Mumbai - Today marks the seventh anniversary of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. For the occasion, the Church in India and its 18 million Catholics offer special prayers and liturgies in all the monasteries, chapels and religious institutions of the country. In New Delhi, Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), presides over a solemn Eucharistic celebration at the Apostolic Nuncio. Concelebrating with him Msgr. Salvatore Pennacchio, Nuncio in India. Below, a reflection by Card. Gracias ton he pontificate of Benedict XVI, and how the Church in India has taken on his mandate.
The Indian Church is grateful to our beloved Holy Father and are expressing our joys and gratitude to His Holiness for these seven years of his Papacy, additionally, we also take this opportunity to greet the Holy Father on his 85th birthday. This momentous occasion gives us the happy opportunity to put into perspective, Pope Benedict XVI papacy and his message.
Our Pope Benedict XVI is truly in every way the Vicar of Christ, and central to His Papacy is Continuity and Change. Continuity both from our beloved John Paul II, and also means the Church must remain in living touch with tradition. Change signifies adaptation in response to new needs.
The Holy Father has certainly continued in the traditions of JP2 of fearlessly proclaiming the gospel of .. and not to fear and to make Christ the centre of his life it s a message to all Christians and also to the whole world that's what we appreciate much and want to follow much.
The Indian Church is much enthused by the New Evangelization, which seeks a resurgence of faith in regions where faith is threatened by secularism . For this we place at the Service of the Universal Church presence of Indian missionaries in 166 countries around the world. India, long considered as mission receiving Church, has become the prominent mission sending Church.
214 religious congregations are sending Indian members to the missions outside and some of them are taking full responsibilities of developing their mission areas. And this is our gift to the Holy Father for the New Evangelization
Year of Faith
Benedict designated Oct. 11 as the start of the Year of Faith. Not coincidentally, that's the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Promoting the correct understanding of Vatican II as embodied in the Catechism is another key element of the Pope's program.
For us here in India, Pope Benedict's message for the 44th World Peace Day Religious freedom - the path to peace:' strengthen our commitment to the people of India to strive and defend Religious Freedom in our beloved multi cultural multi religious India.
Besides Religious Freedom, the Holy Father's ardent defense in favour of Democracy is a tool for defending human dignity, not for defining it Our Youth love Benedict XVI, and this is evident from the thousands who enthusiastically follow the Vicar of Christ to the World Youth Days.
The Indian Church continues to make significant progress to Nation Building through Education, Health and Welfare Ministires. The Church in India serves the most unreached places, and selflessly serves the poorest of the poor and the marginalized, largely of the majority community.
In spite of being not even 3 percent of the population, the Catholic Church reflects the Luminous Light of the Risen Christ through our works of charity and service to the people of India. The Church in India, is a missionary Church is a strong community of faithful sharing their faith and life far and wide in the remotest arrears
In the field of Education, the church has made the tremendous contribution to nation building. In Health Care, our tens of thousands of Religious are serving in rural remote underserved and unserved areas medically so this is again its contributions the church to nation building.
Thirdly, the social work the pastoral building of people church is doing so very much this is really the churches contribution to nation building.
Hence, with great humility, I can offer to the Holy Father, on behalf of the Indian Church, that the Hope, His Holiness reposed in me for India, can be returned 'fulfilled, beyond measure"
* Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI)