By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: A Catholic prelate on October 2 apologized for recent scandals involving Church leaders around the world and justified some Indian nuns coming to the street for justice.
“We are in the land of Mahatma Gandhi, promoter of Satyagraha and the only condition is that our strikes should be of ahimsa and not of violence,” Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad told more than 10,000 people attending a Bible convention in Thyagaraja Stadium in New Delhi.
The remarks of the prelate, a former Vatican diplomat, came in the backdrop of a sit-in by five members of the Missionaries of Jesus in Kerala to demand justice for a nun who was allegedly abused by Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.
The nuns and their supporters led by the “Save Our Sisters” movement ended their 14-day demonstration on September 22, a day after the Kerala police arrested Bishop Mulakkal.
Archbishop Bharanikulangara recalled that it was not the first time that the Church has gone to the street for its causes.
He recalled the late Archbishop Joseph Kundukulam of Trichur calling for a rally to protest a controversial drama that depicted Christ in poor light. Recently several bishops joined a sit-in the national capital seeking the release of Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped by Islamic militants in Yemen.
He, however, admitted that the arrest of a brother priest and the nuns protest have shaken the faith many ordinary Catholics in India. These events have also affected the credibility of the Church systems and the clergy, he added.
He listed several scandals that hit the Church in the past one year such as the “land deal affair” in the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly in Kerala and the breaking of confession seal by an Orthodox priest and subsequent abuse of a woman by several priests.
Other scandals that have caused “a great turmoil and tumult” among Catholics and others are punishment of an American cardinal, resignation of some Chilean bishops, and the recent sexual abuse report of the German bishops’ conference have, Archbishop Bharanikulangara added.
“I regret that these things happened. I publicly apologize for the scandals caused by the Church leaders to the common Catholic faithful,” he added.
The Indian prelate quoted Pope Francis’ concern for young people. “I am concerned with the faith and spiritual life of our young people, of the next generation of this migrant diocese. As the Holy Father said, the sexual abuse of the Church leaders cause their faith suffer a lot,” he added.
Maintaining that it was natural for people to question “the conventional concept of our Christian being” under these circumstances, he urged his faithful to not base their faith on bishops, priests. “The foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ,” he asserted.
He ended his homily seeking prayers for a peaceful and just national election in India. He stressed the need for maintaining the secular nature of the Indian constitution and guaranteeing the freedom of religions and worship enshrined in the Constitution. He also prayed for persecuted Christians in India and elsewhere in the world.
The convention was led by Kerala-based preacher Father Xavier Khan Vattayil and his six-member team from Sehion Ministries Attappadi, Kerala. It ended with a Eucharistic procession attended by all the priests and laity of the diocese.
Archbishop Bharanikulangara is the first Indian prelate to justify the nun’ protest while episcopal bodies such as the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council faulted them. The Kerala bishops regretted that the nuns coming to the street had helped the Church’s enemies to attack it and its leaders and disdain the Sacraments, causing “much pain to all those who love the Church.
Archbishop Bharanikulangara’s apologies came a day after three Catholic bishops in Kerala visited Bishop Mulakkal in the jail. Bishop Mathew Arackal of Kanjirapally, who led the group, justified the visit saying meeting prisoners is a Christian charity.