Bangalore: The apex body of the Catholic bishops in India, currently having its plenary assembly in Bangalore, has formally invited Pope Francis to visit India.
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) handed over the letter of invitation to Apostolic Nuncio to India Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, on March 7 to forward to the Pope.
The invitation letter signed by Cardinal Cleemis says: “We, 178 Bishops of India, gathered at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, from 2 to 9 March, 2016 for the 32nd Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, humbly request Your Holiness that our dear Nation, India, may also be included in the list of Your Holiness’s pastoral visits in 2016/2017.”
“Our Nation was blessed by the visits of Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1964, of Saint Pope John Paul II in 1986 and in 1990. Being the largest democracy in the world, with an age-old tradition of different religions and cultures, India awaits with eagerness to listen to another Apostle of peace and hope,” the invitation letter further adds.
The CBCI president also wrote to the federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking help to trace and rescue Indian Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil, a missionary who has gone missing after the March 4 attack on an old age home run by the Missionaries of Charity, in Aden, Yemen.
Four nuns, including an Indian, were among the 16 people who were killed.
Missionaries of Charity Sister Sali, who escaped the attack has reportedly said that she saw Father Tom being taken away by the rebels. The nun, who is the superior of the convent, hails from Kerala, southern India. Earlier, it was reported she was a native of Chhattisgarh state in central India.
The CBCI letter to the home minister reiterated “our confidence and faith in you, and hope that you would immediately mobilize the government machinery to trace and rescue Father Tom, who is our fellow citizen.”
Tom worked in Hassan in Karnataka before going to Aden. He belongs to the Bangalore province of the Salesians.
The CBCI assembly on the theme “The response of the Church in India to the present day challenges” will conclude on March 9.