The senior Catholic priests, who are presently in Goa to attend the XIV national Conference of Diocesan Priests of India on Monday observed that the country is presently experiencing religious intolerance, which includes disruption of Catholic prayer meetings and attacks on Catholic prayer houses, further stating that even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unconvincing in his response to such acts, they are raising their voices wherever necessary, in a peaceful manner.
The conference includes a session on the topic ‘Pope Francis, a ray of optimism in the mission of the Church towards religious tolerance’.
Addressing a press meet on the eve of the four-day conference to be held at St Joseph Vaz Spiritual Renewal Centre, Old Goa, from April 5 to April 8, the Bishop of Warangal, Bishop Udumala Bala, said that stray incidents of attacks on Catholics are still being observed in North India.
“The Indian bishops’ body held a national level meet at Bengaluru last month, and decided to communicate its fear about religious intolerance in the country to the Prime Minister,” Bishop Bala, who is also the chairman of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India for vocations, seminaries, clergy and religious stated, pointing out that Modi was also informed about the body’s concern as regards many of the members of the Union cabinet making irresponsible anti-religious statements.
“In fact, the Prime Minister had maintained a silence on the issue until the Bharatiya Janata Party lost the election to the Delhi legislative assembly; the extent of the defeat unexpected even for us,” he added, noting that after this defeat, the Prime Minister seemed to be condoning incidents of religious intolerance.
The conference based on the theme ‘priest as a minister of God mirrored in the person of Pope Francis’ will begin on April 5 with Eucharistic celebration in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa, in the presence of the Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the diplomat of the Holy See and the Apostolic Nuncio of India.
The inaugural ceremony of the conference will be held on April 6 at 8.45 am, with the keynote address delivered by the Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the president of CCBI and Archbishop of Bombay, while the presidential address would be delivered by Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão.
The Bishop of Vasai, Bishop Felix Antony Machado will release a book, ‘Spirituality of the Diocesan Priest’ on the occasion.
Bishop Bala said, “The role of the Church is to animate our people to vote for good people.” He further stated that Church is not for polarisation of people but likes to reconcile them.
Replying to a question as regards some priests in Goa being involved in ‘supporting’ certain politicians, Bishop Bala said that he is unaware of the local issues. The priest also admitted that some of the diocesan priests are following an opulent lifestyle, although there are guidelines for lifestyle of the priests.
“However, we need to accommodate and adjust some of such priests among us,” he opined.
Around 275 representatives – including 13 bishops – of altogether 131 dioceses from 14 regions including Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are expected to attend the conference.
There are more than 10,000 diocesan priests in India.
National president of the CDPI, Fr Philomin Doss; the executive secretary of CCBI for VSCR, Fr Raymond Joseph; and the vice president of CDPI, Fr John Crasta were also present at the briefing.