Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium "calls on parishes, dioceses and the Bishops' Conference of India to experience the new evangelisation in an even stronger way, because our Church, together with the universal Church, has the duty and task to proclaim the Good News with enthusiasm and renewal," said Mgr Bernard Moras, archbishop of Bangalore (Karnataka, India) after he read the Apostolic Exhortation, and personally met the pope in a recent visit to Rome.
arrived in Italy as a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of
Health Care Workers, which hosted its 28th International Conference titled
'The Church in the service of the elderly sick: the care of people suffering
from neurodegenerative diseases on 21-23 November. On 24 November, he took part
in the celebrations in St Peter's Square that marked the end of the Year of
Faith, and the next day he was received in private audience by Pope Francis.
with excitement the opportunity to meet the Holy Father," Mgr Moras told AsiaNews. "On the day of his election, I
experienced profound joy - seeing him, the new bishop of Rome, and his pectoral
cross, which is like mine. When he received me we were in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and he moved
around like anyone of us would . . . . Every now and then, he had something to
eat, and he would not hesitate to stop and greet the people who came to him to
share their concerns. He gave me the impression of being a real good shepherd
who bore witness with his own life to the humility he preaches to everyone,
even to us members of the Church."
is in charge of an important diocese, that of Bangalore, whose main city is the
fastest growing city in Asia with a population that has reached 10 million. "There
are various reasons for this success," the prelate told AsiaNews. "Firstly, it is a welcoming place for everyone, for Indians
and people from every part of the Earth. In the last ten years, it has become
known for its activities related to Information Technology (IT). Today, it
provides services not only to India but also to the rest of the world, and many
foreigners are coming here to start their own businesses and activities. In addition
to growth, Bangalore contributes to the country's and Karnataka's development, generating
64 per cent of the state's revenues."
city is also known for its healthcare industry and educational sector. "We
have excellent hospitals," the bishop noted, "which are known throughout the
world. Plus, we are home to many international schools, attended by students from
Karnataka, other parts of India and abroad. In fact, about 10 to20 per cent of pupils
studying in Bangalore are from neighbouring countries or continents. Fees are
low but the services offered are of good quality."
being one of the most modern, rich and developed states in India, Karnataka continues
to be the scene of attacks by Hindu extremists against Christians. Minority Christians
have not yet forgotten the attacks
of 2008, when fundamentalists destroyed 24 churches, at a time when the
most violent anti-Christian pogrom to ever happen in India was being
perpetrated in Orissa.
time, the two states were run by fundamentalist administrations (under the Hindu
ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party) and their supporters took advantage of
this to attack Christians," Mgr Moras explained. "In some areas, the notion that
India belonged to Hindus was spreading. But the majority of Indians and Hindus
do not agree."
Since then, "we
have established good relations with other communities in Karnataka," he added.
"Fortunately, now we have a secularist
government that is better disposed towards minorities, and our
relations with the authorities have improved. We feel free to practice and
profess our religion, as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution."
the change in political leadership, anti-Christian attacks still take place in
the state, in particular against Pentecostal Churches. According to a
report by the Home Affairs Ministry, Karnataka has the worst record in
southern India in terms of ethnic or religious violence.
argue that these attacks are related to the 2014general elections, as ultranationalists
try to gain votes in the Hindu community. For Mgr Moras, "these attacks are not
politically motivated because the government has made it clear that it would
not tolerate violence against minorities, churches and places of worship."
they are the result of personal and local vendettas that have nothing to do
with fundamentalism. Sometimes, they happen because we [Christians] are not
cautious. When we practice our religion, when we pray, we must respect all our neighbours.
I have the right to practice my faith, but at the same time it is my duty to
let others practice theirs. Do we always do it? I do not think so."