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Kenosis of His Kingship

Fr Anthony Charanghat


The recent prevailing pandemic-induced situations have underscored the realities of human poverty and vulnerability of human life to lethal diseases like COVID-19. This has served to heighten the ongoing efforts to deepen the authentic meaning of celebrating the solemnity of Christ the King. We need to shed misleading interpretations of the biblical imagery of political triumphalism and worldly power traditionally attributed to Christ as King. Matthew's Gospel is about heeding the Son of Man's words of self-emptying, by identifying with the poor, weak, oppressed, and the call to self-sacrificial love exemplified in the giving up of Christ's life to save humanity. The essence of the power of His Kingdom is Spiritual, and lies in the kenosis of His Kingship.

We hail Christ as the true King of all! Yet this kind of kingship was not a reign obvious from the beginning. From Eden to Calvary, God slowly disclosed the nature of His kingdom, and the purpose of His rule. The pilgrimage of this liturgical year, with the Gospel of Matthew, leads us to the last and defining teaching about entrance into the realm of God – that those who have been a blessing to others in a spirit of self-giving will receive the definitive blessing of the inheritance of the kingdom of God.

The images of the Gospel weave together, when we hear of His coming as the Son of Man, Shepherd, King and Judge of humanity. The final judgement is determined by the way in which those who now stand before the Shepherd King have responded, or failed to respond. Have they acted with mercy and hospitality to those in need of empathy, assistance, care, concern and healing - particularly during this time of the pandemic? At the end of the parable, during the sentencing, the message is at its clearest: what we do 'already' now is a judgement that will be passed at the 'not yet' time of the entrance to Christ's kingdom.

For whom have the blessings of the kingdom been prepared by the Father "from the foundation of the world"? They are the people who have responded with merciful love and hospitality to the needs of others, just as Jesus did. We often see some of them on our TV screens or read about them in our newspapers, especially in these uncertain times. Such people are also walking our streets in less spectacular circumstances. The needs they meet are listed clearly in Matthew's parable—hunger, thirst, nakedness, sickness, imprisonment; these are needs that are representative, although not exhaustive, of universal pain and poverty.

The twist of the parable is the surprise of the ones on Christ's 'right' hand—the place of honour. This surprise is expressed in the phrase "when was it that we saw the Lord in others?" Jesus' face is obscured by the faces of the suffering and vulnerable ones of the world, but He is there as the "Emmanuel," God-with-us, with whom Matthew begins (Mt 1:23) and ends (Mt 28:20) his Good News. He identifies Himself with "the least of my brothers and sisters." The way to serve Christ and build His kingdom is to serve one's neighbour—in whom He is truly present.

The sin of those 'left' out of the kingdom and sent to darkness is not that they caused harm to those in need. Their sin was that they did nothing! Absolutely nothing! The stark truth is that we will be separated from God not only for doing wrong, but also for doing nothing. "Whatever you do to the least of these, you are doing to Me. What you failed to do for them, you failed to do for Me."

These are words that are both comforting and disturbing, because they teach us that the proof of how much we love the Lord, of how much He is alive in us, is found not in spiritual theatrics, but in how we treat others around us. Some say that it is hard to see Christ in others. Maybe so. Then, if we can't see Christ in others, we can't be Christ to others.

Are we Christ to others? The answer to that question tells the truth about us, about the depth of our faith and about our eternal destiny. This Sunday of Christ the King carries not only a word of warning, but also a word of hope that comes from a profound understanding of Christ's kingship. In case we have strayed in our march to the kingdom, then Advent is right around the corner to offer us a course correction to a new beginning.

CATHOLIC PROFILE

LIVING BY GOD’S WORD

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” – Maya Angelou

One such local hero resides in Borivli. Mauris Noronha, fondly known as Mauris Bhai, a staunch Catholic and parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church, Borivli, has been reaching out and providing aid to a slum of 16,000 people for the past 16 years. “As I grew up, my family went through a rough patch; I was not even in a position to buy school books. At that time, it was my principal, Fr Francis Carvalho, who helped me to purchase books. It is because of his help that I completed school and college, and was also able to pursue my MBA. Fr Francis is an angel in my life,” says Mauris. Remembering the help and support he received when he was in need, he decided to give back to society.

By profession, he is an international poker player, representing India at international events, and also a businessman. He was recently planning to settle in Las Vegas for good with his wife and daughter. However, his plans changed when he started receiving requests for aid during the ongoing pandemic. According to Mauris, hunger is the most dangerous issue today that many of us overlook because we do not value the need of food. His aim is to feed the hungry and the needy, and eliminate hunger as much as possible. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in practically everyone’s life. But the middle and upper class adapted to it gradually; this has become a new normal. But a large section of society is still finding it hard to make ends meet as many have lost their jobs and livelihood, especially the underprivileged and less fortunate.

In such a situation, as citizens started practising social distancing, Mauris decided to go out and help those in need by providing them with basic essential rations, so that they could at least get one meal a day. “Just before the lockdown, my wife was in Meghalaya for a vacation. During a telephone conversation, she told me to purchase provisions. While purchasing, I saw my maids were helpless, and I decided to buy for them as well. The following day, our government clamped nationwide lockdown and everything was closed. I saw an old lady in my locality going out to buy the necessary grocery items. When I enquired, she said that she was helpless, as she had to feed her family. That day, I concluded that I would provide food and ration for the members of my locality, which includes 127 families, the watchman, and the maids for 21 days. This is how it all started.” Mauris also stored over 500 pounds of food in his residential complex for any residents to pick up for free, just so no one had to venture out with the fear of contracting the virus. Today, Mauris has served over 8 lakh people.

The teachings of the Church have also motivated Mauris to help those in need. He says, “The Church taught me that the truest form of religion lies in the acceptance of our fellow human beings, irrespective of their beliefs, culture, nationality or race. I’ve continued to carry these lessons with me, and approach every situation with kindness, love and compassion.” Mauris’ extreme faith in God has enabled him to reach out to the local penniless migrant labourers, the police personnel, the ambulance drivers, teachers, bus drivers, lawyers and thousands of people living in the slums across the city. On September 8, Mother Mary’s birthday, Mauris walked all the way from Borivli to Mount Mary Basilica, Bandra, making people aware about the unstable situation of the less fortunate. At Mount Mary, he distributed free masks and sanitisers to all, and also joined in the online Mass, praying for the health and safety of every citizen in this country.

The COVID-19 pandemic is nothing like we’ve seen before, and there is a constant fear of contracting the virus. However, Mauris isn’t worried about it. “I personally believe that in life, a lot of things work according to faith, and a lot of things work according to fear. I’m in search of serving every person who isn’t able to fend for himself; even a single meal. I’m following the works of Jesus, by feeding the hungry, so it is God’s duty to take care of me, and I place my trust in Him.”

When it comes to budgeting, Mauris never really gave it much thought, as it was not a primary consideration in the face of such a situation. “I’ve been blessed to have earned well throughout my working career. I do not believe in accepting donations and funding, because to give means to serve with what you have, and I’m trying to do my best by serving people with my own savings. I’ve been able to use these savings to provide essential supplies and provisions to thousands of needy families in Mumbai and across Maharashtra, all the way up to Ahmednagar, Pune, Shirdi, and Nasik.” With this money, medicines were provided to infants and elderly citizens, and regular rations were distributed to the housemaids and the watchmen of the housing societies in the vicinity. He has an entire team working for him who help him in the packing, distribution and transport of the ration. He has spent over 236 days in this beautiful cause.

Mauris Noronha received the Governor’s award on November 10, in appreciation for his dedication and service to the Nation in these trying times. Mauris will also be honoured with the “10th Bharat Ratna Dr Ambedkar Award 2020” on November 26, 2020. This award was instituted in 2013 to recognize and encourage outstanding people for their perfection and contribution towards society and nation in ten different fields, including Education, Social Work and the Arts.

Report by Cynera Rodricks

Stretch Forth Your Hand


Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, through his Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et Misera, to celebrate the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. At a special Mass on Sunday, November 19, 2017, at St Peter's Basilica, which was attended by about 7,000 poor people, the Holy Father urged us not to ignore poverty by believing that "it's not my business, it's the fault of society." The Eucharistic celebration was followed by a free lunch for about 1,500 destitute people inside the adjacent Paul VI Hall, which usually hosts papal audiences and conferences, while another 2,500 were provided lunch elsewhere. Since then, the World Day of the Poor has become one of the key events in the Church. In the words of His Eminence, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, "this is a day to rediscover our call to be a Church of the poor, for the poor."

The Holy Father, throughout his pontificate, has reminded the Church, time and again, that Christians must follow the call of love and speak the language of Jesus which is nothing else but the language of the OTHER. "Those who speak the language of Jesus are not the ones who say 'I', but rather the ones who step out of themselves." He reiterates: "The Word of God spurs us to a genuine love to give to those who cannot repay us, to serve others without seeking anything in return." It is the poor who remind us, "how we should live the Gospel–like beggars reaching out to God… they are the ones who facilitate our access to heaven… they are our treasure, the treasure of the Church." (Homily of Pope Francis on the Third World Day of the Poor, November 17, 2019)

Sunday, November 15, 2020 is the fourth World Day of the Poor with the theme, 'Stretch forth your hand to the poor' (Sir 7:32). The theme is so very pertinent for a world grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, that has rendered so many of our brothers and sisters unemployed and deprived of their livelihood. Our children, youth, adults, senior citizens, migrants, domestic workers, the vulnerable, the sick with no one to share and care – truly, the list is endless – experience the dread of hunger, starvation, loneliness and abandonment. It is to such and many others that Pope Francis desires that we must "stretch forth our hand" and reach out with the language of love – the language of Jesus.

During the past few months of the pandemic, Pope Francis has reminded us, "When the whole world was prey to a virus that brought pain and death, despair and bewilderment, how many outstretched hands have we seen?" He pointed to the outstretched hands of physicians "who cared about each patient" and "nurses who worked overtime, for hours on end, to look after the sick." He also mentioned so many other 'outstretched hands'– administrators, pharmacists, priests, volunteers who helped people living on the streets and those with a home but nothing to eat, and those who worked to provide essential services and security. "This pandemic arrived suddenly and caught us unprepared, sparking a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness… yet hands never stopped reaching out to the poor. This has made us all the more aware of the presence of the poor in our midst and their need for help."

The pandemic has made us realise that we cannot isolate ourselves from our suffering brothers and sisters. COVID-19 has challenged us to create a new sense of fraternity, mutual help and esteem, a shared responsibility for others and the world. The Biblical call to "stretch forth your hand to the poor", the key message for this year's World Day of the Poor, thus becomes our duty, our common responsibility, as men and women who are part of the human family, to build up a society that is not indifferent, but a community that is based on love and harmonious living – hands that care and share, hands that speak the language of the Lord Jesus, hands that spread love, hands that sow the seeds of peace and hands that build and foster fraternity.

Bp Barthol Barretto is an Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay & Bishop in-charge of SCCs

The Child-like Road to the Divine Heart


To watch a child grow in relationships, maturity and in the knowledge of the world is to behold the blueprint of divine filiation. How can I become a faithful son or daughter of God? Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 18:3, "Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Divine filiation is a fundamental pillar of our relationship with God. In fact, we are called to become "sons and daughters" of our Heavenly Father. In a departure from the Old Testament, when the name of God was held with such awe and reverence, that it was forbidden to take the name of God, except in prayer or reading of the Torah, Jesus taught us to call God "Abba"- the affectionate Aramaic word for 'father'. The special status of man and woman in Creation is borne out by the fact that we have been adopted into God's family. "See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God, and so we are." (1 John 3:1)

What is it that makes children specially eligible for the kingdom of heaven? A general observation on how they go about their daily lives gives us the answer. Children have no malice in them. Their anger is short-lived and evaporates like the morning dew. They aren't drawn to riches or luxury; they find joy in the simple things around them. They don't lie to themselves, but are conscious about their reality and limitations. They trust and love easily, and their smile and loving embrace doesn't discriminate. They do not worry about the future, but live in joyful appreciation of the present, based on a limitless trust in their parents. They are pure of heart. Forgiveness comes easy. St Ambrose, in his commentary on Luke's Gospel (18:17) says, "The virtue lies not in their inability to sin, but in their unwillingness to sin."

A child teaches us to live simply, and yet, at the same time, transcendentally. When a couple receives the gift of a child, they do so as an act of faith. With the birth of their child, they are called to leave behind 'living solely for themselves', and instead strive for another being's future. They begin to live more for their child's future, rather than their own. And quite often, their own hopes, aspirations and unfulfilled dreams are projected onto their children. The child's future becomes their future; their child's dreams become their own. And this is because their child will carry something of them into the future; their legacy and their memory will live on in their children.

God created us as an act of love. We are infused with His image and likeness, because God carries in and through us, His dream of a Creation existing and thriving in harmony, peace and unconditional love. Our dream of redemption is God's desire as well. And our future is what God concerns Himself with. In spite of all our tantrums and defiance, God continues to love us unconditionally, as a father and mother would love their child. And that is why the finest way to live out our divine filiation would be to live in an act of total trust and unconditional surrender to our Heavenly Father. We would do well to love and trust as a child does.

At Christmas last year, Pope Francis said, "With His birth, the baby Jesus made Himself a 'bridge' between God and humankind, reconciled earth and sky, recomposed the whole human race into unity." Living with child-like fidelity, each of us is invited to "build bridges" over chasms of race, religion, ethnicity, caste, wealth, and whatever it is that divides humanity. The love needed to unite the world exists in a child's heart.

Many children have undergone stress, pain, anxiety, and have even faced the brunt of poverty and a lack of resources due to the pandemic. They have been affected by their parents' unemployment and the closure of schools. The lockdown has forced many children to drop out of school, because of their inability to pay fees and get access to a digital device for e-learning. Hence, this year, on Children's Day, we face a double duty to engage with the challenges that the younger section of humanity faces (because in their future lies our own), as well as to learn from them, to live in simplicity and an unwavering trust in our Heavenly Father, especially during this period of great turmoil and uncertainty.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

CATHOLIC PROFILE

Punching against Prejudice

Social conventions often expect girls to sit, behave, dress, groom and conduct themselves in a particular way. Venessa Arez, a 21-year-old boxer, hailing from St Thomas Church, Goregaon is breaking all such stereotypes and forging her own way to success. The journey began early – at age 12 to be exact – with the fact that her grandfather and father were both boxers for Central Railways. “Since boxing is not a very common sport in an urban setting, my dad had to pull a few strings to find me a coach. I then began training at a local club with boys, all older than me. The idea to start training was just to keep me fit, and not to compete. However, after learning a few punches, I started enjoying the sport. I also started winning several local tournaments and bagging titles such as ‘Best Promising Boxer’ and ‘Best Boxer of the tournament’; that was when my father decided to step it up a notch.”

Why Boxing, of all sports? Why not a more familiar sport such as Basketball or Football, where women have made phenomenal strides in recent times? Yes, these are some cliché questions that Venessa gets asked often. But her father’s constant support never really made her question her choices. “My dad always told me, ‘If the world is going right, you go left; that is when you will stand out.’ This very idea has given me the ultimate push to pursue boxing.” Stereotypically speaking, to be a girl means to maintain your physique, have a pretty face and present yourself well. Generally, parents are often concerned about these factors, and Venessa faced that too. “Injury is an athlete’s best friend. Boxing is not like any other sport. Boxing means getting beaten up, coming home with bruised eyes and nose, torn lips, damaged thumbs and a sore body. So, my mother was a bit sceptical at first, because I would have some sort of injury every day. It was my grandmother who expressed her concern to my mother, ‘What if she gets severely injured? She has to get married in the future. Why are you letting her play?’ But that didn’t stop me; marriage is a faraway topic for now; till then, I can keep getting beaten up,” says Venessa jokingly. Two years after she trained at the local club, she joined Sports Authority of India and started competing at the District and State levels. After competing in a few State Championships, she finally made it to the National Youth Championship in 2017. Though she did not win the Championship, she did receive a spot at the India Camp—a camp where girls from all over India are shortlisted to train for future international events, and to be a part of it was a dream come true. She then went on to represent Maharashtra at the Elite Women’s National Boxing Championship, 2018.

Apart from boxing, Venessa is a music enthusiast as well. She plays the keyboard and the guitar, and attends classes for the same. What’s more interesting, Venessa and her family have a choir of their own, and sing every Sunday at their church. “My dad did not have any musical background, but he always wanted us to be a part of the Church choir. One Sunday, he noticed that there was no choir available for the evening Mass. He just stepped in, and the rest, as they say, is history.” The fledgling choir had no clue of “choiring” whatsoever, just a fire in their heart. But with a little help from a few people, her parents, two cousin sisters and Venessa took up the singing, while her sister played the keyboard. “That was 12 years ago. We’re fondly known as the Arez Choir at St Thomas Parish now,” she quips. Be it exams or tournaments, she has rarely missed a Sunday. It’s a tough commitment to balance everything, but Venessa believes that everything has been made possible by God’s grace. “I am not a very prayerful person, to be honest. I don’t believe in just chanting prayers. Playing and singing my heart out at church, trying to give people a close spiritual experience with God through music is my way of praying,” she says.

Venessa is extremely grateful to her parents who have constantly supported and motivated her throughout her boxing journey. “My mother has helped me strike a balance between academics and sports. There were days when juggling between the choir, classes and boxing took a toll on me, but my mother would always give me the assurance that everything would be alright. She would constantly remind me about a small verse from Matthew 17:20 - ‘Faith can move mountains’, and I know for a fact my faith in God is strong. My father, on the other hand, is a go-getter, and he has made me one too. He has accompanied me for every match and whatever I am today is because of my dad. Living in a society, where girls with muscles and who fight are looked down upon or considered too manly, I’m grateful to have people who love and support me regardless. Because STRONG IS BEAUTIFUL!”

Cynera Rodricks


Perspectives on Purgatory during the Pandemic


Fr Anthony Charanghat


During this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, when death has moved to the fore thoughts of our mind, remembering and praying tenderly for those we have lost on All Souls' Day is a distinctly Catholic practice to assuage their bereavement. We may not be able to gather in our cathedrals and churches in person this year to pray and to attend Masses, sing uplifting hymns or visit cemeteries and light candles at graves. But such a hold on wonted customs of mourning due to social distancing rules,gives us space and time for a deeper appreciation of the many perspectives of our doctrine of praying for souls in Purgatory. Psalm 130 sets the tone and tenor of prayer befitting this occasion to cry out from the depths of our heart with hope for the mercy of God.

On Nov. 1, All Saints' Day, we remember those who have died "in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified living forever with Christ. They are like God forever for they see Him as he is,'face to face'." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1023). On All Souls' Day, we pray for those who though in a state of grace are not perfectly purified because of some attachment to imperfections that stain their radical love for God,required to see Him 'face to face.'The Catholic teaching on Purgatory is that it is a privileged state, in which we can be brought to the fullest communion possible with God — a communion of Love which we failed to fully enter during earthly life.

What is the deeper meaning of the teaching of our faith about departed souls in purgatory? At 'the hour of death' when a person dies in a state of grace, they see themselves as they were made to be by God and are moved to contrition at their fallen state of distance from God because of attachment to imperfections. They suffer 'a purifying burning love and desire' to be with God. The pain of purgatory is God's love penetrating the person's soul to the degree the person had not allowed God to do so in earthly life. The realisation of this searing and painful truth of penetration causes the soul to be 'aflame' with the Life and Love of God. Pope Benedict XVI (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) expressed it as the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God, and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints.

The life of the Church, east and west, was a life of prayer to which death was no barrier. We pray for each other, living and dead. Christ died and rose again that he might become the Lord of the living and the dead, as St Paul tells us (Romans 14:9). Besides, just as we are dependent on each other in earthly life, we are also linked to other people by Baptism's gift of God's Life and Love flowing between us(Pauline teaching on the Mystical Body of Christ).This stream of Life and Love among the People of God on earth, permits that inter-dependence, even after death. It is the whole Church that is marching forward in its pilgrim state towards the final goal of beatifying union with God. It is the entire Church that, through her prayer, assists the dying member in her/his final encounter with God.

Probably, no other aspect of the afterlife brings out more forcefully this mutual interlocking and reciprocal assistance all the members of the Church bring to each other, than the doctrine of Purgatory. In the final encounter, no Christian stands before God face to face alone. Rather, all are supported at that supreme moment by one another in prayer. Purgatory is therefore a deeply communal experience, an ecclesial event that affects the entire body of the faithful.

Hence, prayers, sacrifices, indulgences and Masses offered on behalf of the dead are effective, because of our mutual inter-connectedness in Christ. By praying for the dead and offering the Eucharist, we can help the dead. The Eucharist, above all, is the most efficacious prayer to assist the departed on their journey to communion with God. The celebration of the Eucharist is the highest communal act of worship that makes present the Bread of Eternal Life and effects communion with the Risen Lord.

Settling for Sainthood

The "communion of saints" is a definitive mark of the Christian imagination conformed to the mystery of salvation: the communion of holy persons invites and demands an act of faith for Christian belief to build toward completion. In fact, it is the exercise of fidelity to the promises of Christ in the face of death that gave this expression its primary meaning for Western Christianity. This meaning was carried into, and is now borne by, the Apostles' Creed, professed by Catholics all over the world.

Communing with the saints is not an arbitrary recommendation; rather, it is essential to professing and practising the Christian faith in its fullness. For when the Church announces its saints, it proclaims the permanent validity of the humanity of Christ and the real, historical efficacy of the Incarnation. On this point, Rahner seeks to make the connection between the pronouncement of sainthood and the mystery at the heart of the Church: "When the Church declares someone to be a Saint, this is much more a necessary part of the Church's realisation of her own being… she must be able to state her holiness in the concrete. She must have a "cloud of witnesses" whom she can indicate by name."

The Solemnity of All Saints allows us to experience the joy of being part of the large family of God's friends, or, as St Paul writes, to "share the lot of the saints in light" (Col 1:12). The liturgy invites us to share in the heavenly jubilation of the Saints, to taste their joy. The Saints are not a small cast of chosen souls, but an innumerable crowd to which the liturgy urges us to raise our eyes. This multitude not only includes the officially recognised Saints, but the baptised of every epoch and nation who sought to carry out the divine will faithfully and lovingly. We are unacquainted with the faces, and even the names of many of them, but with the eyes of faith, we see them shine in God's firmament like glorious stars.

This, then, is the meaning of this Solemnity: looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in His light, in the great family of God's friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in His family. And this is the vocation of us all, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and solemnly proposed today for our attention. Yes, to become saints means to completely fulfil what we already are, raised to the dignity of God's adopted children, in Christ Jesus (see Eph 1:5; Rom 8:14-17).

Living a 'saintly' life has been Pope Francis' clarion call to all believers throughout his Pontificate. In his 2018 Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), Pope Francis reminded Christians that the Lord wants us all to be saints, and not settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness must be lived in a practical way in our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities. He emphasised that the following of Christ—the path to holiness—is "a way of life," not an intellectual exercise.

This has been the consistent theme and spiritual underpinning of his entire Petrine ministry. As priest, bishop, and now pope, he has always sought "to live the Gospel" as Jesus asked. From the first day of his pontificate, he has insisted that Jesus calls us "to live" the Gospel, by putting into practice in daily life the beatitudes and the words of Jesus in Chapter 25 of Matthew, that refer to feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger. In fact, his 2015 encyclical on the environment Laudato Si', his second exhortation - Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) released in 2016, and his newest encyclical on fraternity and social friendship - Fratelli Tutti (2020), have an underlying theme of living out the Christian "Call to Holiness" by translating faith into action.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the 'saints next door' more visible to us; in the face of great danger, turmoil and anxiety, a great cloud of witnesses came forward to help others who were struggling, putting themselves at the risk of infection. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of humanity. But it is this face, turned away from self-love, towards an encounter with the face of struggling humanity, that is the face of the 'saints' in our world.

(collated and edited from various online sources)

Stand with Stan

On Thursday, evening October 8 detectives from India's National Investigation Agency, (NIA) arrived in an SUV at a red and white building on the outskirts of Ranchi in India's eastern state of Jharkhand.There they picked up Fr Stan Swamy, an ailing 83-year-old activist and Jesuit priest. They seized his mobile phone, and asked him to pack a bag. They then drove him to the airport and boarded a flight to Mumbai, where Fr Swamy was remanded to judicial custody until October 23. He is now the oldest person to be accused of terrorism in India.

The NIA, which deals with anti-terror crimes, arrested him in connection with a 2018 incident of caste-based violence and alleged links with Maoists. Catholic leaders and human rights activists in India are protesting the arrest of 83-year-old Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy on charges of collaboration with Marxist militants. Fr Swamy is a noted human rights activist who has long spoken out against the mistreatment of India's tribal community in Jharkhand.

Two days before his arrest, Fr Stan Swamy had, in a video statement, spoken about his work on displacement, land alienation, rights of gram sabhas (village councils) and of Adivasis in jail, among other issues. He said he challenged the "indiscriminate" arrests of thousands of young Adivasis and Moolvasis (original inhabitants), who were only "rightfully questioning and resisting unjust land alienation and displacement, by falsely labelling them as Maoists." This, he said, could be the main reason why he was targeted in the Bhima-Koregaon case. "I have never been to Bhima-Koregaon, for which I am being made an accused," Fr Swamy said in the video.

In a video recorded days before his arrest, Fr Swamy said detectives had questioned him for 15 hours over five days in July. They had produced "some extracts" allegedly taken from his computer that pointed to his links with Maoists. He disowned them, saying they were "fabrications" that were "stealthily" put into his computer. His advanced age, health complications, and the raging pandemic would make it difficult for him to travel to Mumbai, he told the detectives. He hoped "human sense would prevail," he said.

A BBC News report quoted Sangeeta Kamat, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who said, "This is absolutely appalling. The repression on human rights defenders has never been more extreme in India. She added, this is far more dangerous, as it's an undeclared Emergency."

Fr Swamy had been in the crosshairs of investigating agencies for some time. Over the past two years, they had raided his house twice, he said in the video, to "somehow prove" that he was linked to "extremist Leftist forces". But people who know the soft-spoken, low profile activist say he has devoted his life to the uplift of the tribal people, ever since he moved to Jharkhand in 1991.

In separate statements, the Jesuit Conference of South Asia and the Catholic Church in Ranchi have demanded the immediate release of Fr Swamy. Fr George Pattery, who heads the Jesuits in South Asia, on October 9, expressed shock and dismay over the arrest of his elderly confrere who has worked "all his life for the uplift of the downtrodden and other vulnerable people." The Jesuit leader said he was "immensely grateful to all people of goodwill, civil society members and institutions who have come out overwhelmingly in support of Stan." The Catholic Church in Ranchi has appealed 'to the conscience and the compassion of all concerned authorities, and all those who have a say in this matter,' to release the priest immediately, and to bring him to his residence.

Fr Stan Swamy has diligently documented the abuses and illegal activities of the authorities in Jharkhand. The priest has consistently denied having any ties to Maoist groups. "[Swamy] fought for them, he worked for them, he lived with them, and there is no other witness like him for the tribal community. I can add nothing to that. There is no other person today in our context who identifies so much with the tribal community," Fr Pattery explained. "He has already been interrogated for several hours spread over several months. He has consistently cooperated with the agency concerned. He is willing to be further interrogated at the place he is residing or online," Fr Pattery said in a separate statement. "Considering this, his age (83) and his poor health, it was not necessary to take him into custody for further interrogation to Mumbai. We hereby demand the immediate release of Stan Swamy," he said.

Collated from media reports. Courtesy BBC News and Indian Express