Bangalore (Agenzia Fides) – The Catholic faith came to India thanks to great saints and apostles such as St. Thomas and St. Francis Xavier, and “India is what it is today, thanks to Christianity.”
Today the nation is called to reject a religious nationalism that has produced violence and atrocities on women, Dalits, religious minorities and to follow “an authentic nationalism that can lead motherland to true peace, harmony, progress and prosperity”, respecting dignity and the rights of every human being.
This is what Cardinal Baselios Cleemis said, presenting on February 11, the final document of the 33rd General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, (CBCI), which gathers the Bishops of the three rites present in the nation (Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara).
The document underlines that: “The Church believes that all people are our brothers and sisters, as Jesus himself taught us: ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mt 22.39). The emancipation of the poor and the promotion of human dignity are values sanctioned by our Constitution and are also taken into consideration by the Church in her mission”.
The Cardinal therefore warns that “any attempt to promote nationalism based on a particular culture or religion is a dangerous position. It can lead to uniformity, but never to true unity. Such ill-conceived efforts can only lead our nation on the path of self-annihilation”.
The search for peace, progress and development, especially in a country like India, characterized by a rich diversity of culture, language, race and religion, will never find an answer in mono-culturalism, he stressed, recalling that “sooner or later violence always falls on the violent”.
In this regard, the document deplores the growing number of “atrocities against women, murders, caste rivalries and collective violence, including attacks on institutions and Christian communities” and recalls that “authentic nationalism respects the human dignity of every citizen, independently from the economic situation, from culture, religion, region or language”.
Cardinal Cleemis therefore launches an urgent appeal “to all people of good will to uphold the rule of law guaranteed by our Indian Constitution”, expressing appreciation and willingness to cooperate with the government “in all its efforts to maintain law and order in our country, to guarantee the progress and development of everyone and the protection of the environment”.
The Cardinal therefore strongly reiterates that “the Christian community supports the absolute and transcendent value of human life which is God’s precious gift. Therefore an aggression against human life can never be inspired by God nor justified by different beliefs and practices. The human life of every single person in our beloved homeland must be taken into consideration and defended”.
Only God’s mercy “can heal the wounded human hearts, reconnect the relations between people and communities, raise those who have been oppressed for centuries because of poverty”, the text continues.
In this situation the disciples of Christ decide to “be authentic witnesses of mercy, which is the essence of the Gospel and the manifestation of Christian discipleship”, such as Saint Teresa of Calcutta and blessed Sister Rani Maria.
“In service to the nation, especially to the Dalits, Tribals and other backward classes, the Christians will join hands with all men and women of goodwill, to ensure the integral and holistic human development of our beloved country which is measured by the scale of human index, and not merely by economic statistics”.
To live “in unity in the midst of diversity, both in the Church and in the country”, the Bishops of India finally present a series of recommendations, among which: strengthening the communion between laity, religious and priests; accompany families in their evangelizing mission in the world and make them the focal point of the pastoral ministry of the Church; transmit to young people the vision of an authentic Christian life to enable them to carry out their role in the Church and in society; prepare seminarians, priests and religious, to be authentic witnesses of mercy in the Church and in society; enhance every opportunity to promote dialogue among religions; encourage and motivate lay people to be actively involved in the world; continue to carry out our service in the field of education a mission of mercy and implement the “All India Catholic Education Policy 2007” of the CBCI in order to spread the values of the Gospel.
In the conclusion, Pope Paul VI and Pope Francis are mentioned, when they recall that “the Church exists to evangelize”, and it is reiterated that “even if we face many serious challenges and setbacks for the unity in the diversity of our country, we are proud to be Indian. Let us love our country as we continue to pray constantly for it and for its well-being”.