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Bengaluru, Feb 7: More than 130 bishops from all over the country are in the state capital to attend the 27th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India which is being held from February 3 to 9.
Addressing a peace and harmony rally in Bengaluru on Friday February 6 held as part of the event, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, president, Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) said the bishops are anxious about the happenings in the country, particularly about the attacks of churches in Delhi. Cardinal Gracias, who is also the Archbishop of Mumbai, said the bishops could not smile as members of a family. “The incidents are like cutting the very root of our foundation which is based on great culture, rich heritage and vast tradition,” he said.
Cardinal said, amidst repeated applause, what baffles them is the silence of the Central Government. India, a great country, is losing its image among the nations as India is in comity of nations.
He appealed to the Delhi Government to do what is good for the country. He said “We have no enemies, instead, we pray for them (those in power and authority).” Expressing great anxiety on the occurrences, the president of CCBI said good governance is not on attacking places of worship. Archbishop of Delhi will have no clue on the next attack. However, he hoped wisdom and good sense will prevail upon them. “Lord is with us and we are confident that we have the confidence of the people of India who will not tolerate intolerance for long. The bishops and people would pray for grace, wisdom and strength for those in power and authority,” he said. He wished people of all religions such as Parsis, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and all others live in peace and harmony.
Dr Bernard Moras, Archbishop of Bengaluru said, “As soon as BJP came to power, all these attacks (on churches) also began. Newspaper reports quoting police said it was attempts of robbery and theft. Delhi Archbishop narrated in detail what happened in each case. The holy hosts kept in tabernacles were desecrated. We are sad about what happened. We only pray and keep no bitterness against the attackers. We all know what had happened in Karnataka when the BJP came to power. Safronisation is the goal of the Government. We all need peace and harmony for a good sleep. The secular aspect is to be kept.”
Archbishop Moras, known for his secular thinking, said, “There should not be any place for violence. Nobody gives service to the society like Christians. We serve all irrespective of any caste, creed or other considerations. We appeal to the Government to find out who are behind the attacks. What had occurred in Karnataka was not robbery but attacks, proving the government of the time and police wrong.”
Anil Cuto, Archbishop of Delhi, narrating a chain of incidents that occurred in Delhi said three churches were burnt. “Interiors of the churches attacked were destroyed. The attackers broke open the main gate of St Alphonsa’s Church in the Vasant Kunj area and entered the sacristy, before opening the tabernacle and scattering the host and desecrating the place. Among the items destroyed included a large rosary, ciborium and monstrance besides desecration of hosts and sanctuary. At least five cases of vandalism have taken place in two months. St Sebastian’s Church in South Delhi and a Syro Malabar Church were among those attacked.”
The Archbishop said the frustration lies in the inability of the police and absence of will of the government to nab the culprits.
“A protest rally of about 1000 people on Thursday in Delhi had seen the approach and scheme of the government. The protesters were dragged into buses and taken into police station. About 200 Hindu temples were also attacked. To divide the country and society is against the ethos of democracy, Constitution and values we have been upholding for centuries. What is happening to our beautiful democracy is the sad part of the incidents. Our Constitution guarantees equal opportunity for all. Are we second class citizens? Have we degenerated to such a state as to attack sacred places of worship. The trend does not go in the right direction. The harassment against Christians that has taken place in Chhattisgarh is only after this government came to power. This kind of situation can turn into fascism,” Archbishop Anil pointed out and added it should be nipped in the bud before they get out of control.
Fr Jayanathen, vicar general, Archdiocese of Bengaluru, called upon the large gathering to imbibe in the solidarity expressed by the Cardinal and Archbishops with the people of Delhi and respond to the clarion call for solidarity with the suffering people of Delhi and other places.
Bishops and people remained in prayerful disposition with lighted candles in hand to spread light and to eradicate hatred and violence but to establish harmony and peace among all sections of people. The bishops returned to their place of conference with the candleson.
Prior to the gathering and soon after the rally which began from St John’s Medical College, the prelates and people were led into the church of St Antony’s Friary for prayer, reflection and adoration. The rally was orderly, peaceful, disciplined and well-organised, observed many a participant.
The people behind the entire programme organized and conducted in a short notice were Fr John Anthony, Fr Praveen D’Souza, Fr Ronnie Prabhu, Fr Anthony Mahendran, Pericho and Ivan D’Costa besides several others assisting including Amith Nigli and the entire staff of the Friary.
A press note signed by Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Panaji and Bishop Varghese Chakkalakal of Calicut (Kozhikode) said “the 140 Bishops from across the country express our deep anguish and concern over increasing threats to peace and communal harmony in the wake of various untoward incidents affecting the Christian community in different parts of the country.
“Hardly a day has passed off in recent months without reports of attacks on Christians, Churches and Christian institutions from across the nation. Churches have been torched even in the national capital while reports of ‘Ghar Wapasi’ and blatant threats to hold mass reconversions are causing anxiety to the Christians scattered in the far corners of the nation. Amid canards being spread and open threats against religious minorities by belligerent groups and their leaders, even elected representatives of people have made shocking statements brazenly challenging the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution of India under Article 25(1),” the release stated.
“We are distressed over divisive steps from passing of resolutions to ban Christian practices at village level to an aborted national level bid to keep educational institutions open even on Christmas Day. Such concerted efforts at different levels raise concerns of a planned programme to undermine the Christian community in our motherland where the community has made immense contributions in the field of education, healthcare and social service even in the hinterlands,” the release stated.
“As citizens of this country, we have every right for ‘Equality before Law’ guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution. The police manhandling of peaceful gathering of even women, children, nuns and priests at the gate of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the heart of New Delhi on February 5, 2015 raises questions whether these constitutional guarantees are not applicable to the Christian community,” stated the release.
Among other things, the release concluded saying it is high time for the government – that has the bounden duty of protecting its citizens and their rights – to enforce the rule of law and curb the belligerence of the outfits defiling peace and communal harmony in the nation.
C V Joseph
Saturday, February 07