By Nirmala Carvalho
MUMBAI: Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro – the Apostolic Nuncio to India – and 33 bishops from all over India celebrated Mass on March 13 to mark the 5th anniversary of the election of Pope Francis.
Gracias, who is president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India, hosted a seminar for newly-ordained bishops at the St. Pius X College in Mumbai.
The bishops also held a half-hour of Eucharistic adoration to mark the day.
The cardinal said the bishops were also praying for all bishops in India and the rest of Asia, that they understand and put in the practice the “mind of the Holy Father – inspired by the Holy Spirit – on how to live their episcopacy and be bishops of today: Beacons of mercy and good shepherds.”
“Pope Francis is a Pope of the peripheries, and a pope with a compassionate heart for the poor, and love and concern for the neglected and suffering,” Gracias told Crux.
The cardinal said Francis is “a pope with great concern for our youth and a special concern for the elderly, and for grandparents in particular.”
“From the beginning of his papacy, urging youth to forge bonds with the elderly has been a special concern for Francis,” he said. “Pope Francis is a pope of mercy, a pope who draws people to the sacrament of reconciliation.”
Gracias – who serves on Francis’s Council of Cardinals, the “C9” – is also the president of the Federation of Asian Bishop Conferences.
He said the pope has a great love for Asia.
“The Holy Father often asks me about Asia. The Holy Father appreciates the spiritual richness of Asia,” the cardinal told Crux. “Pope Francis underlines the importance of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions.”
Gracias said Francis tells him the word that we should never tire of repeating is “dialogue.”
“We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society, the pope never tires of saying,” the cardinal said.
“The vision of FABC for the Church in Asia is in communion with the mind of the Holy Father, that is to be in triple dialogue-dialogue with the poor, with cultures and with religions, and I may add, dialogue with nature,” he continued.
Gracias said the FABC will hold a Pan-Asian plenary meeting in 2019 on the lines of Latin America’s 2007 Aparecida meeting.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, chaired the committee that wrote the final document at the meeting, and it is considered to be one of the most important documents in understanding his thought.
“This Pan-Asian plenary will be a replication of the South American experience in Asia, which made a huge difference to the Church in South America. As President of FABC, I made this proposal for the Pan-Asian plenary, and it was readily accepted,” Gracias said.