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News

Common Wealth or Con Wealth?

Goa,  06 August 2010

The organizers of the Common Wealth Games, especially Suresh Kalmadi, has brought shame to the nation. If proved the punishment should be summary execution as they do in China. That should serve as an example to all the bureucrats and politicians who try to amass wealth from each and every project , specially big ones, done for the good of the nation. Every government project and scheme is a heaven-send boon for this greedy and shameless politicians and bureucrats. They are selling the nation inch-by-inch. The business-politician-bureacratic mafia use the veil of democracy and a laggard Judiciary to amass wealth and make the life of the aam aadmi miserable day-by-day. Every conscienscious Indian should raise his/her voice against this mafia and banish them to hell.

Two other pressing dangers to the nation are: Kashmir separatism and Maoist violence. If the argument that a Muslim majority area such as Kashmir should go to Pakistan taken to its logical conclusion that what about the nearly 140 million Muslims in the rest of India? Can they go to Pakistan? Maoists are using the poor, illiterate tribals to amass wealth and through its help fight the State unleashing mindless, brutal violence to attain their selfish ends. The government should set up separate funds to fight both these menace. Each Indian should contribute to this fund so that our armed forces can have better weapons and living conditions to defeat these dark forces of the nation. Jai Hind!

 Francis Arackal

NCCI’s Plea to repeal AFSPA

Nagpur, 31 August

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) during its Executive Committee meeting in Nagpur called for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. The committee discussed the situation prevailing in Manipur and debated about the problem becoming more acute and alarming since the killing of Manorama Devi under the cover of AFSPA. The NCCI press release said that words cannot adequately express the “Council’s agony” about the trauma the people of Manipur have undergone under AFSPA.

The Council therefore appeal to the Union and concerned state governments to repeal the draconian law in Manipur and Nagaland since such a law contradicts the principles of justice, equality and fraternity enshrined in the Constitution of India. It is also against human and civil rights. Instead the political, economic and social dimensions to the ongoing human problem of people of both the states need to be proactively worked out for tangible solutions, the release said.

The people of Manipur be open to dialogue and open discussion for mutually solving the problems. We appreciate the restraint shown so far and express our solidarity with them. As fellow citizens of India and the world, as fellow human beings even though differing in religious belief, we are concerned and working for peace for all, irrespective of the race, colour, creed, ethnicity and gender, the release added.

Francis Arackal

Godhra Probe

16 July

The way BJP created uproarious scene in the parliament to protest Lalu ordering a fresh departmental enquiry into the Godhra train carnage (IE, 16 July) seems to confirm the suspicions of many across the country that BJP, the Sangh and Modi in particular have something to hide. The protest betrays a lurking fear that unwanted truth might come out, which might further damage the image of the Hindutva brigade, which has just taken on a self-righteous harder Hindutva line in the wake of the Vote 2004 rout. There is nothing improper in ordering a fresh probe after two years if NDA government can do the same into the 1984 Sikh killings after 20 years. If the fresh probe ordered does bring political mileage to the UPA government then it is the problem of the NDA which kept the Godhra forensic report under wraps for two years.  The nation has a right to know the truth.

 Francis Arackal

“Homosexuals need their own place in society”

 Nagpur 8 July

 Society needs to look into new perspectives of sexual orientation of an individual. Homosexual individuals as well as transsexual individuals need not only space in society but also legal protection. They must be treated at par with any other citizen and must have the power to exercise all the rights of a citizen.

 These views were expressed by Elavarthi Manohar, coordinator, Sangama, a Bangalore based organization working for the cause of sexual minorities like gays, lesbians and transsexuals in Nagpur city. Manohar was speaking at a one day symposium on ‘Understanding of Sexual Minorities’.  The symposium was organized jointly by the India Peace Centre (IPC) and the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI). The IPC works under the NCCI.

 The symposium was organized for the sake of creating awareness among masses about these individuals. Although a section of society is slowly coming out of the traditional framework of society saying that a relationship between persons of the same sex is a normal phenomenon, majority still has reservations. They neither consider such relationships as normal nor support their cause.

 Some say that such relationship is perversion and some others say this is yet another way of healthy life.  The protagonists cite genetic, biological, psychological and other reasons as base for legitimacy of this relationship while others say that it is a social vice and needs curbing.  

 However, the supporters of such relationships and those who are into them say that the truth lies somewhere in between. The symposium discussed that these individuals are still not accepted in Indian society and face discrimination within their family, in society especially by the police and anti-social elements.  However this violence never gets reported, no one ever talks of torture of these sexual minorities. There is no law to protect them except that they have a voting right.

 Among these sexual minorities males are still at better position as compared to lesbians. The gays still can find some space in society and they face lesser physical abuse and discrimination as compared to lesbians who find it hard to even carry on with the relationship merely because they have no space to even indulge in sex. Many of them are tortured so much that they commit suicide. But one hardly hears of suicides of gays, the speakers noted.

 A film depicting true experiences of homosexuals was also shown on the occasion. The film showed how these individuals have joined hands in Bangalore and are fighting for their rights and are also demanding repeal of section 377 of IPC.

 Francis Arackal

A Secular Government

 The secular alliance along with Samajvadi Party and the Left parties should form the next government at the centre and stem the communal rot that was set in by the BJP government and thus save the Idea of India. Besides the new government should probe the scams and the flow of foreign money which was used by the Sangh Parivar for hate campaign in Gujarat and to brain wash the unsuspecting tribals across India with divisive ideology. It is the fear of being probed that makes the NDA nervous and wanting to grab power back by hook or by crook. It is the money-machine of the NDA at play, supported by corrupt business houses, that the Indian electorate saw in the recent election campaign. Development of India with social harmony will be most secure in the hands of the Secular Government. The Secular Government should be head by Dr. Manmohan Singh, the pioneer of economic reforms in India. He can be ably supported by Mulayam Singh and Sharad Pawar as Deputy Prime Ministers holding the home and defence portfolio respectively. May this dream for the great future of India come true!

Francis Arackal

NDA come back bad news

If the exist polls are to be believed NDA is set to come back to power at the centre. This is bad news for the country. For in the next NDA regime it will be the saffron BJP, under pressure from Sangh Parivar, which will be dictating terms and it will carry forward its hidden agenda of divisive politics, especially persecution of religious minorities clamouring to establish a Hindu rashtra. This will not auger well for the development of the country. From the last few judgments of the Supreme Court, especially the Best Bakery case, the SC is increasingly being perceived by many as the last bastion of justice and equity for the poor, the oppressed and the minorities in this country. Once the NDA comes back to power there is the probability of the BJP trying to interfere in the appointments and other matters relating to judiciary to see that its agenda is implemented similar to what HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi does these days with the IIMs, IITs and other education institutions. The other day BJP president Venkaia Naidu while calling the electorate to give BJP an absolute majority hinted at it by saying, if needed we will change the Constitution too. Once in power the masks (mukhota) will be removed and the country will come to know the true colour of BJP. Every sensible and reasonable citizen need to think seriously about this. 

 Francis Arackal

Bharatiya Jailing Party

 When TADA was promulgated, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K Advani and George Fernandes opposed it vociferously in the sacred precincts of Indian parliament. But when the same trinity became the rulers they promulgate a more draconian law (POTA) seemingly against terrorists but end up using it against political opponents and hundreds of innocents, including unsuspecting women and children, throughout the country. The People’s Tribunal on POTA in Delhi recently comprising eminent lawyers, ex-judges, writers and journalists heard the heart-rending testimonies of victims of POTA. They were made to confess at gun-point. In Gujarat, the fascist Narendra Modi government invoked POTA for the first time in 2003 after the Godhra killings. In one year 287 people were booked under POTA. All of them were Muslims. But no POTA was invoked against those who conducted the Modi sponsored genocide in which more than 1000 people were burnt alive. Therefore the most fitting title for BJP is Bharatiya Jailing Party.

 Francis Arackal

Bharat Jalao Party

The poll advertisement published in many mainstream newspapers on 12 April has hit the nail on its head about the true character of BJP. The ad succinctly and most aptly describes the evil nature of BJP. Among the number of inhuman acts for which BJP has given leadership in the last five years the ad specifically mentions the Gujarat genocide. The Supreme Court’s judgement on the Best Bakery case (12 April) confirms what the ad declares to the voters of India. The ad’s query ‘Will you still vote for this party?’ is a loaded, conscience pricking poser to the millions of voters in India. It is crystal clear that those who will still support and vote for BJP will be those whose consciences have gone totally numb and who are bankrupt ideologically; they are those who have deviated from the very ‘Idea of India’as a nation who embraces and gives equal opportunity to everyone irrespective of caste, creed, colour and sex.

 Francis Arackal

 Reflection

Did Jesus Really Rise?

1)      His absence from the tomb:

 Of course some say he didn’t die—Roman flogging enough to kill most people and then he was crucified for six hours. One piece of sound evidence of his death is in Jn 19: 33-34—what we know as good medical evidence of death—the separation of the clot and the serum, but Jn would not have understood that at the time.

Some say his disciples stole his body—their lives were in danger as it was, why would they do such a foolish thing? Besides, grave clothes lay undisturbed (Jn 20:1-10) – Jesus rose ‘like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis’. It was as if Jesus had simply passed through the grave-clothes.

2) His presence with the disciples: Some dismiss the appearances of Jesus as mere hallucinations (mere imaginary things with no basis in reality). Critics who argue against this position say that fishermen, tax collectors unlikely to hallucinate.

Apart from disciples he appeared to 500 others at different times and places over a period of six weeks—could they all have gone wrong?

Read Lk 24: 42-43—hallucinations do not eat broiled fish!! A ghost cannot eat broiled fish!! Other times he spoke to his disciples. Cooked them breakfast (Jn 21:1-14). Peter says, “They ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41).

3)The Immediate effect— The dramatic effect of his resurrection on his disciples is a proof that Jesus is Risen. These discouraged, disillusioned disciples suddenly went out preaching that Christ is risen from the dead. An explosion took place which lead to the birth and growth of the Christian Church.

4) Experiences of Christians down the ages—people all over the world of every race, colour, language, tribes, social and intellectual standing have all had the same experience—the risen Christ.

Have we experienced a relationship with the risen Christ? I have experienced his love, his presence and his power in my life.

 

Article

General Elections 2004: For the Soul of India

The New Delhi Television (NDTV 24x 7), the leading English news channel in India, has a satirical programme titled ‘Double-Take’, which depicts the political tamasha of our netas. The show started as a prelude to the five assembly elections held in November 2003. As the General elections draws near ‘Double-Take’ becomes all the more relevant, especially when we have a ‘Double-Talk’ expert aspiring to come back to power.  Vajpayee is master of ‘Double-Talk’, providing much tamasha to the Indian people; 50 years of political experience has not taught him ‘straight talk’ rather to juggle around in political expediency: one day he instructs Modi, the mascot of Hindu and Gujarati pride, on Rajdharma, next day he defends him; one day he cries shame over the demolition of the Babri Masjid, next day he says Ram temple is an unfinished task of BJP; one day he is for civility in political talk, next day he approves his protégé’s personal attack on the leader of the opposition …inconsistency of views has been Vajpayee’s greatest personal achievement in the last five years. No wonder if he is under the illusion of an ‘India Shining’.

The ‘India Shining’ ad put out by the Vajpayee government at the cost of Rupees 50 crores to the national exchequer glorifies its achievements. It is reported that the government is bringing out ads costing five times more than the ‘India Shining’ one. The new Chief Election Commissioner T. S Krishnamurthy’s observation that tax-payer’s money should not be used to advertise in order to win votes, was promptly brushed aside by Vajpayee, the exponent of Rajdharma. India means its people. According to more objective estimates since 90 percent of the Indian people have not benefited from the economic liberalization it is incorrect to propagate that India is shining. Only ten percent of the population mainly the rich, which includes the political class (as Bihar’s inimitable Laloo would say “only the ministers’ cheeks are shining”), and a section of the middle class has benefited from the economic reforms. Certainly the BJP government has gone overboard to gratify its vote bank, mainly the business class and the trading community.

The following figures speak for themselves how India is shining: 260 million are below poverty line (BPL); 60 million of under four-year-olds are moderately or severely malnourished; 87 percent women are anaemic; 60 percent children are anaemic; 25 million are without shelter; 171 million have not access to safe drinking water; 290 million adults are illiterate; 53 percent of below five-year-olds are underweight …True no government of previous 50 years had the political will to solve these vital concerns of its people and so it’s unfair to blame the government of last five years alone. But then no previous government deceived itself and the people saying ‘India shining’.

It’s not “feel-good” rather it is “fool-good” when it comes to the rate of unemployment, inflation, fiscal deficit and foreign debt of the country. IMF has warned India against the high fiscal deficit (Fiscal deficit – the real indicator of the fiscal mismanagement level – is the amount that the government needs to borrow from the market to meet the expenditure). The recent election sops of the government are only going to add up to India’s fiscal deficit. In fact the whole World Economy has looked up in the past year, in particular the big economies like US and China, from which India too has benefited. In short, the Indian government alone cannot take credit for the country’s economic recovery.

For the secular forces and for all reasonable and right thinking people in India this is an election to save the soul of India. It is true that the NDA Government has done quite well in some areas of Indian economy but it has left the Indian society evermore fragmented. The hidden, poisonous, saffron agenda of the Sangh Parivar has both subtly and visibly infiltrated every sphere of India’s body politic – to the innocent and unsuspecting minds of the tribals in the remotest part of the country to the highest educational and academic institutions. Every department under the government and the projects working under them: sports, film, culture, history, education – to name a few - have not been free from the divisive saffron influence. India is being slowly and gradually turned into a land of a thousand latent mutinies.

Unfortunately the highly efficient and well-oiled propaganda machine of the Sangh Parivar has succeeded in capturing the imaginations of a large chunk of influential young urban and sub-urban minds by transferring them into a utopian world of phantasy, instant success and prosperity. The large business houses and media organizations, who are making larger and greater profits due to the pro-corporate policies of the government, have aided the Sangh, albeit unintentionally, in this propaganda. The young minds are taken up by the definite, hard talk and ‘just do it’ type of mentality of the various affiliates of the Sangh and the Shiv Sena, without being much conscious of the consequences of such rabble-rousing attitudes in the long run.

 Hence it is the unity-in-diversity of the country which should be uppermost in the mind of the Indian voters. It should be an election to choose a government that works for all; a hand that unites all, irrespective of creed, caste and region. In India there is only one temple to build – not Ayodhya, not Mathura or Kashi – but the Temple of India where God lives as love. It should be an election to vote for a government which will further consolidate relations with all the neighbouring countries, and not only with the so-called arch-enemy Pakistan, Vajpayee pursuing it vigourously just prior to the general elections to get the Muslim minority on its side, so that the entire South Asia can live in peace. It should also be an election for economic reforms with a human face, whereby the agricultural, rural poor and below poverty line population of the country too benefits and can live a dignified human life. It’s only then India will truly shine.

The Christian community in India need to take the coming general elections seriously for if the NDA government comes back to power the only community which is likely to face problems, especially with its educational, social and other development apostolates, will be the Christian community. This is already evident in the recent attacks on Catholic institutions in Jhabua, within a few weeks of the BJP government coming to power in Madhya Pradesh. The Uma Bharati government in MP has unleashed vicious hate propaganda against Christians and its institutions. The Church leaders also should take initiatives in consolidating the secular space in this country and conscientize the Christian community so that each of its member exercises his/her franchise in favour of those promising to uphold the secular values of this country.

Francis Arackal

Christian community supports separate Vidarbha cause

Nagpur, 31 March

 Christian community leaders of Central India extended support to the Vidarbha Statehood movement launched by Vidarbha Rajya Party (VRP), whose founder president is Banwarilal Purohit, an ex-MP and currently the candidate of his party for the parliamentary constituency of Nagpur-Kamptee.

 At a ceremony at the Nagpur Archbishop’s House, Dr. Abraham Viruthakulangara, Archbishop of Nagpur greeted Purohit with a bouquet and wished him all success to his mission for the cause of separate and prosperous Vidarbha state.

 Archbishop and many of his fellow priests, Sisters and lay persons, who were present on the occasion, assured Purohit that the entire community will stand behind his movement aimed at developing the region.

 Interacting with the community leaders, Purohit apprised them of the extent of poverty in the Vidarbha region. VRP President said deaths of malnourished children, suicide of debt-ridden farmers, and exploitation of resources from the region by the leadership of Western Maharashtra indicate how the region is being deprived of its rights by the rulers of Maharashtra State.

 Purohit pointed out that of the total forest cover in Maharashtra, Vidarbha alone has 38 per cent. “If the region gets separated, the rest of Maharashtra may lose its statehood status as 33 per cent forest cover is obligatory for any region to be a separate state”. “The mission for carving out separate Vidarbha is the strength of my movement,” Purohit said expressing gratitude towards the community leaders for extending their valuable support to the cause of Vidarbha.

 Archbishop Viruthakulangara in his brief address termed Purohit a man with principles and mission. “You are not a politician alone but a committed worker of the society. And hence the Christian community will support in your endeavours,” the Archbishop said wishing him all success.  

 Earlier, VRP General Secretary Advocate D. A Bastian, an active and prominent member of the Catholic community in Nagpur, made introductory speech saying “Purohit is not merely a politician but a man taking up the cause of Vidarbha region and its people.”

 Francis Arackal

ODI Matches fixed?

 It’s an analysis many put forward: that the five ODIs in Pakistan were fixed at the highest level, and not so much by players for money. The tour opened with a nail-biting win for India, which was for real. But the next two matches were won by Pakistan according to a plan so that the fourth match becomes crucial for both teams and thus keep the series exciting and money spinning. Pakistan could not have won the fourth match and rap up the series for then the next match will be a mere drab and humiliating for the Indians (feel-bad for the BJP). A Pak win in the fourth game would not have been in the interest of the peace process, began on the eve of the General Elections with full concurrence and support of the rightist Bush Government, and the BJP’s feel-good poll prospects. It was very evident from the body-language of the players of both teams, especially in the fourth game. What Pakistan and its cricket board was interested in was the PR exercise with the world at large (that Pakistan is a safe enough country now) and the 100 crores that it would earn from the series, respectively; a win in the series was not uppermost for them. Naturally the fifth match was won (or made to be won) by India for the sake of rulers on both sides of the boarder. No wonder the feel-good from the ODI series win by  India has become a major poll-plank for the BJP.

 Francis Arackal

Hindutva is inclusive culture: Vaidya

 Nagpur, 1 March 2004

 “Hindutva has assumed centre-stage in India today. It is being acknowledged as an inclusive culture and value system. This inclusive Hindu culture is the soul of India, her real civilization. That is why this is Hindu Rashtra,” said columnist and former spokesperson of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) M G Vaidya in Nagpur city. He was speaking on the occasion of handing Sawarkar Puraskar (Award named after Veer Sawarkar) to Sumatilal Sukalikar, a veteran social worker from the city.

Vaidya said that the exclusivist nature of Islam and Christianity is the root-cause of entire religious strife in the world. As against these exclusivist religions, the inclusive nature of Hindutva is fast getting acceptability and respect, he said. Vaidya said that thousands of Muslims in India, who were forcibly converted to Islam and Christianity years ago, want to return to their roots in Hinduism, “Aren’t we going to accept our brothers and sisters? Have we comprehended the inclusive identity of our way of life?,” he asked calling for a liberal approach towards those who want to return to Hinduism.

 He said, Hindutva, which is a way of life and a value-system, was given inclusive connotations by Sawarkar. Hindu Rashtra, as interpreted by Sawarkar is still a distant dream although several positive and favourable developments are taking place. We do not look at Muslims and Christians the way we look at Buddhists or Jains who are born out of Hinduism only. Why can’t we look at Muslims a bit charitably and liberally,” he asked.

Francis Arackal 

STOTS a symbol of religious harmony and social service

 Nagpur, 26 February 2004

 The St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary (STOTS) situated at Kalmeshwar on the outskirts of Nagpur city upholds the motto of religious harmony among the people of the multi-lingual and multi-religious context of India. A meaningful transmission of the spiritual traditions of the Orthodox Church to the cultural and social contexts of contemporary India seems to be its dream. Even the architecture of the Seminary Chapel which was consecrated by His Holiness Moran Mar Baselius Mar Thomas Mathews II, supreme head of the Orthodox Church, on 19 February blends Orthodox theology and Indian Philosophy.

 The central point of the theology taught at STOTS speaks of the aim: Manav Seva he Madhava Seva (Serving Man is Serving God). Keeping to this goal the Orthodox Church of India has steered many humanitarian initiatives in India – Latur (Maharashtra) and Gujarat earthquakes, Orissa cyclone and so forth, said Father Dr. Reji Mathew, Rector STOTS.

 STOTS is the second theological seminary of the Orthodox Church. The first one was started in Kottayam in 1815 and it was the first place where English education was started in India, claim the Church authorities. The main objective of the Seminary at Kalmeshwar is to train the future priest candidates of the Orthodox Church who are born and brought up in places under the four metropolitan dioceses: Mumbai, Kolkota, Delhi and Chennai.  Till the inception of STOTS these candidates had to go to Kerala for their training and it was a herculean task for them to learn the liturgy and theology of the Church in Malayalam.

At STOTS they learn theology in English and Hindi, which is much easier for them and therefore more and more young people are offering themselves for the priesthood. However, STOTS is not simply a training centre of the liturgy and theology of the Orthodox Church. It makes researches in the social and economic conditions of the people of India and provides efficient leadership in the development of the people who are illiterate and the underprivileged, added Father Dr. Reji Mathew.

 Father Mathew said that the faculty and students of STOTS collect their resources for sharing with the poor and needy of the nearby villages. The students give free tuition to the children of the neighbourhood. It gives regular counseling to the parents of mentally retarded children. Seeing the number of such children in the seminary neighbourhood STOTS started the Prerana school for the Mentally Challenged children, which was inaugurated on 19 February by the Head of the Orthodox Church.

 Francis Arackal

“Try to be true disciples of Jesus Christ”: Mar Thoma Mathews II

 Nagpur, 19 February

Supreme head of the Orthodox Church His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II called on the orthodox Christians and students to “try to be the true disciples of Jesus Christ” by being “honest and earnest.” Consecrating the newly built chapel at the Saint Thomas Orthodox Theological Semianry (STOTS) at Kalmeshwar, on the outskirts of Nagpur city, the 90-year-old Bishop – perhaps the oldest Bishop in the Christian world – asked the students of seminary to live their God experiences to influence others and spread the message of peace and harmony.

 Praying for peace at the convocation which preceded the consecration in the presence of other three metropolitan bishops, students and the church members, the longest serving bishop said STOTS was vital to translate orthodox Christian theology and thoughts into local languages.

 Bishops Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthatious, Dr. Stephanos Mar Theodosius, Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Professor Dr. Karl Christian Femy of Department of Orthodox Theology, Erlangen University in Germany, Dr. P.C Gine, Deputy Registrar of Serampore University, Kolkota and other dignitaries graced the ceremony.

 The Orthodox authorities here claimed that the Orthodox Church was founded by St. Thomas in 52 A.D and it is the oldest Church in India, having a following of nearly 3.5 million people world-wide, mostly in India. Nagpur city has an estimated 500 Orthodox Christian families, who are members of the St. George Orthodox parish in the city.

 Talking to newsmen the head of the Orthodox Church said that the Church is trying to serve the poor within its own capabilities. “We collected Rs 15 million for Gujarat earthquake victims and Rs 12 million for the Orissa cyclone affected,” he informed and added that the rich must live for poor. “Poverty is man-made,” he said. “We want all to be reconciled in Christ. Jesus was a peace loving Lord, and he asked his disciples to spread peace,” he said.

 Meanwhile, what has come as a gift from the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, the church in Nagpur city was declared by the 90-year-old as cathedral during the felicitation function hosted by the church. The elevation of the church to cathedral was a long pending aspiration of the Orthodox Christians in Nagpur, said Father T. S Thomas, the vicar of the church. “It is definitely a recognition to the importance of Nagpur and will benefit the people,” the Vicar said in a statement.

 Francis Arackal

News Feature

Grotto of Lourdes – Symbol of Religious Harmony

 Nagpur, 11 February 2004

 Nestled in an idyllic, serene and composed milieu, stands the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Seminary Hill in Nagpur city. Declared as a pilgrim centre of Central India, in the Jubilee Year 2000, its grace and grandeur is all pervading. And, inflow of devotees from across the state of Maharashtra and the neighbouring states, irrespective of caste and  creed speak volumes about it as a symbol of Religious harmony.

 This divine centre has its own alchemy which is therapeutic in nature for people in distress and pain. Here all petitions are heard and answered with a mother-like-compassion and love of Our Lady of Lourdes. The annual feast, which is usually held in the first Sunday of February, draws thousands from every walk of life. This year the main feast day fell on 8 February, which drew above 80, 000 people from all sections of the society. Masses were held in English, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu followed by healing services. In the afternoon ‘Preeti Bhoj’ (sumptuous meal) was offered to all.

 The Archbishop of Nagpur Dr. Abraham Viruthakulangara, used the occasion to exhort the gathering to defeat divisive forces and their designs by overcoming religious barriers and reinforcing faith in the name of God. “This pilgrimage centre is the true symbol of religious harmony as people from different walks of life and religions repose their faith in Mother Mary and her divine grace. True service to God will be service to your nation and society. It is the beauty of India that people respect each others’ feelings and have great religious tolerance. Here everyone is valuable and none is insignificant,” Archbishop Viruthakulangara observed while addressing the multitude of devotees present from every religion during the final solemn high Mass in Hindi.

 The solemn Mass was followed by procession, taking the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes through some parts of the city, where of course the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has its national headquarters. Bishop of Aurangabad Dr. Slylvester Monteiro, Bishop of Amravati Dr. Edwin Colaco and hundreds of priests concelebrated.

There is an interesting story as to what led to the construction of the Grotto at Seminary Hills. In the year 1890, the Vicar General of Nagpur Diocese obtained 18 acres of land from Bhosale Royal Family (the erstwhile rulers of Central India) for the proposed construction of Saint Charles’ Seminary.

 It is said that a railway employee from the city named G B Heymond of Harda who had received Our Lady’s blessing wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lourdes in France, but his boss didn’t sanction his leave. However, he donated some sum for the construction of a Grotto in the sprawling Seminary Campus, instead.  The Grotto was completed in 1892 and was inaugurated by Rev. Pelvet, Vicar Capitular of Nagpur Diocese. A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was brought from France, which is in existence even today.

 Rarely do we find worship places having such religious and social dimensions as the Grotto at Seminary Hill. In India, though a land of rich religious heritage, today religion has become evermore sectarian and institutionalized. Crimes and frauds committed in the name of religion are on the rise and have a repulsive effect especially on the young. Therefore, what we need today is shrines after the model of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes where one can offer true worship from the heart and find a religion of dialogue and universal brotherhood.

 Francis Arackal

New Archbishop of Goa felicitated

 Nagpur, 10 February 2004

 His Grace Felipe Neri Ferrao, the newly appointed Archbishop Patriarch of Goa, Daman & Diu was felicitated when Dr. Ferrao visited the Pilar Niketan Community and the Institute of Philosophy ‘Chitganashram’ run by the Society of Pilar, which is a Goa based religious congregation doing mission work all over India and abroad. Dr. Abraham Viruthakulangara, the Archbishop of Nagpur was present on the occasion.

While interacting with the members of the staff of Chitganashram Dr. Ferrao saw the importance of his visit as one of fraternal concern towards the formation of future priests. He lauded the efforts of the staff and encouraged them to be “role models” for the young seminarians.

 The new Archbishop was also felicitated at the Nagpur Archbishop’s house by Dr. Viruthakulangara, Archbishop of Nagpur and Chairman, Western Region Bishop’s Council.

 Francis Arackal

Christian Unity Week observed

 Nagpur, 25 January

 Various churches and institutions under the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and the Catholic Archdiocese of Nagpur celebrated the unity week from 18-25 January. Ecumenical gatherings and prayer meetings on the theme ‘My peace I give to you’ were held in various churches during the week.

                                    

   

 

 

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