2009-10-15 12:51:55

Catholics urged to preach Gospel through service at mission congress

(October 15, 2009) Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana opened the Indian Church's first mission congress on October 14 urging Catholics to witness their faith through service. The Church by its very nature is missionary and every Catholic has to become the light of Christ and live it daily, the papal representative told some 1,500 delegates from the country's 160 dioceses. Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, nuns and lay leaders are among the participants of the five-day Prabhu Yesu Mahtosav (Lord Jesus grand festival) in Mumbai. The festival is a follow-up to the Asian Mission Congress held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 2006, in which one of the resolutions was to hold similar national, regional and diocesan congresses. Archbishop Lopez Quintana described the congress as "a remarkable event" in the Indian Church's history and said it would help spread "the Gospel of hope" to all, especially the suffering and the marginalized. The Church always invites, but does not force, people to follow Jesus, the papal representative said, in an apparent reference to allegations that the Church's humanitarian works are a facade for converting people to Catholicism. The nuncio also commended the Indian Church for choosing a "fitting" theme for the congress: "Let Your Light Shine: Become the Message and the Messenger. Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly, president of the CBCI hailed the congress as "a historic and unique" event that has united India's three Catholic Church rites -- the Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites. President of the Congress Cardinal Oswald Gracias said that the purpose of the Congress is to joyfully share our faith in Jesus Christ, to express the joy of believing in Him, to exchange our experiences, and to inspire others to continue to work in the spirit of the Gospel and to have a more sincere commitment to live as Christians." Major Archbishop Moron Mar Baselios Cleemis of Trivandrum, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, said although the Church is "a miniscule minority" in India, its services to the poor, the oppressed and disadvantaged are deep and wide. Methodist Bishop Elia Pradeep Samuel of Maharashtra and Gujarat, said "We come from different denominations but we have one faith and one God in Jesus Christ," he said. Card Ivan Dias urged the delegates to bring the light and truth of Christ to India’s soul following in the footsteps of Saint Thomas, the first missionary to the country. Quoting from the country’s ancient teachings, the Upanishads, he said, “From evil lead me to good. From darkness, lead me to light. From death lead me to immortality.”

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