Wednesday, 4 June 2003

Vatican City (Fides Service) – “During my Pastoral Visits to India, I have been impressed by the many expressions of Christianity in your nation. The presence of the Latin and Oriental Traditions in such close proximity is a great source of strength and vitality for the Church” . Pope John Paul II said this in his address to a second group of Indian Bishops of Latin Rite (Bombay, Nagpur, Verapoly, Gandhinagar, Goa and Davao) received in audience Tuesday 3 June on their ad limina Apostolorum visit. “It is very encouraging to see the impressive numbers of religious and diocesan vocations in your Provinces, and the high percentage of faithful who attend Sunday Mass” the Pope told the Bishops and he stressed that these Churches materially poor are rich in human resources as it is seen by the numerous Basic Christian Communities, and lay movements and associations
“Notwithstanding these positive signs, your Dioceses are also faced with challenges” said Pope, adding “The negative influences of the mass media, secularism, materialism and consumerism, compounded by the false promises of a few fundamentalist groups, have lured some Catholics into giving up their faith. Sadly, even some members of the clergy have, at times, been attracted by empty promises of money, comfort and power”. Among the problems posed by modern society to the Church, also in India, the Holy Father mentioned “a movement towards a culture of death”; globalisation which tries to impose “upon Asian society morally unacceptable types of family planning and reproductive health measures”; the justification of immoral sexual activity with under pretext of freedom which besides threatening the institution of the family, contributes considerably to the spread of AIDS. “ The response of the Church in India – the Pope underlined - must be to continue to promote the sanctity of married life…The Church is called to proclaim that true love is Christian love, and Christian love is chaste love… At the same time, efforts which respect the dignity and rights of women must be made to guarantee that at all levels of Indian society a "new feminism" is promoted.”
Recalling the work of Saint Francis Xavier to spread Christianity in India the Holy Father said: “I pray that the Church in India will, in imitation of him, respectfully yet courageously proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not an easy task, especially in areas where people experience animosity, discrimination and even violence because of their religious convictions or tribal affiliation. These difficulties are exacerbated by the increased activity of a few Hindu fundamentalist groups which are creating suspicion of the Church and other religions. Unfortunately, in some regions the State authorities have yielded to the pressures of these extremists and have passed unjust anti-conversion laws, prohibiting free exercise of the natural right to religious freedom, or withdrawing State support for those in scheduled castes who have chosen to convert to Christianity.”
At the end of his discourse the Pope said that the Church in India must “never relinquish her fundamental task of evangelisation”. He also encouraged the Bishops to intensify dialogue between religions “for greater mutual understanding and cooperation ”, local and national, so that India “continues to promote and protect the fundamental rights of its citizens ”. (S.L.) (Fides Service 4/6/2003 – lines 40; words 545)

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