Belur — History was made September 28 when the head of the second largest male religious congregation in the Catholic Church used his maiden visit to India to meet with the monks of a top Hindu religious order.
Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime, who is the tenth successor of Don Bosco, founder of the Salesians, expressed happiness to meet with the top officials of Ram Krishna Mission Math at Belur on the northern outskirts of Kolkata.
Assistant General Secretary Swami Bhajanananda along with 11 senior monks welcomed the Salesian Rector Major and 10 provincials at Ramkrishna Mission World Headquarters.
“It was the very first meeting of a superior general of any Catholic religious order to the Hindu monastery,” sadi Shyamal baran Roy a senior journalist and Salesian alumnus who scheduled the meet.
“It is an important moment for us as seekers of God, we are all brothers,” said the Rector Major explaining the fact that “when we meet with other brothers and sisters of any religion who are serious about their spirituality we feel close to them.”
“These moments of communion are both for me and provincials a call for deeper spirituality,” said Fr Artime recalling his three-hour meeting with Missionaries of Charity Sisters at the Mother House on the previous day.
Swami Bhajanananda explained the missions’ monastic spirituality saying, “we believe in religious pluralism. Monks cooperate with lay devotees and render social service, medical assistance, education as well as conduct rural youth welfare programs.”
After some 30 minutes of interaction and exchange of gifts, the visitors had a darshan (tour) of the Ram Krishna Math temple with Swami Atmaroopananda, an American monk who explained to the Rector Major in Spanish.
The Rector Major was in Kolkata at Don Bosco School Liluah near Belur for the South Asia Salesian Family Congress to mark the concluding celebrations of 200th birth anniversary of Don Bosco. He made an unscheduled meeting with the senior monks of the Ram Krishna Mission.
Rama Krishna Mission is a monastic organization for men started by Sri Rama Krishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886), the great 19th century saint of Bengal who is regarded as the Prophet of the Modern Age. The mission aims at the harmony of religions, East and the West, ancient and modern.
It also strives for spiritual fulfillment, all-round development of human faculties, social equality, and peace for all humanity, without any distinctions of creed, caste, race or nationality.
It honors and reveres the founders of all world religions such as Buddha, Christ and Mohammed.
When the Rector Major proposed the possibilities of Catholic and Hinu orders working together on common social issues Swami Bhajanananda welcomed the idea but expressed caution over loosing one’s identity.
“Although we are not against any organization, we have to maintain our own identity of being universal,” the senior monk said referring to the rising rightwing Hindu fundamentalism in India.
The Hindu orders math (monastery) and the mission (social service) together have nearly 1,500 monks spread over 183 branches in some 130 centres all over India and in different parts of the world.
The visit followed the valedictory function of the Salesian Family Congress where a joint mission statement was passed by 1900 plus people from 11 groups following the charism of Don Bosco in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.