16 Notes & Comments

posted Feb 28, 2019, 10:15 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 28, 2019, 10:17 AM ]

Response by the Archdiocese of Bombay to the Print and Electronic Media reports in a matter of handling of a child sexual abuse case

The Archdiocese of Bombay would like to give a factual representation of the details of this case:

The case refers to Fr Lawrence Johnson, who was arrested in 2015, for allegations of the sexual abuse of a child. When a family friend of the victim's family phoned the Cardinal's secretary on the afternoon of November 30, 2015, and requested for an appointment with the Cardinal, it was immediately granted. That same evening, the Cardinal met with the victim, the parents of the victim and the family friend, who alleged that Fr Johnson had sexually abused the child. The Cardinal tried to console the parents. The Cardinal was to leave for Rome that same night. After the complainants left, the Cardinal at once phoned up Fr Johnson, and informed him of the allegations made against him, and although Fr Johnson denied the allegations, the Cardinal removed him from office immediately, and told him that he was not even allowed to celebrate Mass the next morning. Fr Johnson wanted to meet the Cardinal personally, but the Cardinal told him that he was leaving for Rome in a couple of hours, and to meet Bishop John Rodrigues instead.

Immediately after speaking to Fr Johnson, the Cardinal phoned up Bishop John Rodrigues, and asked him to keep in touch with the family, and to start an inquiry. He then left for Rome. Early next morning, as soon as he reached Rome, the Cardinal phoned Bishop John to inquire with him regarding the case, and about informing the police. At that time, Bishop John told the Cardinal that the police had already been informed by the family the previous night. On his return from Rome, the Cardinal made an appointment with a counsellor to counsel the victim, but he was told by Bishop John Rodrigues that the family had said that the government authorities were making arrangements for a counsellor.


Memorial Mass and Tribute by the Archdiocese of Bombay for the Fallen Soldiers at Pulwama


The Archdiocese of Bombay paid an emotional tribute to the fallen soldiers of Pulwama by holding a special Memorial Mass and tribute at St Michael Church, Mahim, on February 20, 2019. Bishop John Rodrigues was the main celebrant, and he was joined by Bishop Allwyn D'Silva and other priests. At the start of the Eucharist, Bishop Allwyn read out a message from His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who expressed his regret at not being present due to commitments in Rome. He expressed his strong condemnation of the cowardly terrorist act that had claimed the life of more than 40 soldiers. "We salute the brave young men who have given their lives for us. When they entered the armed forces, and specially when they were being taken to this particular mission, they were aware of the great risks involved. They gave their lives to protect us. With deep sorrow in our hearts, we pray for them and their families. Their families should know that their sons' lives have not been sacrificed in vain. By our own lives of service to the nation, we pay tribute to these 40 heroes," he said. His Eminence asked for special blessings on our country, its leaders, and prayed that hate be purged from the hearts of all those who believe in violence.

Reflecting on the readings of the day, Bishop John recalled how the waters of the flood in the time of Noah had purified the evil committed by human beings, the disharmony in Nature, the sin of selfishness in man. The dove and the olive branch are symbols of peace that God offers to us today in the midst of senseless violence and suffering. Jesus' healing ministry indicates that God wants the well-being of every human being. God takes away our blindness to the effects of terror and hate; He removes our blindness that prevents us from seeing the truth, and He leads us to peace and harmony.

Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation 'Rejoice and Be Glad' says, "A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathises with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life's depths and finding authentic happiness. Such persons are unafraid to share in the suffering of others; they do not flee from painful situations. They discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief… Knowing how to mourn with others: that is holiness." Bishop John went on to say, "This beatitude of Jesus—'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted'—is applicable to the whole of India and all of us gathered here."


Modern Tech at the service of the Word

Rowena Luis, Mt Carmel parish, Bandra

There are a number of WhatsApp groups in Mumbai dedicated to the study of Scripture. This year 2019, Bible students from O.L. of Assumption Church, Kandivli and O.L. of Fatima Church, Ambernath had resolved to read the Bible cover-to-cover during the year. A poster of the reading plan from Genesis to Revelation was prepared and sent to the Bible Study WhatsApp groups of both these parishes. All that was required was a personal copy of the Bible (not an app), a notebook and a fixed time and place at home/college/office/etc. We soon had 60 people who commenced reading Genesis Chapters 1 to 3. There was a great deal of commitment with participants invoking the Holy Spirit on their fellow Bible-seekers. Everyone is encouraged to memorise a verse, share a personal reflection or testimony and even raise questions on the WhatsApp group, to which others pitch in with their experiences and learnings. We have spouses reading together, families discussing the group sharing, a few priests, a religious and lay scripture students who appropriately support with study material. Through it all, everyone believes that this new found way of using social media communication tools to read the Scriptures together with complete strangers is the most amazing blessing that has reached us in the comfort of our own homes. We are now one family!

With this fantastic response, I prepared another plan for Bible Reading—February to December—which has another 100 members, once again from all over the city, country and even abroad. One person beautifully said that this is the first ‘interactive' Bible Reading Group we are part of; often, we just receive Bible reflections, but there is no discussion and mutual sharing. June 2 will be a special day when five of our WhatsApp group members will meet face-to-face for the first time. This is a beautiful example how an online interaction facilitated by technology and the internet can lead us into an ‘offline' fellowship and faith-sharing. Fr Fio Mascarenhas, Director of the Bible Commission in the Archdiocese of Bombay, will lead us into ‘An Introduction to the New Testament Spirituality'. In June, we plan to begin another WhatsApp group for newcomers, with the New Testament Bible Reading Plan.