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2014-02-24

ASIA/INDIA - No to social exclusion, no to the caste system: Franciscans in India play a prophetic role

Bhopal (Agenzia Fides) – Franciscans, consecrated persons as well as lay members, have reaffirmed their prophetic role in India, their desire to be “a poor fraternity among the poor and for the poor”, committed to eliminating social exclusion and the “caste system”, and working to promote respect for the dignity of the poorest and most marginalised persons: Fides was told this by Fr Nithiya Sagayam OFMCap, coordinator of Association of the Franciscan Families of India (AFFI) and director of the Udhayam Franciscan Centre for Peace in Tamil Nadu.
Franciscans in India – present in the country with 53 religious congregations, in 65 provinces – have just concluded a general assembly in Bhopal, during which they expressed determination to remain deeply rooted in the gospel style of life, following in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare, above all living close to the poorest and most marginalised persons.
It was reported to Fides that the Franciscan participants, consecrated and lay members, focussed attention on various aspects connected with the itinerary of formation, in relation to present day necessities and with direct reference to the new pastoral and missionary approach proposed by Pope Francis in the exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Franciscans feel called to “communicate, propose and live a culture in contrast with violence, consumerism, individualism and materialism, widespread in Indian society”. The antidote to all this, Fides was told by Fr Nithiya Sagayam, consists in a return to the “radical gospel options ”, made by Francis of Assisi. Franciscan Apostolate among the poor and the neglected is within this framework and represents a prophetic movement which goes hand in hand with efforts to counter the culture the caste system, still in use in India. The Assembly concluded that Franciscan apostolate cannot fail to turn its attention to slum dwellers, Tribals, Dalits and immigrants and all those deprived of basic human rights: this will achieve “a poor fraternity, among the poor and for the poor”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 24/2/2014)

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