.  I am sorry but I assure you I did not mean to offend anyone.

In a book written by a distinguished advocate of old Mr. P. B. Vachha, which is a judicial history of the Bombay High Court during the British period, the book had been commissioned by the Judges of the Bombay High Court but then they did not approve of certain passages in the book and asked Vachha to remove them.  He refused.  So a group of us advocates got together and financed the publication privately.  In his Preface Vachha wrote that in writing the history of the Bombay high Court he had adopted the advice given to India’s great historian Ferishta, by Ibrahim Adilshah, when Ferishta migrated from the Nizamshahi Court at Ahmednagar to the Adilshahi Court at Bijapur.  Famous words:

“Write”, said the Monarch, “write without fear or flattery.”

Fear and flattery of the powers that be are the worst enemies of historical truth, and vitiate an opinion at its very source.

I have always been impressed by these brave words.  It is better to be unpopular than to be untruthful.




[1] CFUN Study (E/CN Sub. 2/348 Rev. 1) on the Rights of Persons belonging to Ethnic Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1979) by Francesco Capotorti, Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities – P-13.

[2] In ancient Greece the word “Barbaros” (foreigner) was reserved by the Athenians for their traditional enemies the Persians; after the insular City States of Greece the same word was invoked to denounce Philip of Macedon – though Greek, he was considered outside the cultural pale of Athenian society!

[3] Published in 1996 in French with English translation published in the year 2000.

[4] Vol.-I page 461.

[5] State of Bombay vs. Bombay Education Society AIR 1954 SC 561.

[6] In re Kerala Education Bill 1957.  AIR 1958 S.C. 956.

[7] St. Xavier’s Collage Vs. State of Gujarat.  AIR 1974 S.C. 1389.

[8] Judicial deference to legislative wisdom must not be allowed to undercut the normal democratic processes by legislators to display “prejudice against discrete and insular minorities” – See Chief Justice Stone’s famous footnote in U.S. V. Carolene Products Co. 304 U.S. 4, 152 = 82 L.Ed. 1234 at p-1242.

[9] Pramati Educational and cultural Trust vs. UOI – judgment dated 6.5.2014 – 2014 (7) Scale 306 (para 40).

[10] “The Smith of Smiths” – by Hesketh Pearson, Published by Penguin Books, 1948 at P.248.




C/o. Bishop’s House,   Mirzapur, Ahmedabad – 380 001, Gujarat,   India    Tel: 079 25624105


14th August 2014





At a meeting of the Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights (GUCFHR) held at Bishop’s House, Mirzapur held on Monday 11th August 2014, Bishops, Church Elders and representatives of the Christian Community in Gujarat decided that:


“Special prayers for peace in Iraq & the Middle East will be held in all Churches all over Gujarat on Saturday, 16th & Sunday 17th August 2014”.


The GUCFHR unequivocally condemned the attacks on the Palestinians  in Gaza and also the brutal killings and attacks by the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Syria) on Christians and other minorities in Iraq.


Further, the GUCHFR re-echoed the words and appeals from the World Council of Churches, the Vatican and of His Holiness Pope Francis that, ‘You cannot make war in the name of God’, and have urged the perpetrators to shun these inhuman acts of violence immediately.


The GUCFHR have also called upon all world leaders and all men & women of goodwill to do all they can to ensure lasting peace in these zones of conflict.


Finally, the GUCFHR expressed  sympathy, solidarity and support to all victims of these violent conflicts.


This circular is to be read out at all services in all Churches of Gujarat on August 16th & 17th.2014


Signed on behalf of the GUCFHR

Archbishop S. Fernandes sj (Catholic Archdiocese of Gandhinagar)

Dr. Geevarghese Mar Yulios (Syrian Orthodox Church)

Bishop Silvans Christian (CNI Diocese of Gujarat)

Bishop Thomas Macwan (Catholic Diocese of Ahmedabad)

Members of GUCFHR

The Church of North India (Gujarat Diocese)

Catholic Archdiocese of Gandhinagar

Catholic Diocese of Ahmedabad

Catholic Diocese of Baroda

Catholic Diocese of Rajkot

The Gujarat Regional Conference of the Methodist Church in India 

Salvation Army Indian (Western)

Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Seventh Day Adventist Church (Gujarat Conference)

Syrian Orthodox Church

Christian Missionary Alliance of India (Gujarat Synod)

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

Logo of the indigenous people by Lebang Dewan.gif

2014-08-08 20:12 GMT+05:30 xavier Manjooran <rsss.narmada@gmail.com>:
Dear Adivasi friends and friends of Adivasis,

9th August was declared the international Indigenous people's (Adivasi) day by the United nations in 1994

12 October was celebrated in America as "Columbus Day" to comemmorate the so called "discovery of America" by Columbus. In fact this so called "discovery" had caused great injustice to the original inhabitants of America. They were subjugated, killed and pushed out of their own  land and made slaves. So the indigenous people and those who understood the real situation objected to the celebration of "Columbus day". They started celebrating "Anti columbus Day" which was later (in 1992) termed as "INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S DAY". 


There is a misunderstanding, propagated and spread by some people, either knowingly or unknowingly,  that the logo of the indigenous people (Symbol of Adivasi ) is a LEFT FOOT.. This is unfortunate and unfair. Left foot in Indian cultural understanding is a sign of bad omen (apshukan). Besides according to Manu Smruthi (the scripture which explains  and supports  the caste system  says the 'varnashankar' (now called dalits) were born from the feet of Brahma. thus giving the lowest place to them in the caste hierarchy which also justifies the unjust system of caste discrimination and the untouchability practices. Therefore any . association of adivasis with left foot is to include them in the caste system and consider them the lowest group in the discriminative varna system. Adivasis do not belong to this system at all. 

So even if any body accepts foot as the symbol, the adivasis will not accept it as their symbol. Some people say it was the symbol adopted by UN when it announced 9 August as the international Indigenous day.This was surely not the case. There must be some mix up or wrong understanding  in this matter. If you search all over the net and all the portals you will NOT FIND anywhere even a mention of the LEFT FOOT AS ADIVASI (INDIGENOOUS PEOPLE'S) SYMBOL. So kindly do not mislead people and propagate wrong thing for adivasis. they are noble people, people of nature. .Caste system and hierarchical discriminations were not part of their culture. (Now unfortunately this attitude has got into adivasi communities also- ).Let us not add  "THE FOOT" also and aggrevate the matter and  insult adivasi community. 

I am enclosing the actual and official symbol for adivasis (indigenous people) declared and adapted by UN indigenous peoples forum. In fact the art work was done by Mr. Rebang Dewan, a Chakma boy,  of Bangladesh. Kindly open the attachment and communicate to people and spread the right information and idea about Adivasis and Adivasi day.


with best wishes and in SOLIDARITY,

Xavier Manjooran,SJ

આદિવાસી મિત્રો અને આદિવાસીઓના મિત્રો,

જય આદિવાસી 

૯ મી  ઓગુસ્ત અંતરરાષ્ટ્રીય આદિવાસી દિન તારીખે  સંયુક્ત રાષ્ટ્ર સંઘે ૧૯૯૪ માં જાહેર કર્યું હતું. એટલે આવતીકાલે અખા વિશ્વમાં 'આદિવાસી દિન' ઉજવાય છે. તમે પણ ઉજવાતા હશો. ઉજવણી માટે શુભેચ્છાઓ  અને જય આદિવાસી.

આદિવાસીઓ માટે અને આદિવાસી દિન માટે  અમુક જગ્યાએ અને અમુક લોકો  ડાભા પગનું ચિહ્ન  આદિવાસીના પ્રતિક તરીકે વપરાય છે.  તે ખોટું  છે અને ગેરમાર્ગે દોરનાર છે. ભારતીય સંસ્કૃતિ માં ડાબો પગ એટલે અપશુકન! અને વર્ણવ્યવ્સ્થાને સમજાવતા અને તેનો પ્રચાર કરવા મનુસ્મૃતિમાં એવું લખ્યું છે કે વર્ણશંકર (એટલે કે દલિતો) બ્રહ્માના પગમાંથી જન્મેલા છે.!!! તો આપણે આદિવાસીઓ માટે ડભા પગની નિશાની અપનાવીએ તો શું સમજવાનું? આદિવાસીઓ આ દેશમાટે  અપશુકન ??? તેને દુર કરવા જોઈએ?  અને આદિવાસીઓ વર્ણવ્યવસ્થામાં આવતા નથી છતાં તેમને પણ અંદર ઘાલીને એમને છેલું સ્થાન અને આભડછેદમાં ભાગીદાર બનવવા છે? તેથી કોઈ સંજોગમાં પગની નિશાની અપનાવશો નહિ.

વળી, એવું કહેવામાં આવ્યું છે કે સંયુક્ત રાષ્ટ્ર સંઘે આ પગની નિશાની અપનાવી છે. તે તદ્ધન ખોટું છે અને હકીકત વિરુધ છે. ઈન્ટરનેટ માં તપાસ કરો તો તમને કોઈ જગ્યાએ પગ કે પગની નિશાનીનો ઉલ્લેખ સુદ્ધા જોવા નહિ મળે. કોઈએ ગેર સમજથી કે ખોટી રીતે આ ગેરસમજ ઉભી કરી છે. તેથી મહેરબાની કરીને આદીવ્સીઓને અપમાન થાય એવી નિશાની વાપરશો નહિ.  સાચી નિશાની, જે સંયુક્ત રાષ્ટ્ર સંઘની સત્તાવાર નિશાની (logo) છે તે આ સાથે હું મોકલું છુ. attachment ખોલીને જોઈ લેજો અને વાપરજો.

આશા રાખું છુ કે આવતીકાલના આદિવાસી દિનની ઉજવણીમાં આ સત્તાવાર નિશાનીનો ઉપયોગ કરશો અને લોકોને સમજાવશો.

જય આદિવાસી અને આદિવાસી દિનની ઉજવણી માટે તમામ શુભેચ્છાઓ સાથે વિરમું છું.

ફ. ઝેવિયર  (ઝેવીયરભાઈ) 


-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*


On the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, it is important for all of us to reflect on some qualities of this great man who has left such a profound impact on the world he lived in; today, hundreds of years after his death, his legacy continues in many different ways.  The qualities of Ignatius include: 


·         Contemplation

Ignatius was a contemplative - but not in the ordinary and traditional sense of the word. His contemplation was a deep communion with his Lord and Master: Christ Jesus; but it did not confine him to the four walls of the chapel. His Spiritual Exercises steered one beyond the mere gaze of Christ on the cross: it necessitated that one had to move towards the “more” and ask oneself “what I ought to do for Christ?”  For him, it was always “contemplation in action”.


·         Compassion

This movement towards concrete action had much to do with the tremendous compassion Ignatius had for others in his life.  He was compassionate in all that he did: be it in his heroics for the earthly Queen for whom he was ready to die or later on, for those suffering from the plague in Rome. This compassion also becomes the running streak in the Spiritual Exercises which culminates in the contemplation to obtain the gift of love….and the readiness to give of “one’s all!”


·         Courage

Ignatius was a soldier and on the earthly battle field, he showed exemplary courage despite all odds till a cannon ball maimed him for life.  This is when he showed even greater courage to seek God’s will in his life. It was not easy for a man to give up the comforts of this world and to follow Jesus carrying his cross.  All through his life, he faced plenty of hostility but he did so with great determination. He always took an unflinching and courageous stand for what was right and just.


·         Creative

Ignatius was a creative genius. He did things differently. He thought out-of-the-box and did not conform to the mould of tradition.  The Society he wanted to form had to be based on “availability” rather than to subscribe to the rigidity and rituals of the monastic traditions of his day.  This creativity enabled him and his companions to win the hearts of the men and women of his times across the board - the poorest and the most powerful.


·         Companionship

For Ignatius, his Society had to be named ‘Companions of Jesus’: the ability to accompany one another and others on their pilgrimage, on earth.  Very significantly, he called himself ‘the pilgrim’ – a person always on the move. ‘Companionship’ for Ignatius epitomized what Vatican II would speak about centuries later, “the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men (and women) of our times, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as will.


So, as we celebrate the memory of this great visionary, let us all humbly ask ourselves whether we are able to give ourselves the possibility of imbibing an iota of his sterling qualities – Contemplation, Compassion, Courage, Creativity and Companionship.  Our world will indeed be a happier place if each one of us tries to do so!

31st July, 2014


India ranked 135 out of 187 countries on the human development index in UNDP's annual report 2014 released Thursday.

Human development index is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices to measure the well being of a country.

On the gender inequality index, India ranked 127 out of 152 countries and on the gender development index, it ranked 132 of 148 countries, the report said.

The report added South Asia is the home to the largest number of multi-dimensionally poor people with illiteracy and inadequate healthcare facilities.

"South Asia has the largest number of multi-dimensionally poor people. An estimated 800 million people fall into this category and an additional 270 million are near poor," the report, released in Tokya, said.

The report also said different categories of people in South Asia are at higher risk because of structural factors.

"Poor people are the most at risk, women suffer more than men, and the elderly are at particular risk. The disabled represents the largest category of vulnerable people in the world. 

"People are more at risk if they have limited capabilities; if they have less education, poorer health, less income and if they are personally insecure," the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report said.

In case of India, the report estimated that a comprehensive social protection, including old-age and disability pensions, basic childcare benefits, universal access to essential healthcare, social assistance and 100 days of employment, would cost only four percent of India's gross domestic product (GDP).

The report recommended a number of concrete steps that countries can take to protect the progress they have made and accelerate gains. These include universalising social protection and basic services and ensuring full employment.


Autonomy for St xavier's College Ahmedabad

St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, applied for academic autonomy way back in 1974 for the first time, but the Gujarat University did not issue the necessary NOC, then. Since then, academic autonomy proposal was sent by every Principal of the day to the UGC in 1977, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008 and  2009. Finally, Fr. Vincent Braganza approached the Gujarat High Court, and the HC ordered the Gujarat University and Gujarat Government to issue the NOC. Subsequently we received the necessary NOC from Gujarat University and Gujarat Government.


During my interactions with Jesuit Principals, I was told, “You may have got the NOC, but if your staff members are not ready, you can do nothing about obtaining autonomy”.  Hence I called for a staff meeting in December 2012, and explained the advantages of functioning as an autonomous institution. A good number of faculty was completely opposed to the idea of autonomy. It was indeed a crisis situation. As a follow up, each department was asked to meet separately, and make a list of their objections to autonomy. We chose three faculty who are in favour and three who are completely against autonomy, and were sent to Loyola College and Stella Maris, Chennai. They interacted with various stake-holders, for three days, and returned. On their return, a seminar was organized in January 2013, where all their objections were addressed. Later Fr Ignacimuthu, former Vice-Chancellor of Chennai, was called for a seminar to further clarify their inhibitions.


After due preparation of staff and armed with the necessary NOC, a fresh autonomy proposal was sent to the UGC on September 16, 2013. The UGC appointed a 7 members expert committee to look into our autonomy proposal in November 2013. The UGC Expert team visited St. Xavier’s College on April 16-17, 2014. The UGC expert committee report was placed before the UGC Standing committee on June 3, 2014. The recommendations of the Standing Committee were placed before the Commission at its meeting held on June 13, 2014. The Commission, after taking due consideration of the recommendations of the Standing Committee, agreed to grant autonomous status to St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, and issued a letter dated June 19, 2014, conferring Academic Autonomous Status to St. Xavier’s College.


In an academic autonomy set-up, St. Xavier’s College has the freedom, now, to design syllabus at a higher level, design tailor-made courses to suit our students’ caliber, introduce new courses, better way of evaluation, etc. With the academic autonomy, St. Xavier’s College will have its own board of studies, academic council and Governing Body which will ensure better teaching and evaluation methods. In each of these committees, there will be representation from Gujarat University, Gujarat government, industry, alumni and subject experts. Under the academic autonomy, St. Xavier’s College will conduct its own examinations. Once the three year degree programme is concluded, it will send the list of students to Gujarat University, and the university will confer degree to those students. Basically, the academic autonomy provides enormous scope to improve the academic standard to match with global standards in education.


With obtaining autonomy, we have taken the first step, and plenty more is left before we begin to function as an autonomous institution.



Interview with the Theologian and Basque writer, José Antonio Pagola, author of "JESUS: an Historical Approximation" (Convivium Press)









Seven years after the publication of his book, and after coping with not a few difficulties, "JESUS: an Historical Approximation" (PPC for the Spanish Edition and Convivium Press for the English Edition) continues to harvest successes, the latest: The Prize for Editorial Excellence 2014 awarded annually by the Association of Catholic Publishers (ACP) of the U.S.A. given to Convivium Press` Edition.


If something moves José Antonio Pagola deeply (Guipuzcoa, 1937), it is the many hundreds of letters he receives from people who tell him that thanks to his book, the encounter with Jesus has changed their lives.




QUESTIONIs this also a fulfillment of the saying “no one is a prophet in his own land”? What does this recognition you have just received for your book JESUS by the Association of Catholic Publishers of the United States imply?


ANSWER: I don’t think so. First of all, because I am not a prophet, and secondly, because my book has been very well received by all of us, specially by ordinary folk.


This last recognition fills me with joy because it will help spread the Good News of Jesus in places like Australia, Canada, India... at least that is what I am told. I am also happy for Convivium Press; for although it is a modest publishing house, in a little more than three years it has completed the fifth edition of my book in a market as complex as that of the U.S.


Q. How are you coping with the success of a work already translated into a dozen languages with more than 120.000 copies sold in the whole world?


A: Look. I am a son of my mother. I know who I am. What you call “success” gives me a lot of joy and urges me to continue working, but that’s as far as it goes. What moves me deeply are the hundreds and hundreds of letters I keep receiving from all over, specially from Latin America, from people who tell me how they have had an experience of Jesus and how Jesus has transformed their lives, following upon many years of indifference, agnosticism and even of militant atheism.


For example, I have received the witness of someone who had attempted suicide and now keeps spreading the Gospel; prostitutes who, after a day’s work wash up and tell Jesus they only keep doing their job to be able to  feed their children; the terminally sick who have died embracing the book thank me through their widows.


The day before yesterday I received a letter from an atheist who tells me that, surely, he will not abandon his atheism, but he weeps every time he reads the chapter on the crucifixion and ponders the mystery hidden in Jesus: he confesses that Jesus makes him more human and more compassionate.


Q. Apart from the publishing phenomenon the book has become, to what do you attribute the great success your book has had and its impact on its readers?


A: To Jesus. His power of attraction is incredible. At times we Christians do not suspect the humanizing and liberating power he has when presented in a fresh, authentic manner with simplicity. Jesus frees us from mediocre and hardly human images of God; he draws us to live like Him making life more humane; he fills our life with unmistakable joy and peace.


It’s thrilling to follow him closely. The crisis of Christian religions will not drag Jesus along. Freed from hardly Christian accretions, the figure of Jesus will flourish.  Jesus alone will save the Christian faith. This is the deep feeling I have.


Q. Does the whole attraction of Jesus of Nazareth lie in the person you describe? How much responsibility too does the approximation the author makes have?


A: It’s most important the author not spoil his figure too much. When writing the book, I spent many hours in silence conversing with Jesus. At times, as a historian, I asked him: “Who are you, who has left in your trail so many questions and conflicts?  What is the mystery you draw a veil over to provoke such love and such rejection.“


At other times, I have told him quite simply: “Jesus, and now what can I tell people in these times about you? What is most important? Teach me to find the best words, clear and simple, to touch the hearts of men and women today, so much in need of encouragement and hope.”


Q. Seven years have passed since the book was first published. How much has this good news now helped heal the awful times of suspicion and censure you underwent some time back?


A: Even though no one will believe me, I hardly remember anything of what happened. It’s so surprising and strange. Surely, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I’m not carrying any wounds. It’s good occasionally to suffer a little for Jesus. It identifies you with him forever.


Q. What has this book (this “son”) given you that the others have not?


A: This book has made me more of a believer. I am no longer what I was when I began to write this book twelve years ago. All my life is focused totally on Jesus. I only want to dedicate myself to spreading the Good News like a contagion. I am convinced that only Jesus will save his Church.




Narendra Modi, India’s new leader,

wants to take out the trash


By Rama Lakshmi,

Washington Post, June 11, 2014


India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to wipe out chronic corruption and give India a squeaky-clean government during the two months of election campaign this year. But what surprised many Indians is that Modi wants to clean up India in more ways than one.


He wants to literally make Indian cities trash-free.

"Let us create a clean India and place it at the feet of Mahatma Gandhi as a gift for him in 2019," Modi said in parliament on Wednesday, referring to the proposed celebrations for the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the independence movement and the father of the nation.

Modi is the first prime minister to speak about Indians' chronic habits of littering and spitting. And he hasn't done it just once, but again and again and again.

In his very first speech after the spectacular election victory last month, Modi said his vision for a clean India must begin in the ancient Hindu holy city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges River.

"Cleaning our surroundings is also a way of serving Mother India," Modi said.

One of the proposed plans of Modi government is to make throwing trash and spitting into the Ganges river a punishable offense, media reports said this week.

That is easier said than done in a country where garbage is both a behavioral and municipal problem. Indians live uncomplainingly alongside heaps of uncollected smelly, fly-infested garbage strewn on the streets, neighborhoods, playgrounds, hospitals, railway stations, temples and river banks. Many Indians routinely toss out plastic wrappers, empty cigarette packs or cans from their car windows without a care for how their cities look. Storm water drains in the cities are choked with trash.

But Modi will have none of it.

And his message appears to be trickling down to his colleagues too. The ministers in his government are ordering the clean-up of the filthy corridors of government departments.

"The broom is out: Government offices on clean-up drive" was the title of an article in the Business Standard this week.

"The problem of garbage in India is so big that it requires nothing less than the political will at the top level, otherwise it is impossible to create civic awareness because Indians are just too numbed by it," said Robinder Sachdev, who leads a people's campaign called Come, Clean India. "It is music to my ears every time I hear our new Prime Minister speak about cleaning India. If a popular leader like him makes it his priority, it is very likely that hundreds of millions of his followers will take it up across India."

In 2009, former environment minister Jairam Ramesh said Indian cities are the dirtiest in the world: "If there is a Nobel prize for dirt and filth, India will win it, no doubt," he said.

Indians reacted to his statement with shock. But then, they went back to littering-as-usual.

Rama Lakshmi has been with The Washington Post’s India bureau since April 1990. A museum studies graduate, she has worked with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Missouri History Museum.

Reflections on Leadership in the Church
Joseph Mattam, S J
“Surely it is high time, and surely it would be to everyone’s advantage to ‘shake off the dust of the Empire that has gathered since Constantine’s day on the throne of St. Peter’” (Congar 1964: 127). These words spoken by the great John XXIII will continue to challenge the Church leaders as long as they do not give up the ways of the Empire. 
Jesus had left no ambiguity about the nature and function of the leaders of his community. On no other area was Jesus clearer than on this. He spoke of it many times, even at the Last Supper, according to John and Luke. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve… (Matt 20. 24-28. See Lk 22. 24-27; Jn 13.1-20; Matt 23.8-12).  We may not easily evade the impact of John 13, where Jesus, Master and God, washes the feet of his disciples. The “foot-washing” is to be the norm for the leaders of the disciples of Jesus.
Jesus’ understanding of leadership was a consequence of the new outlook that he brought into the world: a new way of looking at and relating to people. His table fellowship was a way of telling us not to look at people on the basis of their possession, position, action, group, gender or appearance. He saw everyone from God’s point of view and therefore saw everyone as brothers/sisters, not as high/low, pure/ impure. He envisaged a community of equals as brothers/sisters.
The leaders in the Church have failed Jesus totally. For, from around the 4th century the leaders took on the ways of the empire and those who were to be servants of the community began to be called and lived as Lords, Eminences, Excellencies, Holiness, etc. It is only too shameful to think of the position, the titles, the dress, the way of life of the leaders of the Disciples of Christ, the foot-washing God. With the conversion of Constantine, and other emperors, the practices of the empire passed into the Church. One cannot exaggerate the evils that have entered the Church through the policies of the Emperor and of the empire. The Church leaders blindly followed the pattern of the empire. Thanks to the myth of the Donation of Constantine of honouring the pope with the emperor's honours and all the adornments of an Emperor, the diadem, the phrygium, the shoulder scarf, the purple cloak, the red tunic, the sceptre, pallium, and the stola, (the insignia of high officials), were taken over by the Church leaders. The crozier came in Visigothic Spain in the 7th century; the Episcopal ring, the tiara, the red cloak and the red shoes, were introduced as early as the 8th century in Spain and Gaul. Titles like Dominus (Lord), “Dom so and so”, and “my Lord Bishop” all came from the Empire system. Eminence and Excellency came from the Byzantine court. Under Constantine and after his time, the bishops were given privileges and honours; they were ranked in the Order of the illustri and took their place in the hierarchy of the State.
          The vocabulary in the Church was influenced by the court: the gospel became a “law”; God is the supreme emperor of the world, and the angels his ministers, Peter and Paul are the princes or senatores mundi - high dignitaries - of the world (Congar: 117).    Though claiming to have authority from the Gospels, it was in fact the feudal authority that justified the use of the titles and insignia and the whole system, and the day to day administration of the Church on feudal lines. The struggle between popes and secular princes leads to the understanding of the Church in an extremely juridical way, in terms of authority and powers. With Roland Bandinelli (Pope Alexander III -1159-1181), “canon law was firmly established on the pontifical throne.” (Congar : 104).  In the context of the pope’s struggle against Henry IV, Gregory VII said: “ecclesia non est ancilla, sed domina - the Church is not a servant but a mistress” (Congar: 105), while possibly justifiable in the context, we know the harm it is doing.
          Such a total deviation from the Gospels led a normally gentle St. Bernard to write to his former subordinate Eugenius III (pope from 1145 to 1153): “When the pope, clad in silk, covered with gold and jewels, rides out on his white horse, escorted by soldiers and servants, he looks more like Constantine’s successor than St Peter’s”, and about the bishops he said, that they “looked like young brides on their wedding-day” (Congar 1964: 125).
          Nowhere is a servant called “Reverend, Lord, Eminence, Excellency, Holiness”, except as a joke or an insult. There is nothing to commend the present practice: the special dress, (I am not referring to a simple cassock), the funny hat, the red cap, the rings, the staff, etc., and above all, the titles.  Hence all these require a drastic revision and discarding. There is no harm at all in dropping all these, especially the titles like Reverend, Lord and Eminence - these have to go - they have no right to exist in the Church of the poor Galilean. The reluctance on the part of the hierarchy to give up these ‘pagan’ customs and to become ‘brothers’ to one another is very baffling, to say the least. I hope, one of the things that would happen in the new millennium is that all the Church authorities, beginning with the bishop of Rome, would revert to Jesus’ understanding of authority and its ways of exercising and expressing it. Jesus could be challenged even by a non Jewish woman, but our present leaders may not be questioned; they are not answerable. Leadership in the Church is for service as friends, and all the gospels show in clear terms that Jesus’ life was one of service and if anyone wishes to follow him, s/he will have to be a servant of all. Obviously the term ‘service’ is used in the Church, and some of them even have the audacity to call themselves ‘servants’ but that is service of un-equals and of the high and low. Jesus meant service as friends, as equals, though with different functions (Jn 13).
          A few years ago in a seminar about priestly formation I conducted for the Bishops and seminary formation personnel of MP, after explaining what Jesus wanted, I asked them what prevented the bishops taking a decision for the new Millennium that they would not be called Eminences, Graces, Lords, but simply “brother so and so”? They all agreed that there was nothing to prevent them from doing it, but who will bell the cat? Who wants to give up privileges? I further added: we speak to theology students and seminarians about priesthood as service, not as prestige and power. Unfortunately, their eyes do not seem to be focused on the foot-washing Lord Jesus, but on the ‘Lords’ they now serve and obey and are waiting to become like them, the moment they are ordained. Hence, if a radical change in the understanding of the priesthood is to be effected in the Church, at least in this matter a change from the top is necessary. All Christians belong to “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pet. 2.9);  the leaders in this community have to represent Jesus who chose to be a servant, have to reveal Jesus as he revealed the Father in his attitudes, choices, compassion and whole life. It is agreed by all that the best way to lead is by example: “Set the Example and the tone”. Leading by example is a moral obligation. The leaders’ behavior is the real performance standard that team members will follow. Hence if we have to give a new ideal (which in fact is the oldest ideal from the NT) to our candidates for the priesthood, it is imperative that the present leaders (Bishops and priests) set the proper example, the desired tone and attitude.
          Only when the Church becomes what Jesus had envisaged it to be, namely, a servant Church, a Church of the poor, the leaders becoming truly servants and ceasing to be Lords, etc., then the Church regains its authority to speak for God and in God’s name. It is true that Vatican II spoke of the Church as a people of God, but we all know how it has been effectively negated in the Church since Vatican II. That concept has been buried and the presumed hierarchical nature gained predominance.
          Jesus was often asked by whose authority he was doing what he was doing and he referred to his Father (Mk 11.27-33). There was a time in the Church when people were not familiar with the Bible, (even the New Testament), as it was in languages which ordinary people did not understand. But now that is not the case; people read the Bible, especially the New Testament. They now know what Jesus wanted from the leaders in his Church; now they may no more ignore the teaching of Jesus. Could we ask our present leaders to explain to us on whose authority are they carrying on with these titles, and their life style?  Is it wrong for the community to ask its leaders to justify their practices on the basis of the New Testament? I have quoted above the texts that I see as coming from Jesus, telling us what we may expect from our leaders.  Since we do not get what we may rightly expect on the basis of the NT, may we not ask them if they have any other source of authority than the New Testament, and if they have, will they tell us that, so that we can follow them in good faith?
          When our bishops and other leaders accept that we all make mistakes and are ready to own them up, abandoning all false claims, and return to Jesus’ ways they become more credible, the Church will become more humane, more like what Jesus wanted his community to be. The Church has to accept that it erred grievously when it followed the way of the empire instead of that of Jesus. Everybody knows that mistakes have been made in the past and will be made in the future - there is nothing strange in accepting them, and repenting of them, and starting anew. It is much more authentic and credible when the leaders of the Church accept themselves as fallible, which in fact they are, yet trying to follow the path of Jesus, in spite of all their failures. The fact that false claims have been made and defended over the centuries is no reason for carrying on with them. It is never too late to revert to the Gospels and Jesus’ teachings, especially on leadership in the Church and all become brothers/sisters.
          Fortunately, Pope Francis gives us hope. “This Pope gives me hope” is one of the stickers that is being sold. I am very grateful that he is beginning to lead the Church back to what Jesus wanted, both by his teachings and example. In Evangelii Gaudium he says: “when we speak of sacramental power we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness...our dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. ...In the Church, functions do not favour the superiority of some vis-a-vis the others. Indeed, a woman, Mary is more important than the bishops” (no. 104). His life too challenges us.
Congar, Yves (1964): Power and Poverty in the Church, Baltimore


A Prayer for General Elections 2014

-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*


Loving God,

We praise you and thank you

for your presence in our midst.


We are about to begin the General Elections in our country.

We humbly ask you

to accompany us, to guide us

in our discernment and to give us the courage to vote wisely.


We pray, that as we exercise our franchise,

we have before us the face of the many millions

of our sisters and brothers

who are poor, marginalized, vulnerable, who live on the fringes of society.


We pray, that the vote we cast

will truly be

a democratic process

which will help in the betterment

of the values enshrined in our Constitution:

of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity for all Indians.


Give us the conscience and the courage to vote

for that individual and party that is not steeped

in sectarianism, divisiveness and hatred

or with short-term goals

like economic benefits for just a few rich.


Give us above all a heart

to be able to sift

the reality from the myth,

the truth from the untruth,

the light from darkness


We also pray, Lord

for all those who

are involved in organizing the election process

and for all the candidates


May these elections be violence-free

and when the results are declared,

we pray that we have representatives who are

secular, honest, just and responsible -

deserving of the greatness and diversity

of our motherland


We pray to you, O Lord!

4th April, 2014


Maryland, New England and New York

Provinces of the Society of Jesus


Fraternal Conversation with the Local Superior





While concerned to emphasize the universality of our mission and union as Jesuits, the delegates to General Congregation Thirty-Five recognized that the efficacy of our mission and the strength of our union depend on the health of our local apostolic and community life.


The delegates were concerned that various factors, among them advances in electronic communication, the increasing number of multi-apostolic communities, and the disappearance of the minister from most of our communities, were eroding the proper relationship between Jesuits and their local superiors.


In order to strengthen the relationship of Jesuits with their local superiors, the Congregation wanted to remind the Society of the necessity for regular fraternal conversation between the local superior and the Jesuits in his community, both those in formation and those who are professed.


The purpose of regular fraternal conversation is to enhance our effectiveness on mission and to foster our spiritual growth.  For that reason, the topics that could be covered would include:



Transitions in our work and in our lives

Relationships with our superiors and supervisors

Community life

Spiritual life

The life of the vows

Physical and psychological health


Family and friends


Because regular fraternal conversation is essential to the local superior’s exercise of cura personalis for his brothers in community, neither informal contact with the local superior nor the annual manifestation of conscience to the provincial can adequately substitute for it.  








Part One: The Background in General Congregation Thirty-Five


The Challenge Perceived by the General Congregation:


“Obedience in the Society is grounded in the desire to be sent effectively, to serve completely, and to create ever stronger bonds of union among ourselves.”[1]  Our mission is universal and our union is with the whole body of the Society, but they only come alive in local circumstances.  The efficacy of our service and the strength of our union depend on the health of our Jesuit life and relationships on the local level.


During discussions on obedience at the start of the Thirty-Fifth General Congregation, delegates from every part of the Society expressed concern that contemporary circumstances were eroding the relationship between Jesuits and their local superiors to the detriment of our apostolic effectiveness and the vibrancy of our community life.  The delegates singled out three areas of concern: new modes of communication, multi-apostolic communities, and changes in the organization of community life.   


Contemporary modes of electronic communication make consultation between a Jesuit and his provincial superior much easier.  Today, no one is farther than an almost instantaneous electronic message away.  As a result, without ill will on anyone’s part, the local superior can be excluded from consultation when important decisions about a Jesuit’s life are being made. 


When the majority of our communities were linked with one or two works, a Jesuit and his superior almost always interacted in both apostolic and community spheres.  Indeed, a Jesuit’s local superior was frequently the director of the work to which he was assigned.  Now, most communities include Jesuits engaged in a broad spectrum of works.  Few Jesuits work side by side with their local superior or under his direction, so it is not likely that a superior shares the day to day apostolic experience of the Jesuits he serves or has opportunities to appreciate firsthand the circumstances in which they labor. 


Finally, the disappearance of an assigned minister from all but our largest communities has thrust responsibility for day to day operations and crisis management onto the local superior.  When this happens, it is easy for him to get caught up in time-consuming and urgent practical matters with negative repercussions on other priorities such as supporting each Jesuit in his life and mission and animating the community’s spiritual life and corporate witness.



One Aspect of the General Congregation’s Response:


Emphasizing the need for fraternal dialogue between Jesuits and their local superiors is one aspect of General Congregation Thirty-Five’s response to these circumstances.  “Jesuits bear the responsibility to reveal themselves completely to their superiors; superiors bear the responsibility to hear their brothers attentively and to dialogue with them honestly.”[2]  Fraternal dialogue helps strengthen the bonds that make our apostolic lives effective and our community life vibrant. 


The account of conscience is one form fraternal dialogue can take.  The words of General Congregation Thirty-Two capture the attitude of General Congregation Thirty-Five: 


The more the account of conscience is genuinely practiced, the more authentic will our discernment be of God’s purpose in our regard and the more perfect the union of minds and hearts from which our apostolate derives its dynamism.  A community from which sincerity and openness in mutual relationships are absent soon becomes immobilized in purely formal structures which no longer respond to the needs and aspirations of the men of our time, or else it disintegrates altogether.[3] 


However, General Congregation Thirty-Five goes beyond extolling the value of the account of conscience and emphasizing the need to practice it where obligation to do so exists: with the provincial for all and with the local superior for those who have not made final profession.[4]  General Congregation Thirty-Five also encourages Jesuits who have no obligation to give an account of conscience to their local superior to initiate regular fraternal conversation about their life and mission with him and to respond positively to his request to engage in such conversation.[5]



Part Two: Effective Regular Fraternal Conversation


The Purpose and Themes of Fraternal Conversation:


What should we talk about in these regular fraternal conversations with our local superior?  The answer can be found in what the Constitutions say about the purpose of the account of conscience. We reveal ourselves to our superiors to be more effective in our mission and to foster our spiritual growth.[6]  What the Constitutions say about the account of conscience applies equally to various forms of fraternal dialogue: regular fraternal conversation with our local superior, community meetings, faith sharing groups, and spiritual conversation with brother Jesuits.  We reveal ourselves to our brothers in ways suitable to the specific relationship and the particular venue because appropriate self-revelation supports and challenges us in our ministry and spiritual lives. 


In this light, we can say anything that has an impact on our mission or spiritual growth is an appropriate theme for regular fraternal conversations between Jesuits and their local superiors.  Some likely themes are our current experience of ministry, relationships with our superiors and supervisors, life in community, our spiritual life, our experience of living the vows, health and recreation, family and friends, and transitions.


Preparation for Fraternal Conversation:


Prayerful reflection on experience is a revered part of our Jesuit tradition.  The examen is the primary example of this.  Perhaps one way to prepare for fraternal conversation with a local superior is to engage in prayerful reflection on the themes suggested above.


Ministry: Is my primary ministry fulfilling?  Am I giving it the time and energy I should?  Am I overworking?  What could I and my colleagues in my primary ministry do to make our ministry more effective?  Am I engaged in any ministry other than my primary ministry?  Am I comfortable balancing its demands with the demands of my primary ministry?


Transitions:  (Can I see myself working in a part of the reconfigured East Coast province that lies outside my home province - not applicable to us)  Do I see any indicators it is time to move on to another primary ministry or to another community?  Would I be ready to move if asked?  If not, why not?  If I am fifty or older, have I recently reflected on the contents of A Jesuit Approach to Aging?  Am I planning for the future as the document asks?


Superiors and Supervisors:  Is my relationship with the provincial open and honest?  Am I frank and cooperative in my dealings with the director and other supervisors in the work I am assigned to?  Do I have positive, constructive relationships with my Jesuit and lay companions in the work?


Community:  Am I at home here?  Do our community structures help or hinder my work and spiritual life?  Do I contribute to our common life?  How could we improve our life together?  Do I have close Jesuit friends outside the community?  Am I doing what is necessary to foster and deepen these friendships? 


Spiritual Life:  How do I pray?  How frequently do I celebrate Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation?  Do I have a spiritual director?  How often do we meet?  Are our conversations helpful to me?  Am I involved in a faith sharing group with brother Jesuits?  Does it nourish my spiritual life?  Did I make my annual retreat this year?  Was the format suitable for me?   


Vows:  Do I care about the poor?  Am I responsible and self-sacrificing in my use of material possessions?  Have I amassed credit card debt or personal savings?  Is fidelity to celibacy making me a more loving, generous man?  Do I take initiative in the apostolate?  Am I collaborative?  Am I open to criticism and direction?  Am I flexible?  Do I find myself being excessively or bitterly critical of leaders in the Church and the Society?


Health:  Do I get sufficient exercise?  Am I careful of my weight?  Do I practice moderation in my use of alcohol?  If I smoke, have I done anything about breaking the habit?  Do I visit my doctor, dentist, and ophthalmologist regularly?  If I am seeing a counselor, do I have clear goals for the counseling relationship?  Are these goals being met?  When do I think termination might be called for?


Recreation:  Do I take a sabbatical day every week?  Are the forms of entertainment and vacation I favor compatible with religious poverty?  Do I use the Internet, television and other forms of passive entertainment moderately?  Is Internet pornography an issue for me?  Am I careful to maintain appropriate boundaries in interactions on the Internet?  If I have a blog or personal page, am I careful only to post pictures and entries that are compatible with my vowed commitment?


Family and Friends:  Do I have close peer relationships outside the Society?  Am I in close communication with my family and friends?  Are there tensions in our relationships?  Are my family and friends doing well or are there situations among them that trouble or concern me?


These reflection questions are not meant to be a check list, nor are they meant to be exhaustive.  When we make the Exercises, we are asked to reflect most intently on the areas where we experience the greatest consolation and the greatest desolation.  We should do that in our regular fraternal conversations with our local superior as well.  There may be very little to say about community life, but I may be deeply concerned about approaching transitions.  My work may be satisfying, but I may be experiencing difficulty in living celibacy.  I may not have any serious health issues, but the impending divorce of a brother or sister may be weighing on me. 


The examples offered in the last paragraph can be misleading.  We should keep in mind that consolations are as significant as desolations.  It is important not just to share areas of disappointment or concern in regular fraternal conversation with our local superior but to share what is going well for us too.




Our communities are growing smaller.  In view of this, some of us may wonder whether regular fraternal conversation with our local superior is really necessary.  After all, we may sit at the dinner table with him more often than not.  We may watch a televised program or sports event together a couple of times a week.   Isn’t the closer informal contact some of us now have with our superiors enough? 


Close informal contact with our local superiors is all to the good.  Writing of the openness and trust frank self-revelation to our superiors requires, General Congregation Thirty-Five says, “This degree of transparency is possible because our superiors are also our companions.”[7]  The small social interactions that enhance our sense of companionship with our local superiors are helpful, but they are not enough.  Indeed, they can sometimes obscure the fact that our transparency about what is most significant in our lives has not reached appropriate depth.  Regular fraternal conversation asks us to strive for the depth our life and mission require.


Some will read this and think, “This all makes sense. I have been doing it my whole Jesuit life.” Others may read this and think, “Isn’t this uncalled for and even intrusive? I make my annual manifestation to the provincial. Surely nothing more is necessary.”  If that is our response, we might hear General Congregation Thirty-Five’s call to engage in regular fraternal conversation with our local superior as an invitation to resist the tendency toward self-sufficiency and individualism the General Congregation is so concerned to warn us against.[8]





One of the hallmarks of our Jesuit tradition is cura personalis.  Personalized care for the individuals we serve is essential to our Jesuit way of making the Gospel come alive in all our ministries.  Cura personalis is equally essential to making the Gospel come alive in our communities.  Jesuit community works when we care for each other personally as brother to brother, superior to brother or brother to superior.  That is why General Congregation Thirty-Five insists on the importance of regular fraternal conversation with our local superior.  It is one of the ways the exercise of cura personalis becomes real in our community life. 







[1] General Congregation 35, Decree 4, Obedience in the Life of the Society of Jesus, 110.  Jesuit Life and Mission Today (St. Louis, Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009), p. 761.

[2] General Congregation 35, Decree 4, Obedience in the Life of the Society of Jesus, 112, Jesuit Life and Mission Today (St. Louis, Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009), p. 761.  

[3] General Congregation 32, Decree 11, Union of Minds and Hearts, 232, Jesuit Life and Mission Today (St. Louis, Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009), p.347.

[4] General Congregation 35, Decree 4, Obedience in the Life of the Society of Jesus, 130 and 138, Jesuit Life and Mission Today (St. Louis, Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009), pp. 765-67.  

[5] General Congregation 35, Decree 4, Obedience in the Life of the Society of Jesus, 130, Jesuit Life and Mission Today (St. Louis, Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009), pp. 765-66.  

[6] General Examen, Chapter 4, 92 and Constitutions, Part VI, [551], The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their Complementary Norms (St. Louis, Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996), pp. 43 and 222.

[7] General Congregation 35, Decree 4, Obedience in the Life of the Society of Jesus, 112, Jesuit Life and Mission Today (St. Louis, Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009), p. 761.  

[8] General Congregation 35, Decree 4, Obedience in the Life of the Society of Jesus, 105, Jesuit Life and Mission Today (St. Louis, Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009), p. 760.  


Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter

[Sunday, 1 June 2014]


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we are living in a world which is growing ever “smaller” and where, as a result, it would seem to be easier for all of us to be neighbours.  Developments in travel and communications technology are bringing us closer together and making us more connected, even as globalization makes us increasingly interdependent.  Nonetheless, divisions, which are sometimes quite deep, continue to exist within our human family.  On the global level we see a scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor.  Often we need only walk the streets of a city to see the contrast between people living on the street and the brilliant lights of the store windows.  We have become so accustomed to these things that they no longer unsettle us.  Our world suffers from many forms of exclusion, marginalization and poverty, to say nothing of conflicts born of a combination of economic, political, ideological, and, sadly, even religious motives.

In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all.  Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity.  The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another.  We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect.  A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive.  Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances.  The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.  This is something truly good, a gift from God.

This is not to say that certain problems do not exist.  The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression.  The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.  The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings.  The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us.  We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind.

While these drawbacks are real, they do not justify rejecting social media; rather, they remind us that communication is ultimately a human rather than technological achievement.  What is it, then, that helps us, in the digital environment, to grow in humanity and mutual understanding?  We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm.  This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen.  We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us.  People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted.  If we are genuinely attentive in listening to others, we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience as manifested in different cultures and traditions.  We will also learn to appreciate more fully the important values inspired by Christianity, such as the vision of the human person, the nature of marriage and the family, the proper distinction between the religious and political spheres, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, and many others.

How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter?  What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter others in the light of the Gospel?  In spite of our own limitations and sinfulness, how do we draw truly close to one another?  These questions are summed up in what a scribe – a communicator – once asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbour?” (Lk 10:29).  This question can help us to see communication in terms of “neighbourliness”.  We might paraphrase the question in this way: How can we be “neighbourly” in our use of the communications media and in the new environment created by digital technology?  I find an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is also a parable about communication.  Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbours.  The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead on the side of the road; he takes responsibility for him.  Jesus shifts our understanding: it is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other.  Communication is really about realizing that we are all human beings, children of God.  I like seeing this power of communication as “neighbourliness”.

Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable, who was beaten by robbers and left abandoned on the road.  The Levite and the priest do not regard him as a neighbour, but as a stranger to be kept at a distance.  In those days, it was rules of ritual purity which conditioned their response.  Nowadays there is a danger that certain media so condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbour.

It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters.  We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves.  We need to love and to be loved.  We need tenderness.  Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication.  The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness.  The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people.  The impartiality of media is merely an appearance; only those who go out of themselves in their communication can become a true point of reference for others.  Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator.  Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence.

As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first.  Those “streets” are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively.  The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope.  By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone.  We are called to show that the Church is the home of all.  Are we capable of communicating the image of such a Church?  Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ.  In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts. 

Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others “by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence” (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 47th World Communications Day, 2013).  We need but recall the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus.  We have to be able to dialogue with the men and women of today, to understand their expectations, doubts and hopes, and to bring them the Gospel, Jesus Christ himself, God incarnate, who died and rose to free us from sin and death.  We are challenged to be people of depth, attentive to what is happening around us and spiritually alert.  To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective.  Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.

May the image of the Good Samaritan who tended to the wounds of the injured man by pouring oil and wine over them be our inspiration.  Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts.  May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful “neighbours” to those wounded and left on the side of the road.  Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.  The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ.  She needs to be a Church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way.  The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2014, the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales.



What was the first Christmas like?

Nicholas King SJ


Can we ever really know what happened in Bethlehem at the first Christmas?  Nicholas King SJ suggests that while they may not provide a historical account of the birth of Christ, the gospel narratives still ultimately convey the meaning of the event that we celebrate on 25th December. What are Matthew and Luke telling us about God in the Nativity stories with which we are so familiar?

As Christmas approaches, it is not surprising, and not at all a bad thing, that Christians long to imagine what the first Christmas was like. Indeed, in the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius Loyola suggests a very charming contemplation of the Nativity, inviting the retreatant to imagine themselves as ‘a poor and unworthy little servant’, who will see to all the Holy Family’s needs. St Francis of Assisi likewise encouraged the faithful to contemplate the crib at Christmas; and it was he, apparently, who added to the Nativity scene the ‘ox and ass’ that he had discovered in Isaiah 1:3, where the prophet is unfavourably comparing Israel’s relationship to God with that of dumb animals to their owners (the animals recognise that God is Lord, Israel doesn’t). Or if you find yourself visualising camels looking down their supercilious noses at the Christ-child, that is because generations of Christians have meditated on Isaiah 61:6 by way of filling out the details of Matthew’s story of the Magi.

So there is nothing at all wrong with imagining the scene of Jesus’s birth, and paying prayerful attention to what it might have been like. Indeed, I should warmly encourage you to do so, to encounter the mystery towards which our Advent is journeying; and if you find yourself using the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to set the mood, then you will be doing just what Christians, including the evangelists, have done before you at this time of year. But just don’t think that means you know precisely what happened at midnight on December 25th in the year 0.

But what, you clamour restively, can we actually know about the circumstances of Jesus’s birth? Not a great deal, I have to admit. Luke and Matthew are each pursuing their own theological agenda, telling the gospel story to their contemporaries as they know best; and it is almost impossible to reconcile their two narratives.

For Matthew, Jesus is the culmination and high point of God’s dealing with Israel, which starts with the promise to Abraham, reaches an apparent fulfilment in the rule of David and his son Solomon, then plunges into the total disaster of the Exile in Babylon; and finally, Matthew suggests, the relationship between the People of God and the One who brought them out of Egypt reaches the point at which it has been aiming in the birth of Jesus, ‘the one called “Messiah”’. Now Matthew’s readers will not have needed to decode the text, they will instantly have picked it up. We on the other hand cannot read the runes, and foolishly regard the genealogy with which Matthew commences his gospel as ‘the most boring bit of the entire New Testament’. The result is that when this text is appointed to be read on December 17th each year, there are priests who blench in horror and pretend that the day is December 16th or 18th, so as to avoid having to give a homily on the unrelenting list of ‘begats’. But from ‘Abraham begat Isaac’, right down to ‘Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, from whom was born Jesus, called the Messiah’, Matthew is outlining the unstoppable plan of God. And there is more, for into the list he has introduced four women. They are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. To find out more about them, I suggest that you read their stories in, respectively: Genesis 38:6-30; Joshua 2:1-24 and 6:22-25; the whole of the Book of Ruth (it is only four chapters); and, of course, the robust story of King David’s misbehaviour in 2 Samuel 11-12. What is Matthew saying when he mentions these ladies? All of them had some kind of domestic irregularity: Tamar pretended to be a prostitute; Rahab actually was a member of that ancient profession; Ruth is a very impressive lady, but chapter 4 of the book named after her has some mysterious hanky-panky going on late at night with Boaz which eventually leads to her becoming the great-grandmother of King David; and the wife of Uriah the Hittite behaved in a less than admirable way with David, while her husband was away on campaign (which resulted in Uriah’s murder). So it may be that Matthew is telling us that God can ‘write straight with crooked lines’, as the cliché goes. Or it could be the fact that they, like the Magi, are, or may have been, foreigners: Tamar was a Canaanite, Rahab an inhabitant of Jericho, Ruth a Moabitess, and Bathsheba was married to a Hittite. In that case, Matthew’s interest may have been simply that they were all non-Jews, and at the end of Matthew’s gospel, the eleven disciples are instructed to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’. So Matthew is doing some theology when he writes this genealogy, and our task is to listen out for his message.

That is the case also when the evangelist introduces us to the figure of Joseph, one who dreams, just like that other Joseph, in the book of Genesis, who dreamed and also ended up in Egypt. This Joseph obeys God’s messenger, with the result that Jesus the Messiah is accepted as Joseph’s son (so the genealogy is quite properly his after all); and, because of Joseph’s obedience, Jesus is saved from those in his own nation who sought to kill him.

And then there are Matthew’s Magi. What are they about? They are non-Jews, who get Jesus right from the very beginning, just as the establishment (Herod and his religious experts) gets Jesus wrong from the very beginning, at least in the sense that they regard him as so serious a threat to their status quo that he must be eliminated at all costs. The Magi, by contrast, emerge mysteriously ‘from the East’ to worship ‘the one born King of the Jews’, and load him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, while Herod’s expressed desire to ‘worship the dear little child’ is really cover for his intention to assassinate it. The upshot of all this is that the child and his obedient father have to flee to, of all places, Egypt – a place that Israel was more accustomed to fleeing from!

But, you ask, did it all happen like this? We cannot know, I am afraid. We can see why Matthew included the story, and what he was saying when he did so. That does not mean that it did not happen; but nor, I am afraid, does it mean that it all took place precisely as described, so that all we have to do is get the right combination of planets or constellations to explain the star, and we can date it all to within a few minutes. It is not like that, nor ought it to be. Our task is to read the story as Matthew intends us to read it, and marvel at this triumph of God’s dealings with his people.

What about Luke? Luke’s tone is quite different from Matthew’s. Luke is a great artist, and it is no accident that his stories and parables have given rise to more paintings than those of any other author in the Old or New Testament. Luke offers, as a colleague of mine is fond of pointing out, a picture-gallery, at which we are invited to gaze, just like Mary, who ‘observed all these things, comparing them in her heart’. That is our task, contemplating prayerfully the pictures of Zechariah and Elizabeth, a charming Old Testament couple; of Simeon and Anna, just another such; or we might find ourselves invited to gaze at that much-loved picture of the least important girl in the most insignificant town in the most out-of-the-way region in the entire Roman Empire – ‘and the virgin’s name was Mary’. Luke shows us all the most important people in the contemporary world: Herod the King (1:5); Caesar Augustus and Quirinius (2:1-2); and, most striking of all, Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, along with their client-kings the tetrarchs (Herod’s unattractive offspring), and their political allies and subjects, the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas (3:1-2). But none of these great men who so effortlessly wander across the world stage captures Luke’s attention for more than a second. The people whom Luke regards as important, those at whom we are invited to direct our prayerful gaze, are, instead, the poor and marginalised, those who serve the God of Israel: Mr and Mrs Zechariah, Anna and Simeon, John the Baptist, and, above all, of course, the one whom Elizabeth startlingly describes as ‘my Lord’, the first time we meet him (1:43). This one, the subject of the entire gospel, does absolutely nothing in these first two chapters, but lets it all happen to him, because God is in control – and Jesus is God’s son.

And did it, you demand once more to know, all happen as Luke recounts? We cannot tell. Our task is to recognise what Luke is telling us about the God who is at work in the world, about God’s Holy Spirit, and about Jesus, whom God has sent.

What then can we know about that first Christmas? What, if anything, is agreed by Matthew and Luke? They both affirm that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and that he was in Nazareth: for Matthew, that was because of who was in charge in Judaea when Joseph and Mary and Jesus returned from Egypt; while for Luke, Nazareth was where Joseph and Mary lived. Both of them agree that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived and born, and they seem to have independent traditions about it. They are both of the view that God is utterly in charge, and that, in Jesus, Israel’s history was reaching its climax. They insist that Jesus was born (and we must never forget that it was and remains absolutely essential that Jesus was genuinely a human being). They also both agree, but in quite different ways, that to do full justice to the truth about Jesus it was necessary to use of him language that had hitherto been reserved for God. That is a very daring thing for them both to claim; and we must take it with immense seriousness.

Is that enough, do you think, for you to pray your way through the coming festival? I hope that it will be one of immense happiness for all of you who read these words.

Nicholas King SJ is a tutor in Biblical Studies at Campion Hall, University of Oxford.

From the Curia


Peter Faber is a Saint


Peter Faber has been declared a saint today December 17th . Pope Francis has canonized one of the first companions of St. Ignatius extending his devotion to the universal Church. This is a so-called "equipollent" (equal in force) canonization in which the Pope, by his authority, extends the worship and liturgical celebration of a saint to the universal Church, after having fulfilled certain conditions established by Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758). This practice was used by Pope Francis himself on October 9 for the canonization of Blessed Angela from Foligno and by his predecessors Benedict XVI, John Paul II, John XXIII, among others.


The canonization of Blessed Peter Faber holds a special meaning because he is a model of spirituality and priestly life of today's Pope and at the same time an important reference to understand his style of government. Faber lived on the crest of an era when the unity of the Church was undermined and he remained essentially alien to doctrinal dispute, directing his apostolate to the reform of the Church and becoming a pioneer of ecumenism.  How much his example is rooted in the pastoral horizon of Pope Francis is felt in the synthetic portrait he made in the interview he gave to La Civiltà Cattolica, revealing some essential aspects of his personality: "His dialogue with everybody, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naiveté perhaps, his immediate availability, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also of being so gentle and loving, loving."


The aspect of Faber is that of a contemplative in action, a man attracted to Christ, passionate about the cause of the brothers, experienced in discerning the spirits, devoted to the priestly ministry with patience and mildness, offering himself without expecting any human reward. Faber meets God in all things and everywhere, even the most cold and hostile settings. In his Memoriale, which is one of the main documents of the spirituality of the early Society of Jesus, his life is conceived as a journey, a journey through the various regions of Europe following the example of Christ: traveling for obedience, always alert to make God's will and not his own.


This is a MUST read

Pope Francis, The Choice

With a focus on compassion, the leader of the Catholic Church has become a new voice of conscience. Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs explains why Francis is TIME's choice for Person of the Year 2013
To read about TIME’s choice in Spanish and Portuguese, click below.
El Elegido: El Papa Francisco es la Persona del Año 2013 de TIME
A Escolha: O Papa Francisco é a Personalidade do Ano eleita pela Time em 2013

Once there was a boy so meek and modest, he was awarded a Most Humble badge. The next day, it was taken away because he wore it. Here endeth the lesson.
How do you practice humility from the most exalted throne on earth? Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly—young and old, faithful and cynical—as has Pope Francis. In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.
At a time when the limits of leadershipare being tested in so many places, along comes a man with no army or weapons, no kingdom beyond a tight fist of land in the middle of Rome but with the immense wealth and weight of history behind him, to throw down a challenge. The world is getting smaller; individual voices are getting louder; technology is turning virtue viral, so his pulpit is visible to the ends of the earth. When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church.
(PERSON OF THE YEARPope Francis, The People’s Pope)
The skeptics will point to the obstacles Francis faces in accomplishing much of anything beyond making casual believers feel better about the softer tone coming out of Rome while feeling free to ignore the harder substance. The Catholic Church is one of the oldest, largest and richest institutions on earth, with a following 1.2 billion strong, and change does not come naturally. At its best it inspires and instructs, helps and heals and calls the faithful to heed their better angels. But it has been weakened worldwide by scandal, corruption, a shortage of priests and a challenge, especially across the fertile mission fields of the southern hemisphere, from evangelical and Pentecostal rivals. In some quarters, core teachings on divorce and contraception are widely ignored and orthodoxy derided as obsolete. Vatican bureaucrats and clergy stand accused of infighting, graft, blackmail and an obsession with “small-minded rules,” as Francis puts it,rather than the vast possibilities of grace. Don’t just preach; listen, he says. Don’t scold; heal.
And yet in less than a year, he has done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music.Tone and temperament matter in a church built on the substance of symbols—bread and wine, body and blood—so it is a mistake to dismiss any Pope’s symbolic choices­ as gestures empty of the force of law. He released his first exhortation, an attack on “the idolatry of money,” just as Americans were contemplating the day set aside for gratitude and whether to spend it at the mall. This is a man with a sense of timing.(THE TIMING IS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT) He lives not in the papal palace surrounded by courtiers but in a spare hostel surrounded by priests. He prays all the time, even while waiting for the dentist. He has retired the papal Mercedes in favor of a scuffed-up Ford Focus. No red shoes, no gilded cross, just an iron one around his neck. When he rejects the pomp and the privilege, releases information on Vatican finances for the first time, reprimands a profligate German Archbishop, cold-calls strangers in distress, offers to baptize the baby of a divorced woman whose married lover wanted her to abort it, he is doing more than modeling mercy and ­transparency. He is ­embracing complexity and acknowledging the risk that a church obsessed with its own rights and righteousness could inflict more wounds than it heals. Asked why he seems uninterested in waging a culture war, he refers to the battlefield. The church is a field hospital, he says. Our first duty (and responsibility) is to tend to the wounded. You don’t ask a bleeding man about his cholesterol level.  (or in the USA whether he/she is covered by medical insurance)
(MOREEverything You Wanted to Know about TIME’s Person of the Year)
This focus on compassion, along with a general aura of merriment not always associated with princes of the church, has made Francis something of a rock star. More than 3 million people turned out to see him on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro last summer, the crowds in St. Peter’s Square are ecstatic, and the souvenirs are selling fast. Francesco is the most popular male baby name in Italy. Churches report a “Francis effect” of lapsed Catholics returning to Mass and confession, though anecdotes are no substitute for hard evidence, andsurveys of U.S. Catholics, at least, see little change in practice thus far. But the fascination with Francis even outside his flock gives him an opportunity that his predecessor, Benedict XVI, never had—to magnify the message of the church and its power to do great good.
The giddy embrace of the secular press makes Francis suspect among traditionalists who fear he buys popularity at the price of a watered-down faith. He has deftly leveraged the media’s fascination to draw attention to everything from his prayers for peace in Syria to his pointed attack on trickle-down economics, which inspired Jesse Jackson to compare him to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rush Limbaugh to wonder whether he’s a Marxist. When you are a media celebrity, every word you speak is dissected, as are those you choose not to speak. Why has he not said more about the priest sex-abuse scandal? ask victims’ advocates. (Just this month, he set up a commission to address the abuse of children by priests.) Why does he not talk more about the sanctity of life? ask conservatives, who note that in his exhortation, abortion is mentioned once,mercy 32 times. Francis both affirms traditional teachings on sexuality and warns that the church has become distracted by them. He attacks priests who won’t baptize children born out of wedlock for their “rigorous and hypocritical neo-clericalism.” He declares that God “hasredeemed all of us … not just Catholics.Everyone, even atheists.” He posed withenvironmental activists holding an antifracking T-shirt and called on politicians and business leaders to be “protectors of creation.”
(MOREBehind the Pope Francis Cover)
None of which makes him a liberal—he also says the all-male priesthood is not subject to debate, nor is abortion, nor is the definition of marriage. But his focus on the poor and the fact that the world’s poorest 50% control barely 1% of its wealth unsettles those who defend capitalism as the most successful antipoverty program in history. You could argue that he is Teddy Roosevelt protecting capitalism from its own excesses or he is simply saying what Popes before him have said, that Jesus calls us to care for the least among us—only he’s saying it in a way that people seem to be hearing differently. And that may be especially important coming from the first Pope from the New World. (also considered the THIRD WORLD).A century ago, two-thirds of Catholics lived in Europe; now fewer than a quarter do, and how he is heard in countrieswhere being gay is a crime and educating women for leadership roles is a heresy may have the power to transform cultures in whichCatholicism is a growing, (exponentially) even potentially liberating force.
These days it is bracing to hear a leader say anything that annoys anyone. Now liberals and conservatives alike face a choice as they listen to a new voice of conscience: Which matters more, that this charismatic leader is saying things they think need to be said or that he is also saying things they’d rather not hear?
The heart is a strong muscle; he’s proposing a rigorous exercise plan. And in a very short time, a vast, global, ecumenical audience has shown a hunger to follow him. For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest church to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy  (and compassion)  Pope Francis is TIME’s 2013 Person of the Year

Celebrating Social Communications

The Golden Jubilee of “Inter Mirifica”


-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*


December 4th 2013 is the Golden Jubilee of “Inter Mirifica” (the Decree on the means of Social Communications) which is a key document in the life and message of the Second Vatican Council.  The Golden Jubilee coming in exactly ten days after the “official” closing of the ‘Year of Faith’ is symbolic indeed:it opens up new doors and avenues for all!


Inter Mirifica focuses on the role of communications and the responsibility of the Church to monitor it.  “The Church, our mother, knows that if these media are properly used they can be of considerable benefit to mankind.  They contribute greatly to the enlargement and enrichment of men’s minds and to the propagation and consolidation of the kingdom of God. But the Church also knows that man can use them in ways that are contrary to the Creator’s design and damaging to himself. Indeed, she grieves with a mother’s sorrow at the harm all too often inflicted on society by their misuse.” (#2)


The document for the very first time brings in the whole realm of social communications within the Church.  Fr. Franz-Josef Eilers, svd, the former Executive Secretary of the FABC OSC in an article, “Called to be a Communicating Church” says, “When the Vatican II document “Inter Mirifica” was presented to the Council fathers in 1962 it had right in the beginning a footnote which proposed to use the expression “Social Communication”. Following a suggestion of the late Fr. Enrico Baragli, sj the preparatory commission for the document proposed this new expression because they felt that names like mass media, media of diffusion, audio-visual media would not be sufficient to express fully the concern of the Church in the field of communication. This was unanimously accepted without further detailed discussion and the expression became the official ‘label’ for the Church’s communication activities.”


There is another specificity of “Inter Mirifica”: Vatican II for the first time designated for theUniversal Church a special day and that is the observance of a day for communications.  “To make the Church’s multiple apostolates in the field of social communication more effective, a day is to be set aside each year in every diocese, at the bishop’s discretion, on which the faithful will be reminded of their duties in this domain.” (#18).  This was later changed to ‘World Communications Day’ (normally the Sunday before Pentecost; but in India we observe it on the Sunday before the Feast of Christ the King).  This path-breaking document not only ensured the establishment of an Office for Social Communications in the Church but also for very powerful and relevant messages issued by the Holy Father every year, which is released to the world on January 24th, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron of Church Communications. 


In September last, Pope Francis while addressing the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in Rome said “the Decree (Inter Mirifica) expresses the Church’s solicitude for communication in all its forms which are important tools in the work of evangelization”. He went on further to say, “the world of Communications, more and more has become an ‘environment’ for many, one in which people communicate with one another expanding their possibilities for knowledge and relationship. I wish to underline these positive aspects notwithstanding the limits and the harmful factors that also exist and which we are all aware of.”


It is significant therefore that in January 2004, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) at their meeting in Trichur gave to the Church in India plenty of food for thought and action in their statement “Called to be a Communicating Church”. 




In this Golden Year of ‘Social Communications’, all of us are challenged to reflect and act urgently on many critical dimensions of this all-pervasive ministry.  These include:


  • have we as Church taken Social Communications seriously?
  • have we understood its power and potential in our works of evangelization?
  • do we have a Social Communications Commission in our diocese?  (the Commission should necessarily constitute persons from all walks of life and these should include lay professionals in communications)
  • do we have competent spokesperson/s in our diocese?
  • do we engage as Church vocally and visibly in confronting injustices that plague our society like discrimination, displacement, corruption, communalism, casteism, etc? 
  • have we prophetically denounced the grave ills in our society in order to boldly proclaim the ‘good news’? 
  • do we engage in social media on important issues concerning Constitutional rights and freedoms of all?


These and several other concerns can be raised - all of them have been reflected in Inter Mirifica and in the many pastoral messages written on Communications by the Holy Father every year. 


It is therefore not without reason that Pope Francis has chosen as theme for his first message on World Communications Day 2014 “Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter”. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications says that “this will explore the potential of communication especially in a networked and connected world, to bring people closer to each other and to cooperate in the task of building a more just world.” 


This theme in fact truly reflects all that Inter Mirifica is about: “the proper exercise of this right (to information) demands that the content of the communication be true and – within the limits set by justice and charity – complete.” (#5) and “all the members of the Church should make a concerted effort to ensure that the means of communication are put at the service of the multiple forms of the apostolate without delay and as energetically as possible, where and when they are needed. They should forestall projects likely to prove harmful, especially in those regions where moral and religious progress would require their intervention more urgently.” (#13)


We have indeed a clarion call to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Inter Mirifica by ensuring that the Church’s Teachings on Social Communications are put into practice at every level.




(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.  He is also the Secretary for Social Communications of the Western Regional Bishops’ Council)


Hans Kung on Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis' text is a call for church reform at all levels, says Hans Küng
The Tablet
29 November 2013
Church reform is forging ahead. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis not only intensifies his criticism of capitalism and the fact that money rules the world, but speaks out clearly in favour of church reform “at all levels”. He specifically advocates structural reforms – namely, decentralisation towards local dioceses and communities, reform of the papal office, upgrading the laity and against excessive clericalism, in favour of a more effective presence of women in the Church, above all in the decision-making bodies. And he comes out equally clearly in favour of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, especially with Judaism and Islam.
All this will meet with wide approval far beyond the Catholic Church. His undifferentiated rejection of abortion and women’s ordination will, however, probably provoke criticism. This is where the dogmatic limits of this Pope become apparent. Or is he perhaps under pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its Prefect, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller?  
In a long guest contribution in Osservatore Romano (23 October 2013), Müller demonstrated his ultra-conservative stance by corroborating the exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments who, unless they live togetheras brother and sister (!), are ostensibly in a state of mortal sin on account of the sexual character of their relationship.
As Bishop of Regensburg, Müller, as a clerical hardliner who provoked numerous conflicts with parish priests and theologians, lay bodies and the Central Committee of German Catholics, was as controversial and unpopular as his brother bishop at Limburg. That Müller, as a loyal supporter and publisher of his collected works, was nevertheless appointed CDF Prefect by Papa Ratzinger, surprised people less than the fact that Pope Francis confirmed him in office quite so soon.
And worried observers are already asking whether Pope Emeritus Ratzinger is in fact operating as a kind of “shadow Pope” behind the scenes through Archbishop Müller and Georg Gänswein, [Benedict’s] secretary and Prefect of the Papal Household, whom he also promoted to archbishop. One remembers how in 1993 Ratzinger as cardinal whistled back the then-bishops of Freiburg (Oskar Saier), Rottenburg-Stuttgart (Walter Kasper) and Mainz (Karl Lehmann) when they suggested a pragmatic solution for the problem of remarried divorcees. It is revealing that the present debate 20 years later was again triggered by the Archbishop of Freiburg, namely Robert Zollitsch, the president of the German bishops’ conference. It was Zollitsch who ventured a fresh attempt to re-think pastoral practice as far as remarried divorcees are concerned. And Pope Francis?
For many the situation is self-contradictory – on the one side, church reform and on the other, remarried divorcees.
The Pope wants to move forward – the CDF prefect puts on the brakes.
The Pope has actual people in mind – the prefect above all has traditional Catholic doctrine in mind.
The Pope wants to practise mercy – the prefect appeals to God’s holiness and justice.
The Pope wants the coming bishops’ synod on family matters in October 2014 to find practical solutions based on feedback from the laity – the prefect draws on traditionalist dogmatic arguments in order to be able to maintain the unmerciful status quo.
The Pope wants the bishops’ synod to make new attempts at reform – the prefect, a former neoscholastic professor of dogmatics, thinks his statements can nip any such attempts in the bud.
Is the Pope still in control of his Guardian of the Faith?
As to the subject itself, one must point out the following: Jesus came out quite clearly against divorce. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9). But he said that above all for the benefit of women, who were legally and socially disadvantaged in comparison to men in society at the time, because in Judaism only husbands could have letters of divorce made out. And thus in following Jesus, the Catholic Church, even in a completely different social situation, will emphatically champion the indissolubility of marriage which guarantees the partners and their children a stable and lasting relationship.
But Archbishop Müller obviously ignores the fact that Jesus pronounced a commandment based on an aim. As with other commandments, this one does not exclude failure and forgiveness. Can one really imagine Jesus sanctioning the present way we treat remarried divorcees? This Jesus who protected the adultress particularly against the scribes and pharisees (John 8:1-11), who especially devoted himself to sinners and those who had failed in life, and even dared to declare that they were forgiven? The Pope rightly says “Jesus must be freed from the boring templates in which we have wrapped him [translation from the Küng’s German].”
The Christians of the New Testament did not understand Jesus’ words on divorce as a law but as an ethical directive. The failure of a marriage obviously did not correspond to what men and women were created for. Only dogmatic rigidity, however, cannot take seriously that already in the days of the Apostles, Jesus’ words on divorce were applied with a certain flexibility, namely in cases of “porneia/unchastity” (cf. Matthew 5:32; 19:9) and when a Christian and a nonbeliever separated (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:12-15). Already in the Early Church, one was obviously aware that there were situations when a further life together was unacceptable. However, to assume that remarried divorcees in general just casually and light-heartedly gave up their first marriages for trivial reasons is malicious.
There is no more bitter experience than the failure of a love relationship on which one has set the hopes of a lifetime. In view of the millions of Catholics the world over nowadays who, although they are members of the Church, cannot take part in its sacramental life, it is of little help to keep quoting one Vatican document after the other without convincingly answering the decisive question as to why there should be no forgiveness just for this particular failure. Hasn’t the Magisterium already failed miserably as far as contraception is concerned and thus been unable to assert itself in the Church? A similar failure in the question of divorce should be avoided at all costs.
It is at any rate no solution if one calls for fresh “pastoral efforts” and wants to see annulments handled more generously, as the archbishop has suggested. For many Catholics, divorce and remarriage are not the real scandal but the shameless hypocrisy of many annulments, even when the couple whose marriage is annulled have several children.
Given the actual number of divorces at the moment, which in Germany alone in 2012 was about 46 per cent in proportion to the number of weddings in the same year, and if one adds to that the increasing number of Catholic couples who only married in a registry office or are cohabiting, then in all probability, in Germany alone, roughly 50 per cent of Catholics are excluded from the sacraments. And we should not forget the many children who are affected and suffer under their parents’ disturbed relationship with the Church. We are thus concerned with pastoral problems which have far-reaching consequences and which today call the official Church’s – but also the Pope’s – credibility into question. That is why, in the light of generally available findings in the fields of the social sciences, sexology, the history of theology, ethics, dogmatics and exegesis, bishops have repeatedly cautioned that it is absolutely imperative to undertake a reappraisal of pastoral practice.
It was precisely the reactionary strategy of the CDF which led to the present church crisis and triggered the exit of millions of Catholics from the Church, particularly the remarried divorcees as they were excluded from the sacraments. It would hugely damage the Catholic Church if, 50 years after the Second Vatican Council, a new “Cardinal Ottaviani”, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – or rather of the Holy Office or Inquisition, were able to establish himself in the Vatican, and who feels called to impose his conservative beliefs on the Pope, the Council and indeed on the whole Church.
And it would immensely damage the credibility of Pope Francis if the reactionaries in the Vatican were to prevent him from translating his words and gestures, which are so permeated by mercy and a sense for pastoral work, into action as soon as possible. The enormous capital of credibility which the Pope has accumulated in the first months of his papacy must not be squandered by the curia. Innumerable Catholics hope:
-      That the Pope will see through the Guardian of the Faith’s – that is Müller’s – questionable theological and pastoral stance;
-      That he will put the CDF in its place and make his theologically based pastoral line obligatory;
-      That the praiseworthy questioning of bishops and laity with regard to the coming Family Synod will lead to clear, biblically-founded and realistic decisions.
Pope Francis has the necessary qualities of a captain to steer the ship of the Church through the storms of our time and the trust of the People of God will uphold him. In the face of strong curial headwinds, he will probably often have to take a zigzag course. But we hope he will steer his ship by the Gospel’s (and not canon law’s) compass and maintain a clear course in the direction of renewal, ecumenism and open-mindedness. Evangelii Gaudium is an important stage of that voyage but by far not the final goal.
Read Evangelii Gaudium

The Pope takes on capitalism

Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis waves incense as he celebrates mass during the end of the Solemnity of Christ the King in St. Peter's square on November 24, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.


In his Evangelii Gaudium

(Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis has outlined where he wants the Catholic Church to go under his care.  Among his priorities are inequality and poverty, he critiques the injustices of unfettered capitalism and doesn’t mince words:

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?....

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born...

The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule....

He’s setting the agenda for where he wants the Church to go, says Dennis Coday, editor of National Catholic Reporter.   In the same way it made non-proliferation and anti-communism priorities decades ago.

And he walks the walk, says Coday.  He’s forsaken he Papal Palace for a hotel, he drives a Ford Focus instead of the Papal limousine.   “This is a man who is Argentinean,” a country that experience severe economic crises in the past two decades.  “There were people in the streets banging pots and pans, there was close to a total collapse of the economic system - that’s his pastoral experience and his starting point.”

Pope Francis is sending a direct message to make poverty and inequality a priority not just to the 1.1 billion Catholics in the world, but he’s also laying out a very official document for the charities and dioceses run by the church, directing  in so many words that this issue should enjoy a higher profile.  

 “I would like to believe that it could make a lot of difference,” says Brian Porter Szücs, professor of history at the University of Michigan, but “the only reason I might hesitate in my optimism would be that this has been the church’s message for well over a century.”

Szücs, whose work has focused on very Catholic Poland, says Politicians ignored previous Popes’ critiques of Capitalism, and focused on the critique of Communism.  “It seems to be one of those messages that people hear when they wish to hear it and ignore when its more convenient to ignore it.”

The widening gap between rich and poor in many countries and emphasis on wealth would suggest that it’s a message that has been often ignored so far.

 But the new pope’s emphasis combined with his  bully pulpit, or Ambo as it’s known in Catholicism, isn’t insignificant.  As Charles Curran, professor of human values at Southern Methodist University put it,  “The very fact that you are writing this article, you and many others, is proof of the fact that he has a teaching voice and that will be heard by some people .” ###

There is a new medium in the world today and it is devastating in its impact. It spreads like an electronic fire and consumes everything in its path. A lot of editors will sleep less soundly now because a new breach has occurred in the wall of silence put up against young girls, including journalists, who are exploited or manipulated by powerful men. Many names are making the Twitter rounds today. Few dared to oppose them not just for the fear of losing their jobs, but not getting another -- so powerful were these editors. Today we have seen how the Tehelka journalist's family is being subtly intimidated by friends of Tarun Tejpal and her mother asked what she "wants". As if there is a money price to everything.     

Tarun Tejpal sexual assault case: Social media is the new watchdog

Friday, Nov 22, 2013, 6:38 IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA


The case against Tarun Tejpal is the case for crowd-sourced technologies, and the first casualty in the process is the traditional structure of authority. The collective is the new conscience.

Deafening silence would have reigned; the rot would have deepened; the accused and the guilty would have hidden behind their celebrity status. But for the power of the social media.

Today, we in the media should be especially thankful for the opening up of public spaces through information networks. We should be grateful for the ‘invasion’ of digital media. Boundaries are collapsing in the blink of an eye. Hierarchies are breaking down by the chattering, demanding aam admi. Most importantly, maintaining a position of silence has become impossible.

The latest testimony to the unshackled potency of social media comes from the newsroom the hub of the Fourth Estate, the watchdog of all institutions. Tarun Tejpal, the editor of Tehelka magazine who created ripples in the media world with his radical agenda of promoting journalism ‘with a difference’ stands accused of one the gravest offences: sexual assault.

A young reporter in the magazine has alleged that Tejpal sexually assaulted her in a lift when she was on an assignment during the much-hyped up Tehelka-sponsored Think Fest. By now it has become clear that what transpired during the high-power event not only happened more than once, but was, in effect, “rape”. Apologies are not going to cut it; nor can Tejpal’s removal from the helm of affairs at the magazine be considered an adequate response.

The larger issue relates to how safe women employees are in their workplaces. Incidents like this expose how indifferent organisations, including the media, are to the Vishaka judgment which mandates the setting up of committees in every organisation to look into complaints of sexual harassment. Like in most sectors, in media organisations too, these committees, if instituted at all, are defunct, mostly to shield the powerful in this case a male editor.

No wonder then that Tejpal trotted out a so-called ‘apology’ letter, recusing himself from editorship for six months. The accused has donned the black robe of a judge and delivered an absurd sentence to himself. Tejpal says he made ‘an error of judgment’; Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury describes the sexual assault as an “untoward incident”. “I have already unconditionally apologised for my misconduct to the concerned journalist, but I feel impelled to atone further,” writes Tejpal. Moreover, Chaudhury has also been quoted as saying that this is purely an “internal matter” for Tehelka.

Both Tejpal and Chaudhury seem to be oblivious of their responsibility to live up to the standards they have so long preached to others. In their religiously inspired desire to atone they overlook the idea of justice itself. The Supreme Court’s directions are very clear on sexual harassment.

The matter cannot be confined to a weepy elegy of repentance. It’s a legal matter. Tehelka is legally, if not morally bound, to set up a free and fair investigation committee. Tarun Tejpal has to submit himself to the scrutiny that he wants every other accused to submit himself to in such sordid cases of the abuse of power. One could well ask if, in cases of the abuse of power by the police, Tehelka would let the offenders get away by saying it is a matter “internal” to them. To refer to rape as an internal matter is tantamount to covering up for the crime.

The constant conversation in social media has acted as a catalyst in pitching uncomfortable questions at the centre of debates. All those who have spent considerable time in the newsroom have been silent witnesses to abuse of power by famous editors. Young reporters in established newspapers have shared their discomfort with colleagues and friends but there were no avenues for going public with these issues; no personal or public space to vent anger. For years women journalists have put up with sleazy conversations in newsrooms heard sexist jokes swirling around them and, if protesting, have been told not to be ‘bores’ and ‘prudes’.

Newsroom culture is often disturbingly and aggressively masculine. Male camaraderie however extends beyond the newsroom.

Men in positions of power, across the spectrum, talk and act disgustingly about women while others look on with approval. What could be more disconcerting than the poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar tweeting, “It is a shame that someone (Tejpal) with such impeccable values has committed such an act but unlike some he has the guts to accept and repent.”

The proliferation of social media is disturbing the status-quo and creating new spaces of resistance; unspeakable truths are becoming spoken. In this transforming culture, male editors there are no women counterparts at the helm must learn to behave themselves. If not they must face the appropriate legal consequences. Apologies won’t work. 

Many young people are facing a new threat that we had not visualised before -- addiction to social media. This may help those working with the young. 

Social media: two apps. that may help

by Shoba Narayan,  Nov 5, 2013

Is social media taking over your life? 


How much time do you spend on Facebook and Twitter? No, seriously: is it an hour a day, or minutes spread over the course of the day?

And why do you go to Facebook?  Is it to bond with friends, check on how and what they are doing, or simply to surf and to stalk people for vicarious pleasure?

I have three words for you: get a life.

I mean that facetiously of course. I too spend an inordinate amount of time on social media; much more than I like. Often I wonder about the consequences, besides the loss of productivity.

Now that half of the globe seems to be on Twitter and Facebook, the side effects of increased social media usage has become the topic of several academic papers.

German researchers, for instance, have found that the predominant emotion aroused via Facebook is envy. Seeing our friends’ awards, travel plans, photographs, fabulous daily routines and children can make us jealous.

This makes sense but really it shouldn’t. The things that most people post on Facebook are the highlights of their lives, and not what broadcast journalists call the ‘B-roll.’ People don’t post the mundane minutiae of daily life on their Facebook or Twitter updates; not the ups and downs and not the large chunks of boredom that constitute life, even a life well-lived. The question I have is a little different: are we so interested in sharing our lives on Facebook that we forget to enjoy them? Are we so busy trying to document our lives that we fail to live them?

I am as guilty of this is anybody else. I see something beautiful and I immediately want to photograph it and post it on Instagram. I read a well-researched article and I immediately want to share it with my friends on Facebook. I watch a funny movie and I immediately want to tell my followers on Twitter to do the same. I know people who attend a lecture and tweet about it live from the venue, which leads me to wonder if they are actually listening to the speech and digesting it.

The act of sharing is not bad; it actually improves human enjoyment. But in the past, sharing had its time and place. You attended a party; people would be talking about the movies, you would tell them about the latest thriller that you enjoyed. But all this happened after the fact, after you watched the movie, not during it. Does all our instant, live, constant sharing have a consequence? I believe it does.

Viewing the world through the prism of social media causes you to pay selective attention. Instead of experiencing a parade, you photograph a particular dancer – missing all the others – and post it on Instagram. Instead of listening to a song and enjoying it, you listen to a few verses and share it on SoundCloud. Instead of reading about neuroscience in a blog, you read the first few paragraphs, deem it share-worthy and send it along to your followers on Twitter. You see a design blog that you like and before you even make sure that the content is suitable, you share it on Facebook.

The act of sharing makes you appear erudite and engaged, but over time, it can diminish your enjoyment.

There are two apps that help me keep track of and control the amount of time I spend on social media. One, called SelfControl, is of great use. It is free and I have installed it in all my computers.

SelfControl asks you to name websites that you don’t want to visit. I have named Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

After spending 10 minutes every morning on these sites, I turn on SelfControl. It prevents me from accessing these sites for a specified amount of time, be it a few hours or for a day.

Another app, RescueTime, tracks how you use your time on your computer. It doesn’t prevent anything, but it alerts you to the exact amount of time you “waste” online.

If you don’t have self control, download SelfControl. It will help rescue your time for more productive tasks, such as reading a book.

Shoba Narayan is the author of Return to India: a memoir


On accepting the ‘Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice’

 Cedric Prakash sj


Receiving the ‘Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice’ is indeed something special for me and I will surely treasure this precious moment all my life! 


Thank you so much, dear Dr. Abraham Mathai, your patrons Mr. Mahesh Bhatt, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat and Mr.Tushar Gandhi and all at Harmony Foundation - for this very special award.


This award is in fact about Mother Teresa and about the rich legacy she has left to each one of us: a legacy of total compassion and unconditional reaching out to the poorest of the poor, the dying destitute, the unloved and the uncared - of this world. It surely provides me and all our colleagues and collaborators of ‘Prashant’ a significant motivation for what we try to do and in fact comes as a challenge that we transcend our own small world and reach out in more tangible ways to those who hunger and thirst for love, dignity and justice.


Mother Teresa has always been someone special in my life. Yes, she is truly a Saint and for me, an icon who has inspired my way of proceeding, since I first met her in Calcutta, way back in 1972.


For more than twenty-five years now, I have been closely associated with her Missionaries of Charity in Ahmedabad and I learn much from them all the time. 


I therefore, dedicate this award to the Missionaries of Charity - to each one of them for the selfless, super-human work they do all the time without counting the cost, without any recognition and most often, without the appreciation they truly deserve. They are truly the unsung heroes of our world today – caring with compassion, dignity and meaning to the dying destitute, the unloved, the poorest of the poor - who are condemned to an inhuman existence.


Sisters Magdalita and Juditha are present here today. Thank you dear Sisters for all that you and the many Missionaries of Charity, inspired and guided by Mother Teresa, do for our world today.  God bless you and all your efforts.


Thank you, once again dear friends, for this wonderful recognition! I certainly feel very emotional and overwhelmed at this moment.


May Mother Teresa bless each one of us and give us that courage we need to truly love and serve the least of our sisters and brothers and without counting the cost!


(This Acceptance Speech was given by Fr. Cedric Prakash sj at the Leela Hotel, Mumbai on 27th October, 2013 on receiving the ‘Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice’)

3000 leave religious life every year.

The secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life said in an October 29 address that over 3,000 men and women religious leave the consecrated life each year.

In the address – a portion of which was reprinted in L’Osservatore Romano – Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo said that statistics from his Congregation, as well as the Congregation for the Clergy, indicate that over the past five years, 2,624 religious have left the religious life annually. When one takes into account additional cases handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the number tops 3,000.

The prelate, who led the Order of Friars Minor from 2003 until his April 2013 curial appointment, said that the majority of cases occur at a “relatively young age.” The causes, he said, include “absence of spiritual life,” “loss of a sense of community,” and a “loss of sense of belonging to the Church” – a loss manifest in dissent from Catholic teaching on “women priests and sexual morality.”

Other causes include “affective problems,” including heterosexual relationships that continue into marriage and homosexual relationships, which are “most obvious in men, but also present, more often than you think, between women.”

The world, the prelate continued, is undergoing profound changes from modernity to postmodernity – from fixed reference points to uncertainty, doubt, and insecurity. In a market-oriented world,“everything is measured and evaluated according to the utility and profitability, even people.” It is “a world where everything is soft,” where “there is no place for sacrifice, nor for renunciation.”

Full Story: Curial official: over 3,000 religious leave consecrated life each year 

Source: CatholicCulture.org

The people with whom I have no patience are those who think clergy are abnormal because they are somehow or other superhuman beings with special access to God, possessing special wisdom and power and deserving special treatment. Among those who think this way are too many clergy.

Shocking revelation: priests are normal people

Now, can you please let them down off their pedestal?

  • Fr William Grimm, Tokyo, Japan - October 14, 2013

When I was in high school, I had an after-school and summer job delivering medical supplies to infirmaries and clinics in department stores, ships and office buildings in New York City.

Over time, I got to know many of the receptionists at those places. Lugging boxes around 'the concrete jungle' as I went from place to place in New York’s hot, humid summer made the air conditioned reception areas of office buildings attractive places for a short break.

One summer day, a receptionist at the headquarters of an insurance company asked what my plans for the future were. I told her that I was entering a seminary at the end of the summer holiday.

With a shocked expression on her face, she said, “but you’re normal! Why would you do something like that?”

There are people who think there is something abnormal about priests. Some think we are ignorant, crazy and possibly dangerous fanatics. The sexual abuse of children by bishops and priests and its cover-up have given them good reasons to think that way. Usually, they have never actually met and talked with any of us. So long as those people are not aggressively ill-mannered, I generally find their attitude no more than mildly annoying, sometimes embarrassing and often even amusing. A bit of conversation, perhaps over a drink, is enough to get them to admit that there might be at least one exception to their rule.

The people with whom I have no patience are those who think clergy are abnormal because they aresomehow or other superhuman beings with special access to God, possessing special wisdom and power and deserving special treatment. Among those who think this way are too many clergy.

I once saw a book for seminarians that warned against frequent contact with lay folk lest they realize that “priest eggs” (as they are sometimes called in Japan), are normal human beings.Clergy often receive special treatment, more often than not the sort of treatment one might give an imbecile demigod who is semi-divine, but incapable of handling the normal demands of life — like picking up a restaurant check.

Too many of the objects of special treatment rather like life on a pedestal. Some expect such treatment. There are many who shape their lives around being ever ready to receive it. I’ve even met a few sorry cases who became priests in order to have a place upon the pedestal.

There are others (the majority, I hope, but sometimes I wonder) who try to climb down from the pedestal upon which others put them. But people try to shove them back. Why is that? Why do so many people want their clergy to be specially treated and insulated from life? Is it a bribe?

If so, what do people gain by their deference, their special treatment toward religious leaders? In bribing the preachers, do they unconsciously hope to bribe God? Are they looking for some sort of payback from God? Does treating clergy as children allow people to not take them seriously? Perhaps they are hoping that by putting preachers outside the responsibilities of everyday life, they can keep them from applying the Word of God to those situations of everyday life where they would rather not have to hear what God expects of us.

Does it matter? Yes, it does, because in addition to the sacraments, clergy do have something important to offer the Church in its mission to the world: guidance, education, example. Giving example is not unique to them, of course — every Christian is an example of how to live as a disciple of Christ — but by being publicly recognized representatives of the community, the clergy are in a position to attract attention from those who want or need to see the servant Church in action. But, how can someone who acts or is treated as nobility show what it is to be a servant? How can someone treated as an incompetent instruct?

So, what shall we do? We can probably do little about clerical careerists who likely have purple piping on their bathrobes and gold cufflinks on their pajamas. Settling for the material and emotional “perks” of ministry and missing out on the spiritual excitement and rewards of real service is their self-inflicted punishment.

We can, however, see what we do to perpetuate the semi-deification of the clergy. For starters, imagine asking a bishop, priest or deacon to help wash the dishes. If the thought startles you, ask why it does and if it should.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, recently told ucanews.com that he was surprised that the media is making a fuss about an interview with Pope Francis “that looks very normal”. The cardinal may have missed the point that normalcy from a pope (as from Cardinal Tagle, himself reportedly a refreshingly normal man) is newsworthy. We have a pope who probably need not be asked to help with the dishes because he would volunteer to do them.

The unseemly spectacle of hypocritical bishops and priests around the world falling over themselves to praise the new pope’s normalcy when only months ago they sang equally loud paeans to amonarchical papacy and hierarchy is actually a cause for some hope. Whether it be pandering or real conversion, we may be able to expect to see clergy in the kitchen who never before knew where it was. They may find that they like having soapy hands.

And then they will be better able to lead us into the dirty places of our world to bring the cleansing Word. ###

Muslim leader says pope is model of what religious leader should be

Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service  |  Oct. 8, 2013

Pope Francis, like Islam's Sufi mystic theologians and poets, "is trying to do good for the sake of the Good One, motivated by love and compassion," said the president of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland.

Mohamad Bashar Arafat, a Syrian who has lived in the United States for more than 20 years, was visiting the Vatican and speaking to groups in Rome in early October as a guest of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See as part of the U.S. State Department's international speakers program.

In an interview with Catholic News Service, Arafat said he sees Pope Francis acting as all truly religious leaders should: reaching out with respect for the human person and open to dialogue.

Arafat said the pope's love and openness were clear not only in his choice of being named after St. Francis of Assisi, but particularly in his decision in July to visit the Italian island of Lampedusa, praying for migrants lost at sea and calling the world's attention to the need for immigration reform, and in calling on people around the world to fast and pray for peace in Syria in early September when a military strike seemed imminent.

"From my perspective, Pope Francis is really doing a wonderful job in terms of outreach, in terms of contributing to world peace, in terms of contributing to stopping wars and conflicts, praying for better understanding," Arafat said. "This was the message of St. Francis Assisi and this is the message of Ibn Arabi, the great Muslim scholar and theologian and poet, and this is the spirit of all the Muslim saints and Sufis around the world."

Special Report: The Francis Interview
Subscribers to our print edition: The October 11 issue includes this special feature with reactions to Pope Francis' interview from Richard Rohr, Hans Küng, Michelle Gonzalez, Richard Gaillardetz and Chris Lowney. Additional copies are available to purchase. Learn more

"St. Francis resonates with the Muslim world," he said, particularly because he is credited as the first Catholic leader to dialogue with a Muslim leader; in the midst of the Crusades, St. Francis met with Egyptian Sultan Malik al-Kamil in 1219, hoping to bring peace.

Just as in medieval times, Arafat said, the world today needs dialogue and an encounter between peoples, which Pope Francis is doing.

"I see Pope Francis saying the right things and setting the right tone, and also appearing in the right places at the right time," he said.

Arafat, who runs religious and cultural training programs for foreign students visiting the United States as part of the State Department's Youth Exchange Study Program, said seminaries and programs that train priests and Muslim clerics need to be more serious and more systematic about preparing future religious leaders for dialogue and promoting respect. He said such education is particularly lacking on the Muslim side.

As for Syria, where he still has family, Arafat said, "I myself am puzzled with what is happening over there, and the only solution I see is a political solution and reconciliation."

Since March 2011, when fighting began between government forces and those trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, more than 100,000 people are estimated to have died and close to 2 million have been displaced or are refugees.

News reports frequently mention that the opposition to Assad is split between groups committed to democracy and fundamentalist Islamic parties.

"Islam is not part of the problem at all. It's national and international interests that are part of the problem," Arafat said. "Islam is about wisdom and Islam is about cutting your loses; Islam is about how you manage to survive in coexistence with others -- that is Islam."

The Quran, Islam's holy book, does not teach Muslims to espouse the attitude "I am the only one who is right and all of you are wrong," he said, nor does it insist that every nation must be governed by Shariah, Islam law. ###

Letter of Pope Francis

To His Excellency 
Mr Vladimir Putin 
President of the Russian Federation

In the course of this year, you have the honour and the responsibility of presiding over the Group of the twenty largest economies in the world. I am aware that the Russian Federation has participated in this group from the moment of its inception and has always had a positive role to play in the promotion of good governance of the world’s finances, which have been deeply affected by the crisis of 2008.

In today’s highly interdependent context, a global financial framework with its own just and clear rules is required in order to achieve a more equitable and fraternal world, in which it is possible to overcome hunger, ensure decent employment and housing for all, as well as essential healthcare. Your presidency of the G20 this year has committed itself to consolidating the reform of the international financial organizations and to achieving a consensus on financial standards suited to today’s circumstances. However, the world economy will only develop if it allows a dignified way of life for all human beings, from the eldest to the unborn child, not just for citizens of the G20 member states but for every inhabitant of the earth, even those in extreme social situations or in the remotest places.

From this standpoint, it is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal. Wars are a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself, as seen, for example, in the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, the many armed conflicts which continue to afflict the world today present us daily with dramatic images of misery, hunger, illness and death. Without peace, there can be no form of economic development. Violence never begets peace, the necessary condition for development.

The meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the twenty most powerful economies, with two-thirds of the world’s population and ninety per cent of global GDP, does not have international security as its principal purpose. Nevertheless, the meeting will surely not forget the situation in the Middle East and particularly in Syria. It is regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding. The leaders of the G20 cannot remain indifferent to the dramatic situation of the beloved Syrian people which has lasted far too long, and even risks bringing greater suffering to a region bitterly tested by strife and needful of peace. To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution. Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community. Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders.

Mr President, in the hope that these thoughts may be a valid spiritual contribution to your meeting, I pray for the successful outcome of the G20’s work on this occasion. I invoke an abundance of blessings upon the Summit in Saint Petersburg, upon the participants and the citizens of the member states, and upon the work and efforts of the 2013 Russian Presidency of the G20.

While requesting your prayers, I take this opportunity to assure you, Mr President, of my highest consideration.

Pope Francis invites homeless to dine at Vatican

Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square 
before the Wednesday general audience
 Credit: Stephen Driscoll/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2013 / 12:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On July 1 Pope Francis invited a group of 200 homeless individuals to dinner at the Vatican, where they were served in his name by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello.

Cardinal Bertello, president of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State, spent the entire evening with the special guests, with whom he chatted at length and shared personal experiences, according to the July 3 edition of L'Osservatore Romano.

“I welcome you in the name of the Pope. As you know, this is your home, and he is pleased that you are here,” he told the group of homeless persons before dinner was served.

The dinner took place near the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican. “Our Lady who stands before us looks upon us with serenity,” the cardinal said.

“It that same gaze that I wish upon each one of you and upon those who care for you with so much love.”

The dinner was organized by the Circle of Saint Peter, a papal charity. The evening was only one of a number of such events it holds throughout the year at its shelter in Rome “as a concrete sign of the Pope’s charity.”

After his welcoming address, Cardinal Bertello invited the guests to pray and said that their response “was a great success.”
The group was brought to the Vatican by bus and was received by 122 members of the Circle of St. Peter, led by its president, Leopoldo Torlonia.

The homeless were among the many that come to the organization’s shelter each day for meals, a place to sleep, and clean clothing.

The menu for the dinner was prepared by chefs from Naples, and members of the Circle acted as waiters, along with their wives and children.

The Vatican Gendarmes Band performed for the guests, providing them with entertainment as they dined.

At the end of the evening, Torlonia thanked the guests for “accepting the invitation from Pope Francis.”

Each was given a gift pack with pastries, fresh fruit, and a rosary. ###

the "digital natives"

Extremely useful for those working with young people, especially those born after 1980, the "digital natives":

While older generations are “search first”, millennials are “social first”. The tendency for constant online peer group consulting is most extreme at the younger end of the age group. “Millennials are the first generation that are purely about recommendations from their peers. They ‘crowd source’ everything, meaning they depend on what others say. Even if they are walking down the street looking for a cup of coffee, they won’t go in somewhere if they see on a site that it has had a bad review.”

Millennials also demand immediacy and feedback from every organisation they deal with. Those who give to charity, for example, respond better to simpler, frequent updates, such as a picture posted daily on Facebook of someone who has been helped.

Statistics suggest most millennials are still on Facebook, but analysts see a gradual drift away from the platform as older relatives join Facebook and the advertising grows more aggressive. many are growing disenchanted. Newer social media platforms such as Tumblr, recently bought by Yahoo, may be their


An opening in Rome?

In a remarkable homily, Pope Francis hints at change in church’s thinking

Pope Francis freed a dove during his weekly 

general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican 


By James Carroll


   JUNE 03, 2013



Carroll is Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University, holder of the 2011 Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair at Emory University, and a columnist for the Globe.


ESPECIALLY AMONG Catholics who bristled under the traditionalism of Benedict XVI, Pope Francis was widely welcomed as the new leader of the church. His prompt rejection of the trappings of Renaissance royalty, for example — no red Prada shoes for him — led many to expect a needed restoration of simplicity in a faith rooted in the life of a Galilean peasant. Instead of moving into the isolating papal apartments in the Vatican Palace, Francis took up modest rooms in St. Martha’s House, where visitors are offered hospitality. The pope’s personal style soon took on the character of a proclamation. “Preach the Gospel,” he said, citing his namesake St. Francis, “and if necessary use words.”

He has done that, too. When a factory collapse killed more than 1,000 workers in Bangladesh in April, Pope Francis denounced the working conditions in which so much of the affluent world’s clothing is manufactured as “slave labor.” He reminded “the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them.” He called for “a return to person-centered ethics in the world of finance and economics.”

In recent years, as the Vatican dug into conservative positions on matters of sexual morality, a renewed embrace of the church’s social mission seemed about as much as reformist Catholics could hope for. Yet a deeper change seems to be at work. In a recent homily at a Mass attended by Vatican employees and a few guests, Francis showed a willingness to reconcile with those outside the faith — in a way that is unprecedented in recent Catholic theology.

Francis’s immediate predecessors regularly derided what they called the “culture of death” in speaking of those outside the faith. But in a homily in the chapel at St. Martha’s, this pope lifted up what he called the “culture of encounter.” In contrast to the habitual denigration of those of other religions — a mark of Catholic teaching for a generation — the Argentine pope praised every human being as a source of goodness. “Even the atheists?” he asked, giving voice in the homily to his inevitable critics. “ ‘But Father, this is not Catholic! [Atheists] cannot do good!’ ”

That simply, Pope Francis engaged an age-old question: Do we need God to be good? Religious people have emphasized Dostoyevsky’s aphorism that “if God does not exist, everything is permitted.” Look where the atheism of modernity led, they say, pointing to Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. In the United States, according to a 2012 Gallup poll, an atheist running for president would draw fewer votes than a member of any other minority, including Muslims. Atheists, with no transcendent horizon, are taken to lack the basis for moral choice. This is the last respectable prejudice.

But Pope Francis notably rejects it. He credits the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus, but unlike preachers (including St. Paul) who restrict the benefit of Christ’s redemption to those who accept it, Francis affirms that it extends to “all of us! Not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”

The world’s atheists, presumably, have not been awaiting a pope’s approval. But Francis is pulling the church away from a dangerous position; any theology that divides humanity into those who are saved and those who are not — between those who can do good and those who cannot — is a violent theology. “This ‘closing off’ that imagines those outside . . . cannot do good,” the pope said, “is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. . . . To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.” Faith in God, the pope reminds us here, is no guarantee of morality.

It has been a long time since popes have incited holy wars, and there is nothing new in the call to tolerate those who believe differently. But Francis’s sermon suggests a movement beyond tolerance toward an authentic pluralism in which the convictions of others are not only allowed, but valued. Instead of opposing others’ beliefs, Francis emphasizes “encounter.” The act of “doing good” is what overcomes intellectual and religious difference. For Francis, this innate capacity for virtue comes from God, but it lives in the “depths” of every heart.

Is it reading too much into a simple homily to imagine a coming shift? In the case of a pope, not necessarily. The reforming openness of John XXIII first showed itself in nuances like this, and the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II followed. It may be happening again. ###



: The Pope and the Swiss Guard!
A few days ago, at dawn, the time the Pope wakes up, he came out to the corridor, and he
found in front of his door the sentry, a Swiss Guard standing with his halberd at attention.
He asked him: “And what are you doing here? Have you been up all night?” "Yes," replied
the guard with deference and a bit surprised. "On your feet?" "Your Holiness, my duty
since I took over from my companion." "And aren’t you tired?" "It’s my duty Your Holiness;
I should watch for your safety."
Pope Francis looked at him again with kindness, went back to his suite and after a
minute he came out carrying a chair: "At least sit down and rest." The guard rolled his eyes
and answered: “Santo Padre, forgive me, but I cannot! The regulations do not allow that."
"The regulations?" "Orders from my captain, your Holiness." The Pope smiled, "Oh,
really? Well, I'm the Pope and I order you to sit down." So, caught between the regulations
and the Pope, the Swiss Guard (so much for the halberd) chose the chair.
The Pope returned to his apartment. After a couple of minutes, the Pope came back
to the Swiss Guard, still obediently seated on the chair, carrying “panino con marmellata”
(Italian bread with jam) which he had prepared. Before the soldier could say anything, the
Holy Father, exhibiting his Argentinean smile, told the Swiss Guard, “With all the hours
spent standing on guard you must be a bit hungry.” The Swiss Guard had no time to object
because the Pope right away wished him a good bite: "Bon appetit, brother." May God
preserve him for many years! (Dei Verbum NEMI <dvnemi@tiscali.it>).

Tweeting the Good News by Pope Francis
@Pontifex Account Surpasses Six Million Followers

ROME, May 09, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Since the first papal tweet was sent by Pope Benedict XVI in December 12, over 6 million followers have joined. The account, which was deactivated during Sede Vacante, was reopened after Francis’ election and the numbers continue to rise.

Francis has continued Benedict’s lead in reaching out to the world through the use of social networks. As of now, the @Pontifex account post tweets in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Germany, Latin, Polish, and Arabic.

By reaching so many people, the Holy Father is attracting an audience that rivals most singers, actors, and musicians on the same platform.

Surprisingly, the Latin language account has surpassed both Polish and Arab languages. Other languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese, have also seen an exponential increase in followers.

Although Twitter has been seen as a marketing strategy for major corporations or institutions to increase their brand, the @Pontifex account is concretely using it as a tool of the New Evangelization but adapting to new forms of communicating not just with the faithful, but with all people.

The number of tweets sent by Pope Francis have been steadily increasing, going to almost one tweet a day. With such messages as, “Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you!  Do not be afraid to dream of great things!”, the Holy Father sends small, but concrete messages that touch at the hopes and desires of all despite its 140 character limit.

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Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
PRASHANT   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052,
Tel :079-27455913/66522333

National Catholic Reporter

The Mind of Francis: 

Capitalism, Jobs & Globalization

Thomas Reese  |  May. 1, 2013


It is well known that Jorge Bergoglio, S.J., was not a fan of liberation theology, but that does not mean Pope Francis is a supporter of unbridled capitalism. In 2000, he acknowledged in On Heaven and Earth the role of private property, but said it "carries with it the obligation to put it at the service of others within just parameters."

He noted that the church is not only against communism but also "against the wild economic liberalism we see today." In Latin America, "liberalism" describes what we in the United States would refer to as economic libertarianism.

His critique of capitalist systems is not just economic and political; it is also theological because "it tames religion so that it does not bother Capitalism too much." It fosters a worldly spirit that forgets "the act of adoring God means to submit to His will, to His justice, to His law, and to His prophetic inspiration." Capitalism, he wrote, fosters "a civilization of consumerism, of hedonism, of political arrangements between the powers or political sectors, [and] the reign of money."

But his strongest words come in criticizing capitalism's treatment of workers: "There is no worse dispossession," he wrote, "than not being able to earn one's own bread, than being denied the dignity of work." What degrades the poor, he wrote, is "not giving them the oil that anoints them with dignity: a job." He praises priests, who, imitating Don Bosco, help kids in shantytowns to become electricians, cooks, tailors, etc.

In his book, Bergoglio also condemns the flight of capital from the developing world: "Someone who operates a business in a country and then takes that money to keep it outside of the country is sinning because he is not honoring with that money the country to which he owes his wealth, or the people that worked to generate it."

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In fact, he has serious issues with globalization. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he approved of a "true globalization" where "everyone is integrated but each player maintains his particularities, which, at the same time, enrich the others." But a globalization that makes everything uniform is not human but "essentially imperialistic and instrumentally liberal. In the end it is a way to enslave the nations."

John Allen reported before the conclave that Bergoglio had become a voice of conscience and "a potent symbol of the costs globalization can impose on the world's poor" because of the leading role he played during the Argentine economic crisis.

More recently, in both his homily and in his weekly audience Wednesday, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, he was even more harsh in his criticism. When he learned that the workers killed in the clothing factory disaster in Bangladesh were paid only 38 euros a month, he called it "slave labor."

He said, "Not paying a just [wage], not providing work, focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at making personal profit. That goes against God." He complained that "People are less important than the things that give profit to those who have political, social, economic power."

Returning to the topic of unemployment, he noted it is "very often caused by a purely economic view of society, which seeks self-centered profit, outside the bounds of social justice." He urged "those in public office to spare no effort to give new impetus to employment."

"When society is organized in such a way that not everyone has the opportunity to work ... then there is something wrong with that society: it is not right! It goes against God himself."

Echoing the teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Francis said work gives us "the ability to maintain ourselves, our family, to contribute to the growth of our nation."

But work for Pope Francis is much more; it makes us similar to God, who works in creation. He cites Genesis, where God entrusts man and woman "with the task of filling the earth and subduing it." But, always the environmentalist, he explains that "does not mean exploiting it, but nurturing and protecting it, caring for it through their work (cf. Gen 1:28; 2 15). Work is part of God's loving plan, we are called to cultivate and care for all the goods of creation and in this way participate in the work of creation!" ###-- --

His Way of Proceeding

James Martin, S.J., is editor at large of America and the author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. Portions of this article first appeared in The Tablet of London.

How might Jesuit spirituality influence Pope Francis' papacy?

The weeks following the election of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit elected to that office, saw more people asking questions about Jesuits than at perhaps any other time in the last 25 years. Most readers of America already know what a Jesuit is, but another question bears some reflection: How might Jesuit spirituality influence, and how has it already influenced, our new pope?

Jesuit spirituality is based on the life and teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola, the soldier-turned-mystic who founded the Society of Jesus in 1540. Much of that spirituality flows from his classic text, The Spiritual Exercises, a manual for a four-week retreat inviting a person into imaginative meditations on the life of Christ. The Exercises mean more than simply reading the New Testament. Retreatants are urged to imagine themselves, with as much vividness as possible, in the Gospel scenes. As the spiritual writer Joseph Tetlow, S.J., once wrote, the retreatant is not even observing from a distance but is “standing warm in the Temple or ankle-deep in the water of the Jordan.” Through such intense encounters with the Gospel narratives, the person praying enters into a deep, personal relationship with Jesus.

Each Jesuit “makes” the Exercises at least twice in his life: first as a novice and again, years later, at the end of the formation program during a period of time known as tertianship. Therefore, we know that Pope Francis has done this. Moreover, in the late 1960’s, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., served as the Jesuit novice director for the Argentine Province, which means that he also guided novices through the Spiritual Exercises. He is therefore deeply familiar with Ignatian spirituality.

Embedded in the Exercises are certain key spiritual themes. Jesuits and all who make the Exercises are invited to be “detached” from whatever would prevent them from following God. We are supposed to be “indifferent,” open toward anything, preferring, in Ignatius’ famous formulation, neither wealth nor poverty, neither health nor sickness, neither a long life nor a short one. It is a tall spiritual order, but a clear goal for Jesuits. Finally, Jesuits are to be disponible, a Spanish word meaning “available,” ready to go wherever God, who works through our superiors, wishes.

This may help explain the surprising accession of Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy. Many people have wondered: Don’t most Jesuits at the end of their training make promises not to “strive or ambition” for high office in the church and Society of Jesus? In short: Yes. Ignatius was opposed to the clerical careerism that he saw in his day and built into the final vows a safeguard against that kind of climbing. But freedom is also built into Ignatian spirituality. If a Jesuit is asked to do something by the church, he is available. (And to answer a complex question: Yes, technically, Pope Francis is still a Jesuit, according to Canon 705, which states that a religious who is ordained a bishop remains a “member of his institute.”)

Other sources of Ignatian spirituality are found in the saint’s laconic autobiography; the Jesuit Constitutions, written by Ignatius; the lives of the Jesuit saints; and as John W. O’Malley, S.J., points out in his superlative book The First Jesuits, the activities of St. Ignatius and the early Jesuits. As Father O’Malley notes, it is one thing to know that the Jesuits in the 16th century were available enough to take on any kind of ministry that would “help souls,” as Ignatius put it; it is quite another to know that they opened a house for reformed prostitutes in Rome and sent theologians to the Council of Trent.

Some Ignatian Hallmarks

But what are the hallmarks of Ignatian spirituality (the broader term used these days, as a complement to “Jesuit spirituality”), and how might they influence Pope Francis? Let me suggest just a few and point out how we may have already seen them in the first few weeks of his papacy.

First, one of the most popular shorthand phrases to sum up Ignatian spirituality is “finding God in all things.” For Ignatius, God is not confined within the walls of a church. Besides the Mass, the other sacraments and Scripture, God can be found in every moment of the day: in other people, in work, in family life, in nature and in music. This provides Pope Francis with a world-embracing spirituality in which God is met everywhere and in everyone. The pope’s now-famous washing of feet at a juvenile detention center in Rome during the Holy Thursday liturgy underlines this. God is found not only in a church and not only among Catholics, but also in a prison, among non-Catholics and Muslim youth, and among both men and women.

Second, the Jesuit aims to be a “contemplative in action,” a person in a busy world with a listening heart. That quality was evidenced within the first few minutes of this papacy. When Francis stepped onto the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, he began not with the customary papal blessing but with a request for the prayers of the people. In the midst of a boisterous crowd, he asked for a moment of silent prayer and bowed his head. Offering quiet in the midst of the tumult, he was the contemplative in action.

Third, like members of nearly all religious orders, Jesuits make a vow of poverty. We do this twice in our lives—at first vows and at final vows. We are, said St. Ignatius, to love poverty “as a mother.” There are three reasons adduced for that: first, as an imitation of Jesus, who lived as a poor man; second, to free ourselves from the need for possessions; and third, to be with the poor, whom Christ loved.

But Ignatius noted that Jesuits should not only accept poverty, we should actively choose to be like “the poor Christ.” So far Pope Francis has eschewed many of the traditional trappings of the papacy. Before stepping onto the balcony, he set aside the elaborate mozzetta, the short cape that popes normally wear; since then his vestments have been simple. He elected to live not in the grand Apostolic Palace but in a small, two-room suite in the Casa Santa Marta, where the cardinals had stayed for the conclave. He is, so far, choosing the poorer option. This is not unique to Jesuits (and many of Ignatius’ ideas on poverty were inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, the pope’s namesake), but it is a constitutive part of our spirituality.

Another hallmark is occasionally downplayed in commentaries on Jesuit spirituality: flexibility. But over and over in the Jesuit Constitutions, flexibility is recommended for Jesuit superiors. Remember that Father Bergoglio, before he became archbishop of Buenos Aires, was not only the novice director and director of studies, but also the Jesuit provincial, or regional superior, for the country—three different assignments as a superior. Those roles in governance would all require knowledge of Ignatius’ understanding of flexibility.

While the Constitutions set down exacting rules for Jesuit life, Ignatius recognized the need to meet situations as they arise with creativity. After a lengthy description of precisely what was required in a particular aspect of community life, he would often add a proviso, knowing that unforeseen circumstances call for flexibility. “If something else is expedient for an individual,” he writes about Jesuits studying a particular course, “the superior will consider the matter with prudence and may grant an exemption.” Flexibility is a hallmark of the document, and it seems to be with Francis also, who seems happy to speak off-the-cuff in his homilies and adapt himself to the needs of the situation—like stopping a papal motorcade to embrace a disabled child in the crowd.

Jesus as Friend

Two more observations about Pope Francis’ Ignatian heritage. His homily for the Easter Vigil Mass seemed, at least to me, suffused with Ignatian themes. (But of course this may be my Jesuit bias!) He began by inviting his listeners to place themselves within the story, one of the key techniques of the Exercises. Imagine yourself, he suggested, as one of the women going to the tomb on Easter Sunday. “We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb, a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end,” the pope said. “Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb.”

Later in the homily the pope asked his listeners to consider Jesus as a friend. “Welcome him as a friend, with trust: He is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms.” It was easy to hear echoes of the Spiritual Exercises, in which Ignatius asks us several times to speak to Jesus “as one friend speaks to another.” It is an especially warm way of looking at the Son of God.

It would be wrong to say that knowledge of the pope’s spiritual traditions makes it possible to predict what he will do. But it would be equally wrong to say that we know nothing about his spirituality or that his spirituality will have no influence on his ministry. Like any Jesuit, especially a former novice director and superior, Pope Francis is deeply grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius and the Society of Jesus, whose seal he has placed on his papal coat of arms. I look forward to seeing how Ignatian spirituality may help him in his new office. ###

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina washes and kisses the feet of patients of the Hogar de Cristo shelter for drug users back in March 20, 2008. (Enrique Garcia Medina/Reuters)Hello Dear Joe,

                Here is my prayerful meditation on how   Pope Francis could  follow in the foot steps of Assisi and imitate  Carpenter of Nazareth as the Role model for himself and all builders.  I am wondering how to get articles of this type come to the notice of the Pope himself. Any direct e-mails to the Pope or to His office? With all goo wishes,

                james kottoor


Second Francis to Rebuild Church?

To be Like Jesus is Good News!

 Rebuilding a crumbling Church should be modelled on life lived like Jesus in thought, word and deed. Model is non-negotiable. It alone is new evangelization. Assisi’s Francis made a mad dash for it & became 2nd Christ. What about you and me led by Pope Francis (3rd Christ?) to be like Jesus?

Dr.James Kottoor

Optimism is good, pessimism is bad. What is better then? To my mind, it is Realism, which ought to be a mixture of both. The harsh realities of day and night, light and darkness, joy and sorrow, hope and despair teach us precisely that, day in and day out. One should not therefore be over-elated by success or downcast by defeat, but strive ahead hoping against hope, holding on to the maxim: “Dum Spiro, Spero” – I hope as long as I breathe!

This is how I see Pope Francis amidst all the euphoria surrounding his election as the dawn of a new leadership in the Catholic Church and the rise of a moral force for the whole world. Fault line is to see it more than just a dawn. Well begun is half done! Besides his past credentials auger well for him to soar like a rising sun  which may overcome  or even pierce through dark clouds to be expected from four quarters. A Malayalam proverb says the same: “What has germinated in fire will never fade in any hot sun.” (Theeyil kuruthatu veyilathu vadathu)

 Pope Francis has been through and through scorching political and religious fire in the country of his birth Argentina. He has creditably battled through  “Dirty War” years on the political front and “Liberation Theology” confrontations on the religious front. Apparently he has passed the test of Fire. The firing squads, either from the Left or from the Right, have not succeeded to tarnish his image as a Man of the masses, especially as the protector, defender and liberator of the last, least and lost, the vulnerable, oppressed, marginalized and hungry  anywhere and everywhere within his reach.

Now that he is catapult from a narrow national and regional setting to a global front, should he or will he succeed to repeat his performance with equal success and shine? This is the moot question. To be realistic none can vouch for certainties of his forthcoming performance, while many will argue for probabilities even when most of us may have easily settled for possibilities. Why?  Because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and in the Catholic Church the man at the top, as of now, wields absolute power unheard of in 21st century.

However office makes noble souls to rise up higher and higher commensurate with the demands of the office in question, but not necessarily. It has not helped the block of Italian cardinals not to shoot before the target was in sight. They send congratulatory messages to their hopeful cardinal of Milan immediately after sighting the white smoke but before the actual name got announced. That is how the Holy Spirit worked on them and probably in a lesser degree on various other national blocks with different expectations although all vie with one another saying they are guided solely by the same Holy Spirit,  to assuage and placate an unthinking or credulous public gallery.

But in the case of Pope Francis he has proved he is far above such narrow divisive thinking, pulls or pushes. Why? Didn’t he embarrass even his own religious congregation to become the topmost Jesuit to become a Franciscan? To opt for Francis of Assisi rather than Francis Xavier their founder Father? Wasn’t he thus telling without telling that revelling in the uniqueness of one’s own religious order, or one’s own particular church like Latin, Syrian, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara etc. has nothing to do with being an exemplary follower of Jesus? For Christians what is more paramount other than being like Jesus in word and deed? What would Jesus do here and now, alone should guide every Christian? Pope’s humility must have prompted him to see it as too tall an order. That could have forced him to settle for Assisi’s Francis, the “Second Christ”.

To Be Like Jesus?

Yes, to be like Jesus,  to reach for that unreachable heights directly or indirectly, to bear witness to Him alone and none other  is to be the sole mission of every one of His self-proclaimed followers. It doesn’t matter if one is called Pope or prostitute by the passing parade of public opinion which gloats in glorifying or stigmatizing persons to suit its fancies. For Jesus all are equal in his sight, all brothers and sisters, friends and well wishers. Among them there are no rulers and ruled. Those who want to be first must opt for being the last. Those who want to be Lord and Master must become the servant of all, even to the point of washing their feet.

Inequality among them alone is anathema, the capital sin crying to heaven for retribution. He came to banish from the face of earth all inequalities based on position, possession, power or pelf. The richest and the most blessed in His sight are those who give up all riches like Him. Pope Francis paraphrased it when he called Francis “the poor man” and exclaimed: How I would like a poor church, and for the poor”, to highlight his longing to live the paradoxical truth of having nothing to posses all “Nilhil habentes, omnia possidentes”.  

Jesus lived it. He owned nothing, didn’t have money even to pay tax to Caesar, had no home or address of his own except the heaven above and rugged streets of Palestine below, had to borrow an Ass to ride on, a  manger to get himself born, a cave to get himself buried, wrote nothing, ran away from being crowned king, cooked fish for his disciples, washed their feet, ate and drank with drunkards and prostitutes, called the poor heirs of his kingdom, baptized none, offered no sacrifice in any temple, ordained no priests, called the hierarchical priestly class of his times  hypocrites, brood of wipers, white washed sepulchres, branded Herd the tyrant “that Fox”, befriended outcastes, sinners and labouring class, in short, He afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. Therefore he was called a know-nothing, an immature youngster in his thirties, a rude guy gone crazy, a rabble rouser shaking the status quo fit only to be done away with although Pilot himself found him innocent and his wife was more convinced of it, and the good thief  saw  a heavenly soul in Him. 

                                            Can Pope become 3rd Christ?

Can Pope Francis live that life? Assisi’s Francis lived it and so he was called “second Christ”. Can you and I who profess to be His followers live it?  We are called to! As Cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the first step in that direction by saying good bye to Episcopal palace for a rented apartment, by opting for a bus ride  to a Shaffer driven car, cooking for himself, now as Pope by calling himself Francis and giving up palatial penthouse apartment with more than a dozen rooms in favour of a modest two-room residence, by calling inequality the greatest sin crying to heaven, by branding fellow leaders hypocrites for forgetting Jesus who bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes, by washing the feet of Aids patients in one place and drug addicts in another, and lately making history as the first pope ever to wash the feet of two ladies, one an Italian Catholic and the other, think of it, a Serbian Muslim. Good that none asked: “Has he gone crazy?”

But the litmus test of his papacy will come only when he renounces his claim to be “Pontifex Maximus” to be addressed: “Your Holiness” which is blasphemy pure and simple. Instead he has to call himself: “First Servant of Servants” among equals which embraces the whole of humanity, not just the People of God, meaning Christians only. Some critics point to a “sinking Bark of Peter” as the reason for mass exodus of youth and women from it. At such a time it would be suicidal to hoist two totally negating flags: “His Holiness” and “Servant of Servants”. When Pope Benedict resigned I thought he would become an “Ordinary” in the ordinary sense. Instead, if reports are to be believed, he is still clinging on to some of the Papal perks (will still be called His Holiness, it is reported) which would make his much trumpeted humility just a sham.

Besides Francis should abolish with an executive order the present graded ascending and descending hierarchical status for the clergy like: Cardinals called princes, Archbishops, Bishops, Monsignors and priests, all of Constantenian origin and all of them  variously addressed as His Holiness,  His Eminence, His Grace, His Excellency, His Lordship, Most Rev., Rt. Rev. and Rev. for the priest just ordained. That leaves the rest of the baptized with no share in Holiness in the Church. If he cannot bring an executive order for all (How can he, a man of peace and pardon punish anyone except himself?), he should at least renounce for himself all these divisive titles that militate against equality, to set an example for others to follow on their own. Nothing short of it can clinch his credibility. How else can Pope Francis be like Jesus or Francis of Assisi who renounced even priesthood for himself?

                                                 Next Pope a Jesus Youth?

Two other vexing issues in the Catholic Church are: 1. what should be the age for top Church leaders? And 2. How to handle  theologians with conflicting views on moral and social issues? In the context of Benedict’s resignation due to old age debilities, reason demands either to put an age bar for one to become a Pope or reduce Papacy to a fixed term, say 10 years.  But here again what is the role model we are in duty bound to follow, if not Jesus? Yes, is it not to be like Jesus?

How old was Jesus when he started his leadership role (just 30) and when did he end it? At 33 after 3 years of public life! Today we have got into the habit of associating all leadership qualities like wisdom and grace before God and man, experience, maturity and know how only with the old, those who are past 60 and in their declining or retiring years. Instead it is those who are in their thirties who are alive and kicking and have the necessary physical, psychological and intellectual stamina besides the necessary get up and go to  take risks and lead, even according to Indian Sastras which speak of four Ashrams in life: Brehmachariya, Grahasta, Vanaprasta and Sanayasa.

Won’t it look ridiculous if we thrust leadership roles on those who are in their Sanyasa years? The example of Jesus demands and Indian wisdom commands that we opt for young and energetic leaders like Jesus to take top leadership in the Church. Besides we have examples of many world luminaries who performed brilliantly or peaked their best in their thirties. It is also the crying need to connect with today’s majority of younger generation in their thirties. If we want to be like Jesus, who is the non-negotiable model, this point must be thrashed out thread bear and applied in the selection of a Pope, cardinals or bishops, as long as these imperial, outdated offices are perpetuated and not wiped out from the Catholic Church.

Similar is the case of dealing with controversial theologians. Vatican II was loud and clear, when it said we don’t have instant solutions to all vexing, thorny problems of the day. So we have to search for them together through prayer, study and honest discussion on the pros and cons of unsettled issue. It is here the importance of loyal criticism and critical loyalty looms large in the Church. Hence the clamour today  for free speech for the sake of clarity and unity in necessary things, diversity in unsettled issues and charity in all things as St. Augustine advices. Here again the ultimate standard in the Church has to be that of Jesus who never, never asked any critic to shut up. Will Pope Francis, will you and me, dare to rise up to this standard set by Jesus?

                                                       Wrote 40 Years ago

These thoughts forced me to write “To be like Jesus” nearly 40 years ago as part of my signing off Editorial in the New Leader on July 14th 1974: 

“We have been advocating that every responsible public office (including that of bishops and even the Pope) must be for a term and not for a lifetime. Here is a chance for me to apply it to myself.....

“Christ the one honest man could not survive more than three years of public life ... (so)...those of us who manage to survive more than three years of public life may have to question ourselves on whether we have been as honest, as courageous and as truthful as Christ was....

“They say I am a dreamer, blind and cannot see that life consists of living only to earn money. Well if that’s what I am, Lord, won’t you care for me? I only want to be like the Man from Galilee! Chorus: I want to be like, I want to hear like, and I want to see like the Man from Galilee. I want to walk like, I want to talk like, and I want to be like the Man from Galilee. They say I am an idealist, blind and cannot see, that the principles I cling to won’t stand reality. Well if that’s what I am Lord, won’t you care for me? I only want to be like the Man from Galilee….

“LIBERATION: Finally you may ask: What are you going to do during the one year or so you are going to take off? Today there is a lot of talk about liberation and this concept is highly biblical. Christ started out His mission with a call for and promise of liberation from every kind of bondages – spiritual, physical, social and material. It is this mission of liberation that the Church must continue, that every Christian -- Bishop, priest, religious, layman – should continue.

“Before one can bring liberation to others, one should answer a more fundamental question: What should liberation mean for me? My simple answer, as far as I am concerned is, that it should mean liberating myself from various kinds and categories of unfreedom: from the outdated ecclesiastical structural  ghetto, from the clerical ghetto, from the Catholic  ghetto thinking, from the Christian ghetto, from the religious ghetto,  so that I could be really one with the mass of humanity and say in all truth: OUR FATHER with all its implications.

“For me that is the sum and substance of Christianity which goes far beyond all the talk today of ecumenism. Among other things I would like to reflect and see the consequences and demands of such a concept of liberation for me and for the Church in India.

“The end result of such a theology, I already suspect can  only be the identification of the Church with humanity, yes humanity without any distinctions of class, caste or creed, with the real people of God. Today, after the Vatican II, the Church is called the people of God. The Church was that even before the Council, perhaps it then meant only the Pope for all practical purposes. People of God meant Pope of God. After the Council the Episcopal collegiality is being recognized, and so the name ‘people of God’ today for all practical purposes means, Pope and bishops of God; the next council may possibly recognize the presbyterial collegiality (liberation of priests) and then the ‘people of God’ would really mean,  Pope, Bishops and Priests of God. Another ecumenical council would probably give religious and laity coresponsibility in the Church (liberation of laity) and then ‘people of God’ would really mean Pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity of God. Well, you may make your own calculations as to how many more ecumenical councils would be needed to really include all of humanity in the ‘people of God’.

“But don’t give up hope. Some day, some time, somehow we shall reach there. We are moving in that direction already with all the promises and prospects of a theology of liberation. Tagore wrote the beautiful hymen: Prayer for India: Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, into that heaven of freedom, my Father let my country awake….Only I wish you sing it with gusto, but substituting “my country” in the refrain with “my Church” awake….

“We started with Christian optimism. For me it means refusing to have any real hope until you pass through that paschal mystery of crushing defeat and sense of hopelessness. We are somewhere there. Therefore take courage and keep on hoping and smiling and hoping and smiling all the way, remembering that the last thing to give up is the sense humour. Wish you miles and miles of HOPEFUL SMILES!!” (To read the full editorial: “Editor Resigns: Wishing N.Leader Well,” visit: https//sites.google.com/site/jameskottoorspeaking/)


That was 40 years ago when we could not have dreamt of a Pope Francis. Therefore deluge our beloved Francis with your instant emails telling him as your honest conscience commands, with ill-will to none and good will to all. What we have today is a melting pot of churches in conflict for self promotion, for careerism as Francis names it. What is needed is to go beyond this  tempest in the tea cup of churches or Churchianity, in order to construct  a unified humanity for which alone the SON OF MAN  came and taught us to pray: OUR FATHER, excluding none and embracing all in its ambit to bring about His “THY KINGDOME COME HERE ON EARTH” in our globalised world. We can be sure of bringing it, provided we all from Pope Francis to you and me strive might and main “to be like Jesus” the Carpenter of Nazareth who so urgently wants to rebuild a new humane humanity of harmony and good will in thought, word and deed here on this  God’s earth.

                 Writer can be contacted at: jkottoor@asianetindia.com

Then Cardinal Jorge Cardinal Mario Bergoglio of Argentina washes and kisses the feet of patients of the Hogar de Cristo shelter for drug users back in March 20, 2008. (Enrique Garcia Medina/Reuters)

Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a juvenile detention centre in a Holy Thursday ritual that he celebrated for years as archbishop and is continuing now that he is pope. Two of the 12 were young women, a remarkable choice given that the rite re-enacts Jesus’ washing of the feet of his male disciples.

The Mass was held in the Casal del Marmo facility in Rome, where 46 young men and women currently are detained. Many of them are Gypsies or North African migrants, and the Vatican said the 12 selected for the rite weren’t necessarily Catholic.

Because the inmates were mostly minors — the facility houses inmates aged 14-21 — the Vatican and Italian Justice Ministry limited media access inside. But Vatican Radio carried the Mass live, and Francis told the detainees that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service.

“This is a symbol, it is a sign --washing your feet means I am at your service,” Francis told the youngsters. “Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service.”

Later, the Vatican released a limited video of the ritual, showing Francis washing black feet, white feet, male feet, female feet and even a foot with tattoos

YouTube Video

YouTube Video

YouTube Video

 Pope Francis


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, the leader of a large urban archdiocese in Latin America, was elected the 266th pope and took the name Francis.

He is the first pope in history to come from the Western Hemisphere and the first non-European to be elected in almost 1,300 years. The Jesuit was also the first member of his order to be elected pope, and the first member of any religious order to be elected in nearly two centuries.

Jorge Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital city, Dec. 17, 1936.

He studied and received a master's degree in chemistry at the University of Buenos Aires, but later decided to become a Jesuit priest and studied at the Jesuit seminary of Villa Devoto. The last pope to have belonged to a religious order was Pope Gregory XVI, a Benedictine elected in 1831.

He studied liberal arts in Santiago, Chile, and in 1960 earned a degree in philosophy from the Catholic University of Buenos Aires. Between 1964 and 1965 he was a teacher of literature and psychology at Inmaculada high school in the province of Santa Fe, and in 1966 he taught the same courses at the prestigious Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires.

In 1967, he returned to his theological studies and was ordained a priest Dec. 13, 1969. After his perpetual profession as a Jesuit in 1973, he became master of novices at the Seminary of Villa Barilari in San Miguel. Later that same year, he was elected superior of the Jesuit province of Argentina.

In 1980, he returned to San Miguel as a teacher at the Jesuit school, a job rarely taken by a former provincial superior. In May 1992 he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires. He was one of three auxiliaries and he kept a low profile, spending most of his time caring for the Catholic university, counseling priests and preaching and hearing confessions.

On June 3, 1997, he was named coadjutor archbishop. He was installed as the new archbishop of Buenos Aires Feb. 28, 1998.

Since 1998, he has been archbishop of Buenos Aires, where his style is low-key and close to the people.

He rides the bus, visits the poor, lives in a simple apartment and cooks his own meals. To many in Buenos Aires, he is known simply as "Father Jorge."

He also has created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, led pro-life initiatives and started new pastoral programs, such as a commission for divorcees. He co-presided over the 2001 Synod of Bishops and was elected to the synod council, so he is well-known to the world's bishops.

The pope has also written books on spirituality and meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages.

Some controversy had arisen over the position taken by Pope Francis during Argentina's 1976-1983 military dictatorship, which cracked down brutally on political opponents. Estimates of the number of people killed and forcibly disappeared during those years range from about 13,000 to more than 30,000.

Citing a case in which two young priests were detained by the military regime, critics say that the cardinal, who was Jesuit provincial at the time, did not do enough to support church workers against the military dictatorship.

Others, however, have said that he attempted to negotiate behind the scenes for the priests' release, and a spokesman for the cardinal, quoted in the daily newspaper La Nacion, called the accusation "old slander."

After becoming archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, he created new parishes, restructured the administrative offices, taken personal care of the seminary and started new pastoral projects, such as the commission for divorcees. He mediated in almost all social or political conflicts in the city; recently ordained priests have been described as "the Bergoglio generation"; and no political or social figure missed requesting a private encounter with him.

While not overtly political, Pope Francis has not tried to hide the political and social impact of the Gospel message, particularly in a country still recovering from a serious economic crisis.

In 2006, he criticized an Argentine proposal to legalize abortion under certain circumstances as part of a wide-ranging legal reform. He accused the government of lacking respect for the values held by the majority of Argentines and of trying to convince the Catholic Church "to waver in our defense of the dignity of the person."

His role often forced him to speak publicly about the economic, social and political problems facing his country. His homilies and speeches are filled with references to the fact that all people are brothers and sisters and that the church and the country need to do what they can to make sure that everyone feels welcome, respected and cared for.

In 2010, when Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, Pope Francis encouraged clergy across the country to tell Catholics to protest against the legislation because, if enacted, it could "seriously injure the family."

He also said adoption by same-sex couples would result in "depriving (children) of the human growth that God wanted them given by a father and a mother."


Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told reporters it was "beautiful that a Latin American was chosen."

"I don't know him well, even though we are part of same religious family," he said "I greeted him the other day, but didn't expect to see him again dressed in white."

A respected Italian journal said Pope Francis I had the second-highest number of votes on each of the four ballots in the 2005 conclave.

Pope Francis has had a growing reputation as a very spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership serving in a region with the largest number of the world's Catholics.

Contributing to this story were Carol Zimmermann and Carol Glatz in Rome.









Explained: Who is Pope Francis I?
Published: Thursday, Mar 14, 2013 on 11:16 IST | Updated: Thursday, Mar 14, 2013 on 11:36 IST 

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected as the new Pope on Wednesday, who took the name of Francis I. He was elected after Pope Benedict XVI shocked many people around the world with his decision to step down as the head to the Roman Catholic Church, which has a flock of almost 1.2 billion. Here is a look at who the new Pope is and what is he expected to do?

Who is Pope Francis I

Born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936, he is a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bergoglio was ordained as a priest in 1969. From 1998 until 2013, he served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2001.

He was elected in a surprise choice to be the new leader of the troubled Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013, taking the name Francis I and becoming the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years.

Bergoglio was born into a family of seven, his father an Italian immigrant railway worker and his mother a housewife. He became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies.

Despite his late start, he was leading the local Jesuit community within four years. Bergoglio has a reputation as someone willing to challenge powerful interests and has had a sometimes difficult relationship with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

Never mind the lightening. 

A signal from above? Lightning hits St Peter's hours after Pope Benedict stuns cardinals with first resignation in 600 years

  • Pontiff, 85, says health 'no longer adequate due to his advanced age'
  • 'I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry'
  • Made the decision in 'full freedom' but is aware of 'gravity of gesture'
  • Doctor advised him 'not to take transatlantic flights for health reasons'
  • Will retire on February 28, a decision that shocked even the Vatican
  • The only Pope to quit for health reasons and first to stand down since Gregory XII in 1415
  • David Cameron praised Pope's 'tireless' efforts to strengthen relations between UK and Holy See
By Simon Tomlinson and Richard Hartley-parkinsonPUBLISHED: 11:01 GMT, 11 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:44 GMT, 11 February 2013The Catholic church was thrown into turmoil today after Pope Benedict XVI made the shock decision to quit the papacy because of his deteriorating health.
In a decision that has surprised even his closest aides, the 85-year-old Pontiff said his strength was 'no longer adequate to continue in office due to his advanced age'.He announced his resignation in Latin to a meeting of Vatican cardinals this morning, saying he did not have the 'strength of mind and body' to continue leading more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide.
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Shock decision: Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation during a meeting of Vatican cardinals today
Shock decision: Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation during a meeting of Vatican cardinals today
A sign from God? Lighting strikes the basilica of St.Peter's dome earlier this evening during a storm that struck Rome on the same day Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation
A sign from God? Lighting strikes the basilica of St.Peter's dome earlier this evening during a storm that struck Rome on the same day Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation
The decision is unprecedented. He is the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415 and no Pontiff in history has stepped down on health grounds.The move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a Pontiff does not have to be observed.There are several papal contenders, including Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson who is a front-runner to become the first black Pope.
Ailing: The 85-year-old Pontiff said his strength was 'no longer adequate to continue in office due to his age'
Ailing: The 85-year-old Pontiff said his strength was 'no longer adequate to continue in office due to his age'
Complete surprise: Several cardinals did not even understand what Benedict had said during the consistory and those who did were stunned, a Vatican spokesman said
Complete surprise: Several cardinals did not even understand what Benedict had said during the consistory and those who did were stunned, a Vatican spokesman said


Gregory.jpgPope Gregory XII was the last pope to resign, standing down in 1415.His resignation ended the Western Schism - a split within the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417 which saw two rival popes claiming to be in office: one based in Avignon, France; the other in Rome.The dilemma of papal allegiance arose following the death of Gregory XI, an Avignon Pope, in 1378.When the College of Cardinals met to vote for a new pope, a Roman mob broke into the voting chamber and forced the election of an Italian pope - Urban VI.Unhappy with being cornered, some cardinals returned to Avignon where they elected Clement VII as the pope.This forced followers in Europe to choose loyalty towards either Avignon or Rome.
Until 1409, there were two popes simultaneously, although the Avignon Popes (Clement VII and then Benedict XIII) were seen as antipopes - in other words, those in opposition to the one generally viewed as the legitimate pope.The Roman popes were Urban VI, Boniface IX, Innocent VII and Gregory XII.Cardinals allied to Gregory XII and Benedict XIII decided to try and resolve the situation by getting the pope and antipope to meet and make an agreement. 
However, at the last minute they pulled out and it was decided at a church council in Pisa that they would elect another pope - Alexander V.He died in 1410 shortly after being elected and was succeeded by John XXIII.To resolve the situation the Council of Constance managed to get Pope Gregory and Antipope John to resign so a new election could take place.As he refused to step down, Avignon Pope Benedict XIII was excommunicated and his successor, Antipope Clement VIII resigned in 1429 in recognition of the Roman Pope Martin V's legitimacy to the papal throne.The only others to resign are Marcellinus, who abdicated or was deposed in 304 after complying with the Roman emperor's order to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods; Benedict IX, who sold the papacy to his godfather Gregory VI and resigned in 1045; and Celestine V, who stepped down after five months as pope in 1294.
Although officials said there had been no pressure for Benedict to resign, the internet is already awash with speculation that there was a more sinister reason behind his decision.Speaking in one of the Vatican's state rooms, the Pope today told cardinals: 'After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.'I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering. 'However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary - strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.' 
Benedict, who at 78 became the oldest Pope in 300 years when he was elected in 2005, said he was making the decision in 'full freedom' but was 'fully aware of the gravity of this gesture'.Several cardinals did not even understand what Benedict had said during the consistory, said the Reverend Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.Others who did were stunned.
A cardinal who was at the meeting said: ‘We listened with a sense of incredulity as His Holiness told us of his decision to step down from the church that he so loves.’In a hastily arranged and, at times, shambolic press conference this morning, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said: 'It’s taken us a bit by surprise. We’ve had to organise ourselves very quickly.‘We’ve had no warning of what the Pope was about to announce. The declaration is crystal clear and we need to go through it word by word.‘The Pope says that he looked in a personal way and had a deep moment of reflection to consider the mission that he had received from God.’A Vatican spokesman said he will officially stand down at 8pm Rome time (7pm GMT) on February 28.The Pontiff, who was known as 'God's rottweiler' because of his stern stand on theological issues, will then retire to the Pope's summer residence near Rome before returning to the Vatican to spend the rest of his life in cloistered accommodation.As he begins his retirement, cardinals in Rome will begin the process of choosing a successor.Although the Pope's announcement this morning came as a huge shock to his colleagues, there have been rumours about his health over the last few years.The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision, but in recent years, the Pope has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. 
He now goes to and from the altar in St Peter's Basilica on a moving platform, to spare him the long walk down the aisle. 
Benedict has acknowledged having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 1991 that temporarily affected his vision, but he later made a full recovery. 
In 2009, the Pope fell and suffered minor injuries when he broke one of his wrists while vacationing in the Alps. 
A doctor familiar with the pope's medical team said the Pontiff has no grave or life-threatening illnesses. 
But the doctor said, like many men his age, the Pope has suffered some prostate problems. 
Beyond that, the Pope is simply old and tired, the doctor said on condition of anonymity. 
The Pope, who also uses a walking cane, is also understood to be suffering from a degenerative joint disease.
Sense of incredilty: Pope Benedict XVI attends a consistory with cardinals, who were shocked by the decision
Sense of incredilty: Pope Benedict XVI attends a consistory with cardinals, who were shocked by the decision
Elderly: Benedict became the oldest Pope in 300 years when he was elected in 2005 at the age of 78
Elderly: Benedict became the oldest Pope in 300 years when he was elected in 2005 at the age of 78
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Aware of gravity of announcement: Pope Benedict said he had repeatedly examined his conscience before God
Highly unusual move: The Pope is the first to stand down in the last 600 years
Highly unusual move: The Pope is the first to stand down in the last 600 years
In November 2011, Andrea Tornielli – a well-placed reporter from the Vatican Insider, a project run by La Stampa newspaper in Italy – said Pope Benedict found it agonising to walk even short distances due to 'arthrosis', thought to be an Italian term for osteoarthritis, in his knees, hips and ankles.  
The condition forced him to pull out of a trip to Brazil in July.Mr Tornielli said this was why the Pope began using a moving platform to address crowds during mass in St Peter’s Basilica.There have also been reports that the Pope was struggling to read texts.Dr Alan Silman, the medical director of Arthritis Research UK, said Pope Benedict most likely has osteoarthritis, which causes people to lose the cartilage at the end of their joints, making it difficult to move around without pain.He said: 'It would be painful for him to kneel while he's praying and could be excruciating when he tries to get up again.'
Affection: Pope Benedict XVI embraces Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, after the pontiff announced his retirement
Affection: Pope Benedict XVI embraces Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, after the pontiff announced his retirement
Saying his farewells: The Pontiff embraces Cardinal Angelo Sodano after the consistory
Saying his farewells: The Pontiff embraces Cardinal Angelo Sodano after the consistory
Startled: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, tipped as an long-shot for the papacy, was shocked by the decision
Startled: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, tipped as an long-shot for the papacy, was shocked by the decision
Joe Korner, a spokesman for Britain's Stroke Association, said having a mild stroke also could be a warning of a possible major stroke in the future. 
'I would imagine the pope has been warned this could happen and that he should make some changes to his lifestyle,' Korner said, including reducing stress levels.Benedict has previously stated that Popes who are unable to do their job because of ill health should step down.
His deterioration during the last few months has been particularly noticeable and, according to his brother, he has been considering stepping down for some time.Georg Ratzinger, who still lives in the family's native Germany, said he had been having trouble walking and his age was weighing on him.'At this age, my brother wants more rest,' he said adding that the doctor had warned him not to take any more transatlantic trips.Despite Benedict being open with his family, he appears to have said little to cardinals and staff at the Vatican.

VIDEO Spokesman: Pope no longer able to 'cope' with challenges  

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Pope Benedict XVI is to stand down as leader of the Catholic church, it was announced today
Pope Benedict XVI is to stand down as leader of the Catholic church, it was announced today 
Pope Benedict XVI meets members of the Order of the Knights of Malta after the Mass to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order in Vatican City
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI meets members of the Order of the Knights of Malta after the Mass to mark the 900th anniversary of the Order in Vatican City on Saturday. He said his health is too weak to continue in office
Pope Benedict XVI (left) during a service in Saint Peter's Basilica to mark 900th anniversary of the Order in Vatican City
Pope Benedict XVI (left) during a service in Saint Peter's Basilica to mark 900th anniversary of the Order in Vatican City


White smoke rises from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, indicating that Benedict XVI has been elected as Pope in April 2005
Roman Catholic cardinals seeking a successor to Pope Benedict XVI will hold a conclave to elect a new pontiff.
Only cardinals are eligible to take part in the conclave, which will continue until a successor is chosen.
The cardinals will meet in the Vatican's ornate Sistine Chapel and hold two voting rounds a day until they choose a new pope with a two-thirds majority.
They were traditionally locked into the Chapel, best known for the frescoed ceiling and altar wall painted by Michelangelo, and not allowed out until they chose a new pontiff. 
They had to sleep in makeshift cells and share minimal sanitary facilities.
But new regulations issued by Pope John Paul II in 1996 allow them to live in a new hotel built on Vatican grounds behind St. Peter's Basilica and even take walks in the tiny state's peaceful gardens between their voting rounds.
Another reform lets the cardinals opt for a simple majority vote if they have not succeeded in electing a pope after about two weeks of balloting. 
Most modern conclaves have lasted only a few days.
When the cardinals are in agreement, the chosen one will say 'Accepto,' a puff of white smoke, above, will emerge from the chimney, bells will toll and a cardinal will appear at the central window of St Peter's Basilica to declare 'Habemus papam' - 'We have a pope'.
The decision to resign is highly unusual as the vast majority of incumbents die in office. He is the first pope to resign in 600 years. 
The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Catholics in England and Wales called on 'people of faith' to pray for the 85-year-old pontiff, saying that his announcement had shown 'great courage.''Pope Benedict's announcement today has shocked and surprised everyone,' he said.'Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action.'Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who retired as Archbishop of Westminster in 2009, said: 'My reaction was one of surprise and then gratitude for his service and leadership of the Church over the past seven years in troubled times.'He has been a great teacher, thinking particularly of his visit to Britain and the example he gave of being a Good Shepherd and a good pastor.'The Most Rev Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, said he had been 'quite taken aback' by the announcement.'My first thought when I heard the news that he was resigning, my instinct was that it is because of his health and his frailty and he feels it is an incredibly responsible task to be the chief shepherd of the Church on earth,' he said.German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had the 'very highest respect' for his decision to step down.'As chancellor, I thank Benedict XVI for his work and wish him from the bottom of my heart all the best for the coming years,' she said.Merkel, who is a Protestant, praised Benedict for his efforts to promote dialogue with other Christian denominations and religions. She said that he 'reached out his hand to Jews as well as Muslims.'New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, tipped as an long-shot for the pope's replacement, said he was as startled as the rest of the world.He said he felt a special bond with the pope because he was the one that appointed him archbishop of New York.Senior political figures also paid tribute.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who met the Pontiff in Archbishop's House, near Westminster Cathedral in London on his visit to Britain in 2010, said: 'He has worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain's relations with the Holy See.'His visit to Britain in 2010 is remembered with great respect and affection. He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions.'

VIDEO NY Cardinal Timothy Dolan reacts to Pope's resignation

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Pope Benedict XVI is helped by assistants as he celebrates the Vespers and Te Deum prayers in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on December 31, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI is helped as he arrives to attend a meeting with seminarians at the Romano Maggiore seminary in Rome on February 8
Ailing: Benedict's deterioration during the last few months has been particularly noticeable and, according to his brother, he has been considering stepping down for some time
Extra help: In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI starting using a mobile platform while leading services at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
Extra help: In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI starting using a mobile platform while leading services at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican


Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.
And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.
With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Pope Benedict had made a 'brave' decision.'Many people will remember his historic visit to the UK in 2010 - which was a very special moment for many, especially Catholics, across the country,' he said.'His decision to stand down is a brave one and we know he will not have reached it lightly.'The choice of a successor is clearly an important one for the Catholic Church.'Our thoughts are with those who must make such a critical decision on behalf of millions around the world.'Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI when he took office at the age of 78 in April 2005.He succeeded Pope John Paul II, who continued serving right up until his death despite suffering a number of health problems including cancer, osteoporosis and Parkinson's disease. 
He also survived two assassination attempts, one of which left him severely injured.Pope Benedict XVI's papacy has not been without controversy. 
Most significantly were the child abuse scandals that have hounded most of his time in office.In 2010, he was forced to apologise to victims of abuse by Irish Roman Catholic clergy, saying he was 'truly sorry' for their decades of suffering.He rebuked Irish bishops for 'grave errors of judgment' in their handling of the scandal and ordered an investigation into the Irish Church, but he did not admit any Vatican responsibility for a cover-up.He ordered an official inquiry into the abuse, which led to the resignation of several bishops in Ireland.
Benedict also served in the Hitler Youth during World War Two. Although membership was compulsory at the time, the issue dogged him through the early years of his papacy.Throughout his career, he has also been viewed as a deeply conservative man who had headed up the Church's modern-day Inquisition.However, once he took office he gained a reputation as a charming and shy man who won over many of his critics. 
He was only the second non-Italian Pope since 1522 and the oldest on election since the 18th century.He said after he was elected to the Papacy that he had prayed not to get the post and was hoping for a peaceful old age.As the powerful Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was already well-known within the Catholic world before his election to the top job.His image on elevation to the Papacy was one of an enforcer of Catholic orthodoxy and a cerebral disciplinarian who was unafraid to crack down on liberals and dissidents within the church.While Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), he gained the nickname 'God's Rottweiler' for his pursuit of Catholic theologians and clergy seen to stray from orthodox teaching.

VIDEO The Pope's last public appearance before he resigned

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Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims while standing on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City after being elected in April 2005
Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims while standing on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City after being elected in April 2005
His pronouncements before becoming Pope included labelling homosexuality a 'more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil' and saying rock music could be a 'vehicle of anti-religion'.The Pope has also proved himself to be strongly against the ordination of women as priests, euthanasia, abortion and the use of artificial birth control.Since his election as Pontiff his image has softened, leading him to be dubbed 'Benedict the Benign' in some quarters - but he has also attracted considerable controversy.The Pope's 2009 visit to Africa was overshadowed by a row sparked by comments he made while flying to the continent in which he rejected condoms in the fight against Aids.His decision in 2009 to lift the ex-communication on renegade English cleric Richard Williamson, who made comments suggesting only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews died in the Holocaust and none perished in gas chambers, also caused uproar.
All smiles: The Queen and Prince Philip exchange gifts with Benedict XVI in the Morning Drawing Room at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh during the Pope's visit to the UK visit in 2010
All smiles: The Queen and Prince Philip exchange gifts with Benedict XVI in the Morning Drawing Room at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh during the Pope's visit to the UK visit in 2010
Triumphant: Pope Benedict XVI arrives to give a speech at Westminster Hall, London on the second day of his State Visit in September 2010
Triumphant: Pope Benedict XVI arrives to give a speech at Westminster Hall, London on the second day of his State Visit in September 2010
The Pope later issued a letter expressing his regret about the damage the affair caused to relations with the Jewish community, saying he had not known about Williamson's stance on the Holocaust when he took the decision to lift the ex-communication.One of his biggest setbacks also came on a visit to Germany in 2006 when he was caught in a firestorm of criticism from the Islamic world after giving a lecture at his old university of Regensburg.Quoting from an obscure Medieval text, he cited the words of a Byzantine emperor who characterised some of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, Islam's founder, as 'evil and inhuman' - remarks that touched off widespread anger across the Muslim world.The anger and violence sparked by his comments including attacks on seven churches in the West Bank and Gaza posed one of the biggest international crises involving the Vatican in decades.In Somalia, gunmen killed an Italian nun and her bodyguard at the entrance of a hospital where she worked, in an attack that some feared was linked to the outrage over the Pope's remarks.
Warm welcome: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, greets Pope Benedict XVI at Lambeth Palace in central London on September 17, 2010
Warm welcome: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, greets Pope Benedict XVI at Lambeth Palace in central London on September 17, 2010
Popular: Benedict XVI drives past crowds of pilgrims in his Popemobile in Longridge, Birmingham, during his UK visit in 2010
Popular: Benedict XVI drives past crowds of pilgrims in his Popemobile in Longridge, Birmingham, during his UK visit in 2010
Throngs: Pope Benedict XVI delivering the 'Urbi et Orbi' Message and blessing to faithful from the central loggia of St Peter's basilica after the Easter Holy Mass at The Vatican in April 2012
Throngs: Pope Benedict XVI delivering the 'Urbi et Orbi' Message and blessing to faithful from the central loggia of St Peter's basilica after the Easter Holy Mass at The Vatican in April 2012
He later apologised, saying he was 'deeply sorry' about the angry reaction to his remarks about Islam and holy war, saying the text he quoted did not reflect his personal opinion.But in September 2010, the Pope flew enjoyed a triumphant four-day state visit to Britain after which he declared that the UK had a thirst for Christianity.In a final attack on the atheists who tried to wreck the visit, Benedict XVI said that the country has become ‘a highly secularised environment’.His speech was the culmination of a tour aimed at re-evangelising a country he believes has slipped away from its Christian roots.The popularity of his visit confounded opponents who predicted thin congregations and empty parks.In December, he joined Twitter to spread his message to more of his 1.2billion followers through the internet.
Sense of fun: Pope Benedict XVI waves from the Popemobile wearing a Mexican sombrero as he arrives to give a Mass in Bicentennial Park near Silao, Mexico, on March 25, 2012
Sense of fun: Pope Benedict XVI waves from the Popemobile wearing a Mexican sombrero as he arrives to give a Mass in Bicentennial Park near Silao, Mexico, on March 25, 2012
Keeping up with the times: The Pope joined Twitter in December to get his message across to more of his 1.2billion followers
Keeping up with the times: The Pope joined Twitter in December to get his message across to more of his 1.2billion followers
The Pope was made Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 after a career as a university professor.He was born in the village of Marktl am Inn in Bavaria - he explained on a visit to Germany after his election 'my heart beats Bavarian'.His formative years coincided with the lifespan of the Third Reich. His family opposed National Socialism but did not participate in public resistance to the Nazis.He was forced against his will into Hitler Youth at the age of 14 and into the Wehrmacht at 16, serving in an anti-aircraft unit before deserting towards the end of the war.He was once viewed as a progressive within the Catholic Church and played a key role in the reforming Vatican II, the meeting between 1963 and 1965 that introduced sweeping reforms to the church.It is believed that his experience of Marxist unrest amongst students in the theology faculty in Tubingen, southern Germany, in 1968 where he was a professor contributed to his conservative outlook.In private, the Pope is known to be an accomplished pianist and a lover of Mozart.He is also a cat lover and, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was known to have looked after stray cats in Rome.


Within minutes of Pope Benedict's announcement, speculation was rife about who would replace him.There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner - the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II. 
However, cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson has emerged as the early favourite, with Paddy Power offering odds of 9/4, closely followed by CanadianMarc Ouellet at 5/2.Here, MailOnline looks those in contention, their odds and some of their strongly held beliefs.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana
9/4 Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, 64Country: Ghana Cardinal in the Ghanaian Catholic ChurchElevated to cardlinalate by Pope John Paul IISignificant views: Would like to see a black pope. Believes condoms should be used in marriage if one partner is infected with Aids.
Marc Ouellet
5/2 Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68Country: CanadaElevated to the cardinalate by Pope John Paul IISignificant views: Belief that abortion is unjustifiable, even in cases of rape
Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze
7/2 Cardinal Francis Arinze, 80Country: NigeriaElevated to cardlinalate by Pope John Paul IISignificant views: Extreme conservatism on birth control and abortion
Cardinal Angelo Scola
7/1 Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71Country: ItalyElevated to become Archbishop of Milan by Benedict XVISignificant views: Wants to work more closely with Islam and support Christians in the Middle East
Honduran cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga
10/1 Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, 70Country: HondurasElevated to cardinalate by Pope John Paul IISignificant views: A moderate but is anti-abortion and criticised Ricky Martin for using a surrogate mother 
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
12/1 Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78Country: ItalyElevated to cardinalate by Pope John Paul IISignificant views: Blamed homosexual infiltration of the clergy for Catholic child sex scandals
Angelo Bagnasco
14/1 Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, 70Country: ItalyElevated to cardinalate by Pope Benedict XVISignificant views: Strongly against abortion and expressed anger towards same-sex unions
Argentina's cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
16/1 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 77Country: ArgentinaElevated to cardinalate by John Paul IISignificant views: Against abortion and euthanasia, is against same-sex marriage but calls for respect of gay people. Washed the feet of 12 Aids patients in 2001.
Vatican's deputy secretary of state, Argentinian Archbishop Leonardo Sandri
20/1 Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69Country: ArgentinaElevated to cardinalate by Benedict XVISignificant views: Said Christians in Iraq under Saddam Hussein were more free than they are now
Christoph von Schonborn
25/1 Cardinal Christoph von Schonborn, 68Country: AustriaElevated to cardinalate by John Paul IISignificant views: Said use of a condom by an Aids sufferer could be seen as a 'lesser evil'.
Published by Associated Newspapers LtdPart of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group© Associated Newspapers Ltd

Delhi gang rape: scandal of the many who ignored it

The boyfriend of the woman who died in a brutal rape incident has given his own shocking account of events.

Passers-by looked on, and police wasted time discussing jurisdiction, as the India gang-rape victim and her male friend lay naked and bleeding by the road after being thrown off a moving bus, the victim's companion recalls. Her brother says timely help could have saved her life.

A shameful police and public apathy preceded the ongoing widespread protests over last month's gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi – who later succumbed to injuries from an assault that involved penetration of a blunt, rusted iron object, said the victim's friend, who spoke for the first time to a private Indian channel, Zee News, on Friday.

"We were without clothes. We tried to stop passers-by," he said. "Several auto rickshaws, cars and bikes slowed down but none stopped for about 25 minutes. Then, someone on patrolling stopped and called the police," who arrived about 45 minutes later.

Police then wasted time in trying to determine which police station had jurisdiction over the incident, he added. They neither gave them clothes and nor called an ambulance. "They were just watching us." After repeated requests, he was given a strip of cloth to cover the woman.

While hundreds of youth continue to protest in Delhi, demanding stricter rape laws and better protection of women, the victim's brother lamented on Saturday that a delay in providing medical assistance to his sister led to complications, which perhaps led to her death.

"She told me that after the incident that she had asked passers-by for help but to no avail and it was only after the highway patrol alerted the police that she was rushed to hospital but it had taken almost two hours," he told Press Trust of India. "By then a lot of blood was lost. Had the passers-by helped and if prompt medical assistance was provided, perhaps her life could have been saved."

The victim's friend told Zee News he carried the badly injured woman to the police vehicle on his own as "the policemen didn't help us because my friend was bleeding profusely and they were probably worried about their clothes."

"My friend was bleeding profusely; I was more concerned about her. But instead of taking us to a nearby hospital, they (police) took us to a hospital that was far away," said the friend, a software engineer.

Even at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, the two were made to wait. "I had to literally beg for clothes. I asked one safai karamchari (sweeper) to give me some clothes or curtains, and he asked me to wait. But the clothes never came. I then borrowed a stranger's mobile and called my relatives, but just told them that I had met with an accident. My treatment started only after my relatives came," he said.

Where were you, God?

We are crushed with grief, God.
We cannot bear to think of so many people killed.
We cannot bear to think of children being killed.
It is unthinkable to us, the worst tragedy.


Where were you, God?
How could you let this happen?
Why is your world like this?
We are sad and angry and confused.

But God, we know that you know what it means to have a child die.
For your Son died a violent death.

And we know that your Son understands grief.
For he wept bitterly when his friend Lazarus died.
And he was moved with compassion when he saw suffering.
His heart broke like our hearts do.
He cried like we do today.

We know too that your Son raised Lazarus from the dead.
And that you raised your own murdered Son from the grave,
As a sign of the eternal life you have planned for us.
The life into which you now place the victims, whom you loved.
And love.

We know that you understand our terrible anguish.
You accept our bitterness and our confusion too.
And we know that your Son is beside us, weeping with us.

We know that you are still with us God, in the darkness.
In our compassion for the families and friends of the victims.
In the love that moves us to care for one another.
In the anger that drives us to put an end to violence,
As your Son tried to do in his time with us.

Most of all, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

Jim Martin sj

Fr Herbert de Souza sj - 15th death Anniversay 14th Dec 2012
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