Issues Vol. 169‎ > ‎

Vol. 169 No. 02 • JAN 13 - 19, 2018

01 Cover

posted Jan 11, 2018, 8:20 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 12, 2018, 2:10 AM ]

03 Index

posted Jan 11, 2018, 8:19 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 8:19 AM ]

04 Engagements

posted Jan 11, 2018, 8:16 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 8:16 AM ]

05 Editorial - Challenging Commitments

posted Jan 11, 2018, 7:55 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 12, 2018, 2:11 AM ]

The Church observes the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees on January 14, 2018. The theme of Pope Francis' message - 'Welcoming, Protecting, Promoting and Integrating Migrants and Refugees' challenges us to a greater commitment not to abdicate our responsibility, but to positively respond to the cries of the forcibly displaced and excluded.

At the United Nations Summit in New York on September 19, 2016, world leaders expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees, to save their lives and protect their rights, sharing this responsibility on a global level. To this end, the states committed themselves to drafting and approving, before the end of 2018, two Global Compacts, one for refugees and the other for migrants.

Pope Francis states the coming months offer a unique opportunity to advocate and support the concrete actions with regard to Refugees and Migrants. He invites all to share this message with all political and social actors involved in the process which will lead to the approval of the two Global Compacts.

On September 19, 2016, the UN General Assembly held a special session under the banner 'United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants' that brought together Heads of State and of Government to develop a blueprint for a more effective international response to perhaps the single most important crisis of modern times, which affects millions across the globe today. 'The New York Declaration' signed by 193 Member States (including India) was the outcome of this meet.

The 24-page document said, "We declare our profound solidarity with, and support for, the millions of people in different parts of the world who, for reasons beyond their control, are forced to uproot themselves and their families from their homes. Refugees and migrants in large movements often face a desperate ordeal. Many take great risks, embarking on perilous journeys, which many may not survive. Some feel compelled to employ the services of criminal groups, including smugglers, and others may fall prey to such groups, or become victims of trafficking. Even if they reach their destination, they face an uncertain reception and a precarious future. We are determined to save lives. Our challenge is, above all, moral and humanitarian. Equally, we are determined to find long-term and sustainable solutions. We will combat with all the means at our disposal the abuses and exploitation suffered by countless refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations." (#8-10)

On paper, and in theory, this is fine. In reality, it is a different take: on December 3, 2017, the United States announced that it was withdrawing from the two Global Compacts. India, on the other hand, has literally shut its doors on the persecuted Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar. With xenophobia, racism, pseudo-nationalism and exclusiveness on the rise in several other countries, the actualisation of the two Compacts is not going to be easy. Thankfully, most of the world is still concerned about the plight of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons, so hopefully, by the end of 2018, the Global Compacts will see the light of day!

The 51st World Day of Peace was observed by the Church on January 1. Significantly, the theme of the message of Pope Francis was "Migrants and refugees: men and women in search of peace". In doing so, he has challenged "all people and all nations on earth" to respond to the needs and aspirations of the refugees and migrants because they too are "men and women in search of peace." He has called upon the world community to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees in a compassionate and meaningful way.

It is the heartfelt hope of Pope Francis that this spirit will guide the process that in the course of 2018 will lead the United Nations to draft and approve two Global Compacts - one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees.

Fr Cedric Prakash sj is a human rights activist, currently based in Lebanon.

06 CBCI New Year Message - Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX

posted Jan 11, 2018, 7:54 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 7:54 AM ]

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India wishes you a New Year filled with God's abundant blessings, His Peace and Joy. As India and the world ushers in 2018, we look forward with hope and enthusiasm. We pray for our beloved country, for our political and spiritual leaders, and for every Indian, that 2018 may be a year of peace and harmony, of love and fraternity, of inclusive and integral development for all peoples.

Even as we enter the New Year, a series of happenings that threaten the very idea of India have been taking place.

We have been saddened by disturbing reports of an uncalled for attack on Dalits in Pune, Maharashtra. According to newspaper reports, "groups carrying saffron flags allegedly attacked Dalits headed to the British-built memorial to those who died in the battle of 1818." That this annual event is suddenly under attack is an alarming sign and we condemn the violence unequivocally. We appeal for peace and harmony.

In Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, a Catholic Institution, St Mary's Post Graduate College is being threatened by ABVP activists that trouble will be created on January 4, 2018 in the college. The College has already been attacked once by these lumpen elements on December 30, 2017, who entered the college by scaling walls, and as one newspaper called it, creating a "hungama" demanding that a certain type of worship be enforced in the College. The attack took place in the presence of over 20 policemen, who watched without acting. This type of terrorism is unacceptable. This false nationalism must stop. That mobs of these type are being emboldened, as was earlier seen in Satna, is worrying and disturbing.

Meanwhile, a fact-finding team of lawyers deputed by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India has reported that the tiny Christian community there is frightened and worried. Among other things, they observed that "The Bajrang Dal activists shouted slogans against Christians, and used filthy and foul language to abuse them. They asked the brothers and priests to come forward one by one, and took photos of everyone, and wrote down the phone numbers; and the police silently watched. It looked as if the whole incident was scripted and directed by Bajrang Dal activists, with the sponsorship of the Police. The police did not do anything to protect the brothers. The manhandling and thrashing by the Bajrang Dal members was so ruthless that many got bruises and injuries; and the spectacles of three brothers were broken. They forced the brothers to say, "Jai Sri Ram, Jai Bajrang Bali."


07 Importance of receiving our Baptism - Pope Francis

posted Jan 11, 2018, 7:52 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 7:53 AM ]

On Sunday, January 7, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of remembering the day of our baptism, which he said is more than just a date on the calendar, but is the moment we receive our Christian identity and are immersed in the grace and forgiveness of God.

"The feast of the Baptism of Jesus invites every Christian to remember their own baptism," the Pope said, explaining that to forget one's baptism "means exposing oneself to the risk of losing the memory of what the Lord has done for us."

In the end, we consider the day "only as a fact that happened in the past," rather than recognising it as the day on which "we became new creatures and are also capable of forgiving and loving whoever offends us and does us harm."

More than just the day that "sociologically marks the parish register," the day that we were baptised is the day that "constitutes the demanding identity card of the believer," he said.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address. Prior to praying the Angelus, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel, during which he baptised 34 babies in commemoration of the special feast day, which he does every year.

In his address, the Pope noted how the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus marks the end of the liturgical Christmas season.

Turning to the day's Gospel, he recalled how those who came to John for baptism recognised their sin and wanted to be cleansed in order to start a new life. Because of this, we understand "the great humility of Jesus," who did not have sin, but put Himself "in line with the penitents, mixed among them to be baptised in the waters of the river."

By doing this, Jesus highlighted what we celebrated at Christmas: His own availability "to immerse Himself in the river of humanity, to take upon Himself the shortcomings and weaknesses of men, to share with them the desire for freedom and of overcoming everything that distances us from God and makes us strangers to our brothers," Pope Francis said.


08 Building the Family of God

posted Jan 11, 2018, 7:51 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 7:51 AM ]

Just-completed surveys of young Africans and young Americans have highlighted the challenges facing the Church's Youth Synod taking place in October this year, and the contrasting views and experiences that young people will bring to the synod, entitled "Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment".

In their research, the regional bishops' conferences of nine countries in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) took on board the urging of Pope Francis to be a "Listening Church" first and a "Teaching Church" second. Sessions were set up with groups of 10 to 15 young people, mainly high school and college students. The survey was initiated by Small Christian Communities (SCCs), led by Joseph Healey, an American Maryknoll missionary priest based in Nairobi who is a driving force behind the SCCs in eastern Africa. SCC teams operated under the overall coordination of the pastoral department of AMECEA in carrying out the survey.

The Adult SCCs had already responded to an accusation from the young that their meetings were "too dull", with "too much talk" by setting up communities specifically for young people, Youth Small Christian Communities (YSCCs). These were established in Dar es Salaam, Lilongwe, Lusaka and Nairobi. Most of the East African survey was carried out through consultation with the YSCCs. The sessions explored issues to do with young people's personal lives; what they felt about the Catholic Church; and their attitudes to society in general.

Fr Healey reported finding dedicated young people on "both ends of the spectrum": "On the right, young people are deeply spiritual (devoted to the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, practices of piety). An increasing number of student groups are evangelical Catholics. On the left, young people are deeply involved in social justice, advocacy and service projects."

The survey found favourite discussion topics in the YSCC meetings that took place from 2013 to 2017 included: relationships with the opposite sex; sexuality; dating; fashion; popular music; video games; social networks; information technology; sport; and the use of leisure time.

Among spiritual concerns they listed: searching for one's human and Christian identity; self-discovery in a faith-sharing context; and vocational discernment (covering both religious vocations and vocations in the secular world). Career planning, job hunting and employment challenges were preoccupations, but justice and peace issues, good causes, and community service were also important. 


10 Our Sacerdotal Golden Jubilarians

posted Jan 11, 2018, 7:50 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 7:50 AM ]

Fifty years ago, 19 dynamic deacons were ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Bombay. They set forth, fortified by faith and the blessings of many, eager to serve God's people, traverse different paths, and break new ground. As we look back over these 50 years, we are deeply grateful for the significant contributions each has made to enrich the lives of their flock and the Archdiocese.

Among those who are still with us:

Bosco Penha was the first diocesan priest to be appointed as a resident Professor at St Pius X College. He was Professor of Theology; then Dean of Studies, and subsequently, Rector of the Seminary.

Fr Bosco, significantly, convened the First Bombay Priests' Synod in 1980, consequent to which he established the Small Christian Communites (SCCs) in the Archdiocese of Bombay - a vibrant movement of faith in action, which has now spread throughout India. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop in 1987.

Bishop Bosco also served as Chairman of the CBCI Commissions of Laity, Family and Women.

Fr Vernon Aguiar made it his mission to be fully involved in the parishes and schools, and in the formation of SCCs in the Archdiocese, wherever he was appointed. Having served as Dean in many deaneries, Fr Vernon is now Ecclesiastical Adviser to the Hope & Life Movement and the Coordinator for SCCs in Central Suburbs Deanery.

Fr Simon Borges, in addition to his pastoral work, was appointed Dean in different deaneries, and also an Archdiocesan Consultor. As builder and conservator, he has to his credit the Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni by the Sea, Uttan, the renovation of the heritage structure of Our Lady of Hope Church at Ghormal, Thane, and the extension and renovation of Holy Cross Church, Kurla.

He initiated the Prison Ministry in Thane, and set up AASRA – a shelter for destitute street children which completed its Silver Jubilee in November 2017! At St Michael's, Mahim, he has instituted a Counselling Centre.

Musically gifted, Fr Joe Pereira was able to make a tremendous contribution at his first two parishes - Our Lady of Victories, Mahim and Cathedral of the Holy Name, Fort.

He received a vocation within a vocation at the end of his term as Parish Priest in Mt Carmel when, inspired by Mother Teresa, the Kripa Foundation was born. This foundation caters to all who suffer from addictions. A unique aspect is the incorporation of Yoga for addiction recovery which has now spread to over 40 countries as the 'Kripa Foundation Iyengar Yoga'.


11 Law, Legalism and Faith - Joaquim Reis

posted Jan 11, 2018, 12:04 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 12:04 AM ]

Pope Francis has been persistently calling our attention not to be legalistic minded, and reminds us that love and justice are more important in our Faith journey to God. He says, "This is the path that Jesus teaches us, totally opposite to that of the Doctors of the Law. And it is this path of love through Justice that leads to God. The path that leads from love to knowledge to discernment to the total fulfilment that results in holiness, salvation and encounter with Jesus. Whereas the path of being attached only to the laws, to the letter of the law leads to closure, egoism, the arrogance of considering oneself to be in the right, the so called holiness of appearances.' This in short is the message our Pontiff is strongly putting across to his flock as he leads us to a loving and wholesome relationship with God.

For the purpose of appreciating what the Holy Father has been saying, let me illustrate with a very common example. Stealing is a sin as it breaks a commandment of the God-given Law, therefore entailing punishment proportionate to the offence committed. However, can we punish this offender without considering the circumstances like being under the constraints of hunger? The court of law is rigid and calls spade a spade, and quite often, there is not much room for love, compassion and understanding. This is an accusation Jesus often makes to those who follow the Law with rigidity, the Pope said. "The Law was not drawn up to enslave us but to set us free, to make us God's children," he said. Another aspect is that we use the Law of God to judge others too quickly, without even trying to analyse the situation in which the other is doing the so called 'wrong' according to our perception. Frequently, it results in distortion of facts, gossip, et al, and finally in disruption of relationships distancing from the love of God. I find a great spiritual wisdom in the exhortation of the Holy Father that those safeguarding the Law of God remain closed up there, and forget that God is not only God of the Law, but also God of History and surprises – like when He freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt; a God who is always new and progressive – like when He forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery; a God who is against hypocrisy – like when He confronted the religious leaders of His time for laying unnecessary burdens on the people of Israel, and not lifting a finger to help them carry their burdens; and finally, a God interested in embracing all peoples – like the Samaritan woman at the well.


12 Christians are at risk of being driven out of the Holy Land - Patriarch Theophilos III

posted Jan 11, 2018, 12:02 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 11, 2018, 12:02 AM ]

January 7 is Christmas, according to the Orthodox Christian calendar. And Orthodox Christians are keeping the feast in the Holy Land, where Christmas – and Christianity – began.

Much attention has been paid recently to political decisions recognising Jerusalem in one light or another. The media attention highlights the seemingly intractable political struggle here. But as well as the threat to the political status quo, there is a threat also to the religious status quo, a threat instigated by radical settlers in and around Jerusalem, the heart of Christianity. And one group that has always been a pillar of society in the Holy Land – Christians – seems to have been rendered invisible in this standoff.

Christians have lived a history in the Holy Land that spans more than two millennia. We have survived countless invasions, and have flourished under many different forms of government. We know that our survival has depended on the principle that the holy places must be shared by and be accessible to all. For it is the holy places that have given meaning to the region for both inhabitants and conquerors of all faiths. The protection and accessibility of the holy places are understood through a set of rules called the "status quo", which has been followed by all religious and governmental authorities of the region through the ages.

When the successor of the prophet Muhammad, Caliph Omaribn al-Khattab, invaded Jerusalem in 637, he was greeted by Patriarch Sophronios, the then ethno-religious leader of Jerusalem. Together, they signed a covenant that paved the way for an era of peace. This covenant was based on an understanding of shared custodianship of the holy places.

Now various sides want to claim the Holy Land, including Jerusalem, as the exclusive possession of only one people. This treats with contempt the mechanism that has maintained peace and our multi-religious landscape for generations.


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