Vatican City (Fides Service) – “Evangelisation is a charge in which all the members of the Church share by virtue of their baptism. Therefore, all the baptised…How unfortunate it is then that even today in many places in India unnecessary obstacles still impede the preaching of the Gospel. Citizens of a modern democracy should not suffer because of their religious convictions. Nor should anyone feel compelled to hide his or her religion in order to enjoy fundamental human rights, such as education and employment”. Pope John Paul II said this when he received on their ad limina visit the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Patna and Ranchi on June 26 in the Vatican. The Pope encouraged the Bishops despite present difficulties to be “beacons of courage and hope, inspiring clergy, Religious and lay faithful to take heart and continue to preach Christ who loves us even unto death, death on a cross”.
In his address the Pope stressed the importance of first evangelisation and the formation of catechists: “The mission of training the faithful to respect and proclaim the Gospel falls to parents, teachers and catechists of today. For this reason, a fundamental task of every Bishop is to ensure that he has well-trained laity equipped and ready to be teachers of the faith.” Connected with this task is respect for culture and dialogue with brothers and sisters of other religions: interreligious dialogue will not only increase mutual understanding and respect for one another, but will also help to develop society in harmony with the rights and dignity of all”. At this point the Pope underlined that the Church efforts in this field are sometime thwarted. He said: “It is unfortunate that some of the Church’s honest attempts towards interreligious dialogue at its most basic level have sometimes been hindered by a lack of cooperation from the Government and by harassment from certain fundamentalist groups”, nevertheless he voiced the hope that India’s long established tradition of respect for religious differences would not permit the development of opposite tendencies, and he encouraged the Bishops to continue to dialogue.
The need to guarantee sound philosophical and theological formation for seminarians and priest demands great effort on the part of Bishops: “Formators and professors are obliged to teach the message of Christ in its completeness as the only way, not as one way among many” The Pope then mentioned persisting forms of tribalism in certain areas of the country, remarking: “At times this tribalism has been so strong that some groups have even refused to receive bishops and priests not from their clans” … “Tribal or ethnic difference must never be used as a reason for rejecting a bearer of God’s word. It is the responsibility of all Christians to examine their consciences to ensure that they always and everywhere love all God’s children including those who are different…”.
The Pope thanked God for the “numerous priests and Religious in your country who are living exemplary lives of poverty, charity and holiness. Faced with so many hardships, they may be tempted to lose the zeal and creativity indispensable for effective ministry. I earnestly pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen them in their work” and he called on the whole Church in India “to renew her missionary commitment”. SL (Fides Service 27/6/2003 EM lines 34 Words: 531)