ASIA/INDIA - Building peace and reconciliation, showing solidarity to the suffering: symposium on the role and challenges of priests in an area of tension among different communities

Monday, 12 July 2004

Guwahati (Fides Service) - Closeness to God, solidarity towards others are the characteristics of a good priest, said Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, President Indian Bishop Conference at a recent symposium on the priestly life and ministry held to mark the 25th anniversary of Oriens College of Theology, in Shillong in the north eastern state of Assam. The college is today a major seminary for eleven dioceses in north east India.
Father Thomas Manjaly, Professor of Sacred Scripture at Oriens College, said the aim of the Symposium was to reflect on the priestly ministry especially in north east India taking into account difficulties, challenges and opportunities. The symposium was attended by 120 delegates including bishops, priests, theologians and seminarians from all over the region.
Bishop Joseph Mittathany, President of the NE regional bishops’ conference, said a priest is called to be an agent of peace and reconciliation among communities particularly in places where there are situations of tribal and ethnic conflict.
The participants agreed that in NE India the priest has to “build communities in communion among themselves, promote harmony, forgiveness and reconciliation.” They also said that as prophet and shepherd the priest, cannot simply denounce violence, oppression, hatred, violation of human rights, injustice, he must be an active agent of solidarity. This is why it is vital for him to collaborate with the Catholic laity.
Underlining the important role of the priest in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue the Symposium highlighted the need for sound and on going formation of clergy.
Since Oriens College was opened in 1979 it has trained 448 priests and half of them work in NE India. The College also trains church personnel working in Nepal.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/07/2004 Lines: 26 Words: 278)