The Archdiocese of Mumbai (Maharashtra) has a new auxiliary bishop, Mgr Allwyn D'Silva, 68, head of the Mumbai chapter of the Prison Ministry India (PMI).
For years he has been involved in social affairs, human rights and environmental protection; hence his episcopal motto, he told AsiaNews, is’ Care of Creation’.
He believes that his ordination is a recognition by the Catholic
Church of the "importance of environmental issues and justice. It is
also a recognition for the work he has done in favour of the
marginalised and on the environment in Asia.”
Born on 20 April 1948, he was ordained priest on 19 April 1975, and
elevated to the status of auxiliary bishop last Saturday (28 January).
Mgr D'Silva believes that his appointment is "a great challenge,
especially since Pope Francis has set very high standards for us bishops
when he said that we must be shepherds with the smell of sheep."
The bishop is the current secretary of the Climate Change desk at the
Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), and will remain in
office until the end of 2017. For more than 20 years, he has dealt with
social justice, in particular with respect to prison inmates.
Mgr D'Silva explained that the PMI Mumbai was established in 2001,
noting that the city has nine penitentiaries and the prison population
has unique traits.
Convicts crowd facilities outside Mumbai, whereas 90
of inmates in the city are still under trial.
This is a colonial legacy whereby defendants are held in detention
before trail. Although still innocent until proven guilty, they are
deprived of their liberty.
The MPI Mumbai is staffed by volunteers who deal with legal aid and
They receive regular visits from other PMI
members who organise health care treatment and dental visits.
Inmates take part in cultural events, games and shows, and receive
various kinds of professional training: from tailoring to painting, from
teaching embroidery techniques to arts and flower arrangements.
Volunteers provide courses in computer science, cooking and foreign
languages. Inmates are involved in singing competitions, music, dance
and writing. Some of them have written articles that are then published
in the Examiner, a weekly published by the archdiocese.
As for their spiritual care, a Mass is celebrated each Sunday in
Except for the Dadar facility, prison authorities allow
Christmas and Easter celebrations such as Christmas carols, the Stations
of the Cross during Holy Week, and exchange gifts between inmates and
staff during holidays.