Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees

Building the future with migrants and refugees means recognising and valuing how much each of them can contribute to the process of construction.” Pope Francis offered that encouragement in his Message for the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which the Church celebrates this year on September 25.

The Pope focused his message on the meaning of humanity’s “journey” in search of our true, heavenly homeland. The Kingdom of God, he said, is already present in those who have accepted salvation in Jesus Christ. As we journey towards the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom, every person must endeavour to undertake a personal conversion, so as to transform our world and help it “correspond ever more fully to the divine plan.”

Pope Francis lamented ongoing tragedies of human history, which remind us how far we have yet to go along the path towards “the dwelling place of God with humanity.” “In the light of what we have learned in the tribulations of recent times, we are called to renew our commitment to building a future that conforms ever more fully to God’s plan of a world in which everyone can live in peace and dignity.” The Pope said we can advance along that journey by seeking the “righteousness of the Kingdom” and accepting the “Gospel of love” in Christ’s salvation.

Concretely, said Pope Francis, all inequality and discrimination must be cast aside from society, and “no one must be excluded.” “God’s plan is essentially inclusive and gives priority to those living on the existential peripheries. Among them are many migrants and refugees, displaced persons, and victims of trafficking.” The Kingdom of God is to be built with them, for without them, it would not be the Kingdom that God wants. The inclusion of those most vulnerable is the necessary condition for full citizenship in God’s Kingdom.

The Pope went on to say that building the future with migrants and refugees involves recognising their value and potential in their new countries of residence. As the prophet Isaiah foresaw in a vision, foreigners should not be considered “invaders or destroyers”, but rather as “willing labourers” to better society. Pope Francis offered the example of history to show that migrants and refugees offer a valuable source of social and economic growth to their adopted nations. “Their work, their youth, their enthusiasm and their willingness to sacrifice enrich the communities that receive them. Yet, this contribution could be all the greater were it optimised and supported by carefully developed programmes and initiatives. Enormous potential exists, ready to be harnessed, if only it is given a chance.”

While presenting an immense challenge, migrants can also help societies understand the world better and contribute to spiritual growth, said the Pope. “Thanks to them, we have the chance to know better our world and its beautiful diversity. We can grow in our common humanity and build together an ever greater sense of togetherness. Openness to one another creates spaces of fruitful exchange between different visions and traditions, and opens minds to new horizons. It also leads to a discovery of the richness present in other religions and forms of spirituality unfamiliar to us, and this helps us to deepen our own convictions.”

Catholic migrants, he added, “can energise the ecclesial life of the communities that welcome them. Sharing different expressions of faith and devotions offers us a privileged opportunity for experiencing more fully the catholicity of the People of God.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, and, in a special way, young people! If we want to cooperate with our heavenly Father in building the future, let us do so together with our brothers and sisters who are migrants and refugees. Let us build the future today! For the future begins today, and it begins with each of us. We cannot leave to future generations the burden of responsibility for decisions that need to be made now, so that God’s plan for the world may be realised and His Kingdom of justice, fraternity and peace may come,” the Pope concluded.

(collated from various news sources)

Gratitude to God for His Gracious Gift

Fr Anthony Charanghat

His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias completes both his Episcopal Silver Jubilee and his Crystal quindecinnial anniversary of being elevated to the rank of a Cardinal in the Church on 16th Sept and on 17th October respectively of this year 2022. As the Archdiocese of Bombay honours and felicitates its fourth Indian Archbishop on the occasion of the landmark milestones of his apostolic ministry, we raise our hearts in gratitude to God for His gracious Gift to the Church in India in the person of His Eminence. From being a humble promising priest, he has risen to great heights in the Church without losing the simplicity of a gentle and benevolent soul that he has always been.

The key to understanding the secret of the glowing success of the remarkable journey of the episcopal ministry of Bishop Ossie Gracias, is made manifest in the symbolism of his Coat of Arms. His Eminence himself had personally directed the artist of his logo, to design symbols that depict the washing of the feet (call to service), Scales of Justice (Canon law), the letter M (devotion to Mary for her guidance), and the handshake (to extend friendship and amity), all representing his motto which is Reconciliation and Building Bridges of Communion.

The collage of the images meaningfully selected indicates his crystal-clear vision and understanding of his identity as a Bishop. It is a graphic blueprint of his manifesto that guides him faithfully and mirrors his identity and commitment to his mission as the Shepherd of his flock. One can gauge from his packed religious, pastoral and social-service oriented schedule, the deep awareness of his call to emulate the untiring action of Christ the 'Pastor Bonus' who seeks the lost sheep even at the cost of his own convenience and life. It is such a lofty perspective of his role from which his mission statement arises: “To Reconcile all things to Christ”.

Shaped by the virtues displayed by his Coat of Arms, Cardinal Oswald Gracias has guided the archdiocese in an effective way through the upheavals touched off by shifting forces in both the church and the conflicting cultural trends surrounding society. His mild-mannered approach and a non-combative stance of an expertly managerial prelate, he has worked largely through the principles of subsidiarity and conciliation rather than rigid and stringent imposition of infructuous rules that have helped him carry out church programmes according to the norms of Canon Law.

Initially, many who meet the Cardinal are awed by the eminence of his towering personality, but with his suave looks and genial demeanour he is able to calm his flock with reassuring ease and move effortlessly through crowds, bestowing greetings and blessings along the way. He comes through as a shepherd caring for his flock, and his personal gifts have aided that mission. By temperament, he is gentle and warm, solicitous of others and not given to chiding or anger. He has a winsome quality of charm, abetted by his extraordinary ability to listen carefully to those who turn to him for advice. His goal is, first and foremost, to be a shepherd and servant of God's people.

In all matters of disputes, he has been able to listen to all sides. He has had no fear of listening. He is a genial pastor who exults in mingling with his priests and people. He is delighted to be at all social gatherings and seldom refuses invitations from higher ups or the common folk, to come to know his flock more intimately as their Good Shepherd and has been able to assuage their grievances. His spirit of hope and joy are traits that resound in his words and actions.

As a prelate whose heart was never far from the poor and who was deeply concerned with the needy, he has campaigned tirelessly for charitable causes related to health care, social service, education and a just human family wage for church workers and care for creation. For his leadership of half a million Catholics in Mumbai, our Cardinal is hailed as a superb administrator with a broad vision for the Archdiocese.

Our prayers and best wishes to the Cardinal for being a faithful servant of God and a wise shepherd who cares for his people. May he be blessed with the Lord’s peace and love as he continues his episcopal ministry in the years to come.

Mary beckons her Pilgrim Children

For many in the Archdiocese of Bombay, the month of September is a time of pilgrimage to the many revered Marian shrines that dot our city. Thousands make their way with great faith and devotion to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount at Bandra or Our Lady of Health of Velankanni at Irla or Vailankanni Shrine at Bhate Bunder, Uttan among others. The sweetness and tenderness of Our Lady beckons even the most stone-hearted and unrepentant sinner into the line of her maternal gaze from above, hoping to find solace, peace and the grace to begin anew. Many others journey to the feet of Our Lady, hearts bursting with intentions and prayers, ardently expecting her intercession for the many shadows that darken their souls with sorrow.

Yet, this physical pilgrimage we undertake is the very sign and image of who we are and the faith we profess. Vatican II underscored the image of “the pilgrim People of God” walking towards the Promised Land, the New Jerusalem. At the heavenly banquet, people will gather from north, south, east and west. Our entire life on earth is a pilgrimage and we are a People on the move. The Christian life is never stationary or inert; we were made for motion – growing each day in our relationship with God and overcoming the sins that threaten to derail that very relationship one step at a time.

Scripture is rich with travels and journeys undertaken under divine instruction or in search of the divine. From Abraham’s journey to the great Exodus journey of the People to Israel to the Promised Land, the pilgrimage of the Magi in search of the new born King to St Paul’s journeys in the Acts of the Apostles to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus…Scripture is full of stories of people walking towards God and God walking with His People. In fact, the entire Bible is a microcosm of that journey of repentance of the entire human race in search of a Way back to Garden of Paradise, from which our first parents were cast out due to their fall from grace.

While in a pilgrimage, the destination is important, it is the journey that teaches. The long and ardent walk nurtures our sanctification and trains our soul to listen to the voice of God speaking within us. We do not undertake a pilgrimage to earn salvation or to ask for favours, but rather to experience the God of mercy and love in a concrete and spiritual way. In a society that is plagued by speed and instant gratification, impatience and a longing for the superficial and temporal, a pilgrimage reinforces the virtues of patience, endurance, commitment and prayer. The discipline of pilgrimage reminds us to slow down and take life one step at a time.

Weighed down by the burdens of daily living, when we face an acute crisis of life and love, we often return home to our parents for comfort and wisdom. The Christian pilgrimage is a return into the spiritual embrace of Our Heavenly Mother who holds her Son in her arms, giving Him to us, and reminding us of the only advice that we shall ever need, “Do whatever He tells you.” We may come to Mary as seekers, but we must leave as disciples. This is the aim of the pilgrim way.

On August 27, when Pope Francis created 20 new Cardinals–two from India–he told them that this humbling ministry of particular service that they have received is “a lighted torch that Jesus gives each one of us. The fire of God’s love sends us out into the world like those countless missionaries before us who ‘have come to know the exhausting yet sweet joy of evangelizing, and whose lives themselves became a gospel’.” The 20 new cardinals come from 14 different countries and some said that they see their elevation as an invitation to help promote a renewal of the Catholic Church’s mission of evangelization.

This ministry symbolises a ‘Church on the move’ in harmony with Pope Francis’ repeated calls for a “synodal church”. Our Beloved Mother has blessed India with two new cardinals - Cardinal Filipe Neri Ferrão from Goa and Cardinal Anthony Poola from Hyderabad. This blessing will hasten the Church in India into becoming a Church that is inclusive, missionary, and walking with its people in the streets and on the peripheries of society.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

The Nativity of Mary - Dawn of our Salvation

Fr Anthony Charanghat

There is no explicit biblical record of Mary's birth, but we do learn of this event from texts like the Protoevangelium of James and narratives of the early fathers of the Church who lived in Jerusalem. According to these accounts, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child who will advance God's plan of salvation for the world. Such a story like many biblical counterparts, stresses the special presence of God in Mary's life from the beginning but in a uniquely different and privileged way from the others (Immaculate Conception).

The significance of the Nativity of Mary officially being observed on September 8, exactly nine months from the feast of the Immaculate Conception is to indicate a natural sequence. The birth of Mary the Mother of God is the cause of our joy, because through her, Jesus who is son of man and Son of God (both human and divine), entered human history (Incarnation) and the human race was renewed and saved (Redemption). These events indicate the inseparable unity to theological aspects of God's plan in Salvation history found in various references of Scriptures both in the O.T & N.T (Micah 5:2: Isa. 7:14: Mt 2:4–6: Lk 1:26–31). This is the basis of Mary's Nativity being held as an important revealed teaching of our faith.

Saint Augustine connects Mary's birth with Jesus' saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. Canticle 6:9 captures the essence of the light Mary, 'Who is She that cometh forth; As the Morning Rising; Fair as the moon; Bright as the Sun. Powerful as an army; set in battle array?' If Jesus is the perfect expression of God's saving love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of salvation, Mary is its dawn.

It can be said, Mary's appearance sheds the glimmer of a new light over the human race. But Mary's resplendent light is like that of the moon; She is always a reflected light. Whatever light Mary has, comes from Christ. Mary draws our attention to Christ and not to herself. The light of Mary's fullness of grace radiates the great light of her Son who will inundate the world when He, the Light of the World appears. We can say that the knowledge of the Blessed Virgin leads us to a much deeper knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the Word, she not only listened to the Word but lived it. We realize that she is the perfect disciple who interiorly conceived and gave birth to the Word of God in her life. She is the model of faith for very Christian believer. We too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives. In some way we can interiorly conceive and make the word take flesh in our lives.

From the moment of her birth, Mary was destined to have a sword pierce her heart as she stood at the foot of the Cross contemplating the death of her Son. As the woman of the Word and the woman of the Eucharist, Mary models for us how to enter into and live the mystical rhythm of the Catholic Mass. The Church lives by presenting offerings. Mary presented Jesus to God at both the beginning and the end of her Son's mission: Mary united herself with a maternal heart to His sacrifice and shared the suffering of His Crucifixion.

The liturgy only lives through oblation. Mary's life shows a mingling of oblations: first she offered herself, at the Annunciation, then she offered her Son, standing beneath His Cross. We likewise offer Jesus in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and when we do so, we must be offering ourselves with Him. The excellence of the Sacrifice of the Mass comes from the fact that it is in substance the same sacrifice as that of the Cross. Jesus continues to offer Himself, as the real victim on Calvary's altar before Mary's eyes and is present on the liturgical altar before our eyes. The Church must always stand under the Cross, united to Christ's sacrifice with Mary's faith to collaborate in His mission of Salvation.

SCCs – Called to live the Synodal Way

The Universal Church is in the midst of the Synod on Synodality. Inaugurating the process in Rome on Sunday, October 10, 2021, Pope Francis said, “It is precisely the path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.” This unified journey will enable the Church to move forward together, to listen to one another and to embark on a discernment of the times in which we are living. In other words, Pope Francis is challenging us to become a Church to which all belong in communion, a Church in which all fully participate, and a Church which finally will go out in mission, with commitment and dedication. In the week following the inauguration of the Synod in Rome by Pope Francis, all the (Arch)dioceses in the world inaugurated the Synodal process. In our own Archdiocese, His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, on Sunday, October 17, said, “The synodal process is meant to revitalise the Church, beginning by discerning what ails the Church. This we will discover by listening.”

Listening has been a key element of the Synod. We have listened (and need to continue to listen) to the cries and voices of those around us – the poor, the marginalised, the exploited, the migrants, those on the peripheries; we need to listen to our children, our youth, our adults, our senior citizens, people of other faiths – our brothers and sisters: what is it that they would like to speak to us about so that we grow in the image and likeness of God? Have they experienced wounds and hurts? Are they disillusioned with us (viz. the Church)? Have we taken those with whom we live for granted? The list is endless.

One of the wonderful ways of fostering listening is through the Small Christian Communities (SCCs). St Pope John Paul II and successive Popes have strongly advocated the SCC Movement. “A rapidly growing phenomenon in the young Churches is that of “Ecclesial Basic Communities (also known by other names) which are proving to be good centres for Christian formation and missionary outreach. These communities are a sign of vitality within the Church, an instrument of formation and evangelisation, and a solid starting point for a new society based on love.” (Redemptoris Missio, 1990, No 51)

Because the SCCs are a new way of being Church, groups of families (now called Clusters) in each of the Communities have an opportunity to share and discuss their joys and sorrows, hopes and anxieties which the Coordinators and Animators must listen to with rapt attention, and then reach out in service. In doing so, the Animators will help these smaller groups of families (clusters) to live as believing, praying and loving Communities like the early Christians (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35).

As Bishop in-charge of the SCCs in the Archdiocese of Bombay, my dream for the Church (and consequently for the SCCs) is to live the Synodal Way, through Communion, Participation and Mission. As Christians and members of the Body of Christ, all of us are called to live in communion with one another, which is the grace to transcend our narrowness, selfish desires, exclusiveness so as to reach out to others, particularly those who are “lost” and on the peripheries. It is the openness to realise that all of us are brothers and sisters – “people of God” (Lumen Gentium, Vatican Council II), without excluding any one. As leaders of the Church, it should be our foremost desire to allow others to participate, and true participation takes place only when others are given the opportunity to enter and be part of the SCCs, including people of other faiths, not forgetting the cluster of families which enhances participation. Finally, we need to go beyond ourselves, our church compounds, our divisiveness and discriminatory attitudes, and build bridges of love and union as Jesus mentioned in the Gospel of St Luke (4:16-19). Our mission is about journeying together for a new way of being Church in which justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, love, joy and peace are the rights of all. This mission will have obstacles and difficulties, but in the SCCs, we must continue walking till our pilgrimage here on Earth has ended.

(Guest editorial) Bishop Barthol Barretto is Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay and Bishop in-charge of the SCCs in the Archdiocese of Bombay.

Struggle for Social Justice: a Prophetic Ministry

This year on August 21, as the Church celebrates Justice Sunday in the Archdiocese of Bombay, the focus will be on the call to all Christians to take care of the sick and Elderly. This is because all Christians, by virtue of their baptism, have a share in the Priestly, Kingly and Prophetic ministry in the Church and society at large. The most challenging among them is the Prophetic Ministry which is to proclaim and struggle to implement God’s values of social justice to the poor, the sick, the oppressed and the downtrodden. A wider understanding of the theme for Social Justice would be to reflect on the concept of Prophetic ministry.

The prophetic ministry to which we are called applies to all issues of social injustice in the world – whether it is taking care of the elders, the sick and marginalized, or migrants or house workers or any other unorganised group or even the organised sector. We are called to be like the prophet Amos or other major or minor prophets of social justice in the Old Testament. Amos was a model shepherd from Judah, who was a migrant field worker called by God to exercise his prophetic ministry in the Northern kingdom of Israel where corruption was rampant.

In Amos, we have an iconic Prophet of Yahweh in the O.T. It was not an easy task for him to speak against this class of people— merchants and traders who would cheat the illiterate and the poor using wrong weights while doing business. Amos did not succumb to the pressure of the powerful, but rather spoke against those exploiting the poor and the marginalised. The situation today is no different than it was during Amos’ time. A major part of the world is undergoing turmoil. The ominous cloud of a war of attrition hangs heavily over Russia and Ukraine that could prove disastrous to the world. We now have China against Taiwan, being observed by all with bated breath.

But among the O.T. prophets, we also have examples of some false prophets who would flatter the king supporting their self-serving administration of the kingdom, because the kings were incorrigible and would brook no protest. Though they were supposed to be the voice of God to the people, they failed and succumbed to the will of the king. Those faithful to the Word of God were incarcerated and put to death. In modern times, things have become still more difficult, and by emulating the false prophets, we could only worsen the situation.

It appears that we are not far from the day when the rich and powerful will join together exploiting every country and may establish a parallel government under the guise of free trade economy in different countries of the world. The poor and the marginalised can be mesmerized to believe that all which is happening is precisely for the good of the countries and the world at large. Under the guise of religion, tensions are created; mistrust, hate mails propagated to diffuse opposition and divert attention from social atrocities so that the rich can continue to amass money at the cost of the poor.

In this rat race for money, power and wealth, the poor will be crushed. We may not have a prophet like Amos to confront such situations, because it appears that those who speak for truth can be considered as traitors and incur death. In addition to exploitation, poverty and wars, there will be natural calamities: volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis which will worsen the situation.

We need a prophet like Amos to confront unjust situations, because those who speak for truth in a country can easily be considered traitors and put to death.

We need to look for heroes like Mahatma Gandhi who went on the Dandi March to protest the heavy taxes laid down by the British Government in 1930. Fr Stan Swamy, Mother Teresa and Baba Amte and many others are examples of those who lost their lives fighting for a just cause. Freedom was gained by the sacrifices of many martyrs. Let us be ready to die only once as martyrs. “Cowards die many times before their death," said Shakespeare. Let us create prophets in this world who will not only take care of the elderly, but empower every child to stand for truth. SATYAMEV JAYATE.

(Guest editorial) Fr Bernard Lancy Pinto is the Chairperson, Justice & Peace Commission, Archdiocese of Bombay.