NOTES AND COMMENTS


Stories of Suffering in Dharavi

Sr Annie Fernandes, SHM

The largest slum in Asia was under strict lockdown for 70 days. The people living there are hard working with an ‘earn today, eat today’ motto. People were asked to remain indoors, to strictly follow the WHO guidelines to combat the coronavirus. All economic activity came to a standstill. The biggest challenge for MISSION DHARAVI (a team of civic officials) was to prevent the virus from spiralling across the densely packed slum.

The Society of the Helpers of Mary is a religious charitable institution, serving for the past 60 years through Daya Sadan Community Centre to bring holistic development and sustainability to the families in Dharavi. They knew that the people were quarantined in their small rooms, with the fear of coronavirus gripping their lives. The roads and marketplaces were gloomy and dreary. The surge in COVID-19 cases coincided with a drastic drop in income, and the life of Dharavi changed immensely. The Daya Sadan sisters were urgently requested to reach out during this time.

The stories of the change in their lives were terrible to hear. With eyes filled with tears, someone said that they sat at the corporator’s office for three days to ask for some food, and got nothing. Another said that she had a three-month-old baby, and she left her home at 6 a.m. just to see if anybody was distributing food. Her three children had not eaten anything. The drivers came together with joined hands, and asked us to understand their plight in this lockdown situation. The artisans said that 12 of them from Bihar were staying in a small room, and had nothing to cook. They stayed inside for three days, and by chance, saw the sisters distributing food. People said that they previously cooked food three times a day, but in the wake of the lockdown, they did not even cook once a day.

One day, a group of people asked me how practical it is for them to follow the WHO guidelines. Were we aware of their state of mind? They were happy to die with the coronavirus, but It was beyond their limit to live a life that had no food, no hope. For many days, they wandered for food, ate like beggars, greeted every day with a heavy heart, not wanting to see their children, as they weren't able to feed them. Very soon, they would be without shelter for not paying the rent.

Dharavi's population comprises mainly migrants, with no family support system. There was a family of five from Ranchi, and the mother had a major surgery. She was asked to take complete bed rest, and could not go back to her native place. The father was a vendor, selling onions door to door on a handcart. While he was selling onions during lockdown, the police fined him and confiscated the scale. He can't continue his business any more. In this situation, he has to take care of his wife, who has to take a heavy dose of medicines, and the needs of the children too, without any income.

A single mother, who worked as a domestic worker, was the only earning member of her family. At present, she is without work, and has four daughters. She feels helpless, confused and restless, without a penny in her hand. She hadn't cooked food for two days, and her daughters were begging for food. A young driver, who had recently undergone open heart surgery, said that for the last two months, he was without a job. He has debts to pay for his surgery. His wife is a cancer patient, and his three children are very small. He is constantly anxious about their survival. A widow, working in a dispensary as a helper, has four children; one handicapped, one special child and two normal children. She is jobless now, and had no words, but only tears. Anxiety and fear have made her so dejected that she does not know how to handle life.

The government guaranteed food through the Public Distribution System to the migrant workers. The irony is that even the ration card holders could not avail the ration. They have been turned away by ration shops. They are told that “the stock has not yet come, the ration distribution will start only after the lockdown; don’t bother us, why should we take a risk? What do we get in distributing ration to you?” When migrants go to the ration shops, they are turned away, because the shops have no machines for biometric registration. Many of the migrants got a beating from the police, because they found them on the road. We contacted the Police Control Room and we were given mobile numbers; not even one of them worked. When we contacted the Rationing Officer, the only response was, “I will look into the matter.” ‘ONE NATION, ONE RATION CARD’ is a dream for Dharavi migrants.

The Daya Sadan Community Centre team fearlessly reached out to 2800 families at the peak of the spread of coronavirus, to distribute food kits comprising rice, dal, sugar, wheat flour, oil, masala packets, tea, salt, soaps and Arsenicum Album 30, which acts as an immunity booster. Seeing the outreach efforts, many benefactors and donors came forward to contribute to the relief efforts, and helped us to be ‘Mary’ to vulnerable and deprived families. It was also the power of God that kept all of us, our staff and volunteers safe from the coronavirus.

Sr Annie Fernandes, SHM, Director of Daya Sadan Community Centre, Dharavi

Mission Ecology Booklet released for Indian Bishops

Fr Joshan Rodrigues

The CCBI Commission for Ecology has come out with a Vision Document to help the bishops of India incorporate environment-enhancing initiatives in diocesan pastoral planning towards building greener dioceses. Titled ‘Green Pathways – Onward to a Greener Diocese’, this beautifully designed 18-page document is intended to help bishops structure their response to the environmental crisis that affects their dioceses. The booklet was released on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (on the Care of our Common Home).

The booklet begins with a few statistics on the environmental ills plaguing India. Quotes from Laudato Si’ contextualise the problem and compel a response. Ecological considerations for bishops are then presented under the thrust areas of: Spirituality, Facilitate Learning (Education), Engagement (Concrete Actions) and Build Coalitions (Networking and Advocacy), which have been patterned after the Green Diocese initiative of the Archdiocese of Bombay. Each thrust area has points for use in daily life, at events, and for the diocese as a whole. The content has a few links to online resources which can be accessed in the e-version. The booklet concludes with a reflection from Querida Amazonia.

In the foreword, Bishop Allwyn D’Silva, the Chairperson of the CCBI Commission for Ecology, says that we are amidst an ecological emergency that necessitates an urgent response. Pope Francis calls for an ecological conversion and requires that we step up the stewardship of our common home. At times, in spite of our good intentions, we do not how to respond, hence the booklet.

The Spiritual focus areas suggested are enhancing eco-spirituality among the lay faithful by using Creation-themed rosaries, eco-recollections, meditating amidst Nature, being mindful of Earth’s bounties, etc. To facilitate learning, the document encourages ‘responsible purchasing’ of products that have low ecological impact, organising eco-camps and training sessions at various levels in the diocese on relevant topics like the teachings of the Church on the environment, the encyclical Laudato Si’, sustainable living, the eco-crisis, etc., using the pulpit to link the cry of the Earth with the cry of the poor, the marginalised and the affected, promoting best practices in waste minimisation and waste management. Engagement strategies suggested are optimising travel (the lockdown has shown us that we can use technology like tele-conferencing and video-conferencing. Try carpooling and promote the use of public transport and bicycles. Encourage Masses and meetings in local areas (so as to avoid mass travel), discouraging gifting and giveaways, flower bouquets and garlands, and instead using spiritual bouquets and saplings, avoiding food waste by promoting community fridges in parishes, encouraging and promoting shroud burial and organ donation, and establishing a Diocesan Office for Environment with a core group of knowledgeable and committed people to animate and steer the greening of the diocese.

The document emphasises building coalitions and joining hands with like-minded people and organisations to multiply efforts and magnify the outcome. This includes collaborating with other religious in the diocese, and encouraging multi-faith interactions; felicitating, publicising and inviting people working for ecological protection at events organised by the Church; engaging with government representatives at the State, Municipal/Gram Panchayat and Ward levels; enhancing social economy by supporting co-operatives, self-employment and local entrepreneurship schemes, women and artisan-centric programmes, home-made items, etc.; supporting low-input and climate-suited agriculture (such as no water-intensive crops in drought-prone areas), with emphasis on the well-being of the farming community.

The Commission for Ecology seeks to promote a Green Movement in the Indian Church:

  • To make the Church aware of the sacredness of Creation
  • To understand the adverse effects of environmental crises
  • To prevent any form of action that is harmful or detrimental to the well-being of God’s Creation
  • To encourage an eco-friendly lifestyle, especially among the faithful, that is free from being obsessed with consumption and consumerism.

It seeks to fulfil this mission through the following objectives:

  • To establish a Commission for Ecology in each diocese and region
  • To collaborate with the government in eco-friendly and environmental schemes and projects
  • To network with like-minded groups and institutions having a similar vision and mission
  • To spread awareness on/keep in touch with the latest inventions and technology on the environment
  • To alleviate the sufferings of victims, especially women and indigenous people affected by environmental degradation
  • To prevent and respond to grave environmental issues pertaining to the country.

LOCAL NEWS

Certificate Course in Bio-Medical Ethics

The FIAMC Bio-Medical Ethics Centre in collaboration with Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work is pleased to announce its 2020-21 Certificate Course in Bio-Medical Ethics, which will begin from July 22, 2020. The course will include online trainings on weekends with home study - assignments, projects & case studies. This course is meant for Professionals, Religious and Laity, Teachers, Social workers, Psychologists, Counsellors, Healthcare providers, Care-givers and all who endeavour, in the service of humanity, to make it a more humane society.

The course content is designed to empower the student by a transfer of knowledge and skills to study and think, discuss and learn about the issues arising in the Ethical and Human Rights domain, develop a concept of the human being as a person, and understand human dignity under different bioethical circumstances. The approach to achieve this would be to encourage a participative and interactive role, one that will involve some brainstorming in groups in person or online, some home study sessions for the assignments and the specific individual or group projects, as well as group presentations and case study discussions.

The objective is to help the participants develop an understanding of the ethical, moral, religious and cultural issues arising in the medical context of human behaviours in society, starting from the “Beginning of Life” to the “End of Life”. In this process, the participants would learn to evaluate the nature and consequences of available options in the context of crisis and major life event situations faced by people, and the decisions they make keeping in view their limitations and available resources.

We intend to achieve this with the help of resource faculty drawn from their own relevant fields of specialization and also expect the participants to draw on their experience and knowledge to work to achieve own goals. The course will consist of 9 modules, with 4 topics in each module. It will be usually conducted on the 2nd Sunday of the month, morning to noon, spread over 9 months, from July 2020 - March 2021, first online and then - when the situation permits it - at the St Pius X College complex, Aarey Road, Goregaon East, Mumbai 400063. There will be individual and group assignments and projects to be presented, as well as one individual project to be submitted at the end of course, towards evaluation for the Certificate.

For the course brochure and more details email: fiamcmumbai@hotmail.com or call 022-29270933.

Looking up during Lockdown

It all began with the question: how can we satisfy the spiritual needs of our parishioners during the lockdown period? We decided to livestream the Eucharist. We tasked our youth with getting everything in place. Soon the first Mass was livestreamed from the church on March 21, and then shifted to our Cave Chapel. The next step was to get our own YouTube channel; this required at least 1000 subscriptions in order to permit broadcasting and recording of the streamed Eucharist. The parish WhatsApp groups were activated, and in a matter of a few hours, we crossed that magic figure. This was the beginning of the collaboration between the parishioners and religious that was to be a highlight of the lockdown period.

We introduced the Ignatian method of ‘Night Points’. With daytime TV beaming mostly gloomy news, we thought it would help our people to wind down with the Good News by way of daily video ‘Good Night Messages’. The innovation with the goodnight messages led to other Jesuits being invited to share these three-minute Scriptural meditations. We got positive feedback, and that made us realise that we were heading in the right direction. People wanted to start and end their day, comforted by God’s Word.

The spiritual nourishment slowly began to bear fruit. With the lockdown rendering the poor vulnerable, it was decided that no family would be allowed to go hungry in the parish. This time, the SCC network was activated, and data about the needy families was culled in record time. Simultaneously, the three congregations of religious sisters were entrusted with the responsibility of catering to the needs of those who lived on the margins of society, viz. the transgenders, ragpickers, autorickshaw drivers and migrant labourers. The parish decided to seed this initiative with an initial amount of Rs 1 lakh, and then raise funds from the people to meet this need. In the meantime, the SCCs, working with pinpoint precision, brought in the required information, and by the middle of April, the first round of grain and grocery packets for a family of five for a period of around 15 days was delivered to the needy. This inter-networking and collaboration between the Jesuits, Sisters and SCCs resulted in the corona outreach being now effectively in place.

While basic food and groceries were taken care of, other needs such as medicines, etc. started emerging. Round 2 of the Outreach involved giving cash to the people. 147 families (of which 104 families were of other faiths) were given an envelope containing Rs 1000/- on the feast of St Joseph, May 1. The sisters were now reaching out gradually to other affected workers, such as railway station porters, and on a smaller scale. Hot meals were being provided to those who came hungry. In all of this, we continued to feel God’s presence among us. Indeed, we felt God and His people were working together.

Jesus on earth was Divinity in the human form. The spiritual had to lead to social action. The web-streamed Eucharist initially began as spiritual nourishment for the parish, but now has spread to reach out to people across the globe. People touched by the Word of God have donated, and their generosity has provided food for the hungry. And much like the miracle of the five loaves and two fish, as the disciples distributed it, the needs keep growing, funds keep pouring in. The miracle continues.

Mariette, Roshan, Darryl & Vincent, SJ

Media Team of Holy Family Church, Chakala, Andheri (E)

NATIONAL NEWS

Webinars on Laudato Si’ Anniversary

The FABC-OHD/CCD organised a webinar on the Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year on June 15, 2020 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (IST) and the CCBI Commission for Ecology organised a similar webinar on June 16, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 pm. The objective of the June 15 webinar was to review our journey in caring for Creation since 2015, to share our success stories and challenges and to plan for the Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year. About 40 participants from 15 different countries (10 Asian and 5 from Australia and Europe) were present for the webinar. We were privileged to have two cardinals at the webinar. Cardinal Charles Bo SDB, the President of the FABC, gave the welcome address. He stressed upon the fact that the Asian region needs green evangelisation with due respect for Nature and human beings. Cardinal Oswald Gracias enlightened us about the involvement of the FABC in Climate Change issues in Asia. He emphatically said that when we destroy Nature and don't care for it, we sin against God, breaking the fifth and the eighth commandments - do not kill and do not steal.

The keynote address was given by Fr Joshtrom Kureethadam SDB, Coordinator of the ‘Ecology and Creation sector at the Vatican dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Fr Joshtrom gave deep insights into Laudato Si’ and unveiled a plan for the next seven years, consisting of various initiatives and programmes and accomplishing the Laudato Si’ Goals. Mr Ulrich Füßer read out a speech by Msgr Pirmin Spiegel, the Director General of MISEREOR, in which he highlighted the relevance of Laudato Si’ in the present pandemic situation, and the important role of FABC in caring for Creation in Asia. The Chairman of OHD/CCD, Emeritus Archbishop Yvon Ambroise, in his reflection on ‘Laudato Si’- Past, present and future perspective’ highlighted how the violence present in our hearts due to sin causes ecological destruction. We need to experience an ecological conversion. In the concluding part, a few participants shared their experiences of working with issues related to Climate Change and Care for Creation. The Moderator for the session was Bishop Allwyn D'Silva, auxiliary bishop of Bombay. The representatives from CAFOD and MISEREOR, the networking partners of OHD/CCD, also presented their reflections. Finally, Ms Deepika Singh, the Coordinator of the Office of OHD/CCD, proposed a few concrete steps for action as a way forward. She suggested that we need to meet often in smaller groups, and share our experiences and challenges with one another. The webinar ended with a blessing by Emeritus Archbishop Yvon Ambroise.

At the webinar on June 16, Bishop Ivan Pereira, Bishop of Jammu and Kashmir, welcomed the participants. Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, Apostolic Nuncio of India and Nepal, delivered the inaugural address. The keynote address was given by Fr Joshtrom Kureethadam SDB, Coordinator of the ‘Ecology and Creation sector at the Vatican dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Bishop Allwyn D’Silva, Chairman of the CCBI Commission of Ecology, moderated the session, as 38 participants from India shared their work and expectations of the Laudato Si’ Anniversary year. Fr Joshua D’Souza, Secretary of the Commission, proposed the vote of thanks.

Press Release

Odisha

Kandhamal Catholic among those martyred at LAC

Chandrakanta Pradhan, a Catholic, was among the 20 Indian soldiers killed on June 16 at Galwan Valley in the disputed Asai Chin-Ladakh. The 28-year-old was a native of Bearpanga village under Our Lady of Charity Church, Raikia, a parish of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.

Chandrakanta was the fourth among five children of Karunakar and Malti Pradhan. His father, Karunakar Pradhan, said the solider was his only son, and that the family had great dreams for him. He recalled his son saying that he would serve India for a long period. “But that did not happen. I believe the saying, ‘Man proposes; God disposes’,” he said as tears flowed down his cheeks. “I am proud of my son, because he has sacrificed his life for the nation.”

Fr Pradosh Chandra Nayak, the Parish Priest, consoled the family, reminding them of the Catholic belief that death is not the end of everything. “There is resurrection after death. The death of our brave young man definitely brings sadness to the entire region. But the cause of his death has made us proud,” he said. The priest said the solider was a regular at church and participated in parish activities, whenever he was home for holidays.

The Hindustan Times quoted Chandrakanta’s sister, Sandhyarani, recalling her brother had a premonition of his death two weeks ago. Pradhan was posted at Ladakh in February, and seemed excited amid the snow-clad mountains. When he called her up on June 1, he told her to take care of everyone. “He was crying and asked for forgiveness over any hurt that he may have caused me and my younger brother. He told me to look after my younger brother and our parents. He never cries, but that day, he cried, and said war may start,” she added.

The District Collector of Kandhamal, local Members of Parliament and state Legislative Assembly, Odisha police officers, representatives of the Indian Navy, and the Bihar Regiment were among some 15,000 people who flocked to the village to pay their tributes to the 28-year-old soldier at the funeral service.

A message from Bishop Niranjan Swalsingh of Sambalpur, secretary of the Odisha Catholic Bishops’ Council, was read out during the Mass. “Condolences and spiritual closeness to the parents and dear and near ones of the martyred soldier. May God grant him eternal rest for the sacrifice he has made to the nation. He made our Catholic Church proud for his profound faith in God and sacrificing love for India,” the bishop said on behalf of prelates in the eastern Indian state.

Mattersindia

New Delhi

Nurses exhausted from service and at risk of depression

They have been called "COVID warriors", the "angels of mercy" and they are the heroes of our time. They are the nurses who, together with doctors and other paramedical staff, have risked their own lives.Their number in India is not high; many of them have emigrated to other countries, from Canada to Australia. According to 2018 statistics, at least 7,00,000 Indian nurses work abroad.

Despite the scarcity of medical personnel, the coronavirus emergency has prompted the Indian government to send doctors to the Emirates, and health units to the Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles. Nurses from different parts of India have been sent to highly populated places such as Mumbai, at the request of the government of Maharashtra.

Now, however, difficulties and complaints are emerging, because health workers are suffering from overwork and exhaustion. Especially in the COVID-19 care departments, the shifts are exhausting, without rest and without regard for their own safety. The Nurses Association in India (UNA, United Nurses Association) had to step in. Mr Jasminsha, President of the UNA, said that in many hospitals, the sick are treated without proper protection. COVID patients are being cared for in Maharashtra and Delhi, without even surgical masks.

The Supreme Court upheld the nurses' complaint and asked the Central Government for explanations. On March 22, before declaring the lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited all Indians to express their gratitude to the health personnel by clapping their hands, ringing bells, beating dishes and pans. But after three months of heavy and overtime work, staff feel the need for a more peaceful working style. In many cases, more than physical fatigue, nurses suffer from depression caused by the extreme difficulties they face at work.There is a list of doctors and nurses who died from COVID-19; at the end of May, 30 doctors and six nurses had died.

asianews

Karnataka

Prison Ministry’s Online Training makes huge impact

In a unique initiative, Prison Ministry India (PMI)’s ‘Reform to Re-integrate’ programme (held via Google Meet) had 60 eager participants from all over India. The topics discussed ranged from the background and overview of PMI to visiting prisons, and developing skills for interacting with prisoners and their families. The PMI volunteers immersed themselves in the two-week training programme. Since most of the volunteers were new to PMI, the National Team enriched them with many insights about Prison Ministry—Spirituality, Biblical and Historical perspectives of PMI. The programme focused on regaining the lost rights of prisoners, types of prisons and prisoners, human rights and prisoners’ rights and the life experience of reformed prisoners. The training programme, conducted every year by the national office in the month of May, went online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The volunteers benefited immensely under the guidance of Fr Francis Kodiyan MCBS, the National Coordinator and Sr Lini Sheeja MSC, the National Secretary and Chief Editor of Prison Voice.

PMI, a national voluntary organisation under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), has a history of liberating, rehabilitating and redeeming tens of thousands of prisoners and their families through its 20 rehabilitation centres and 8,000 volunteers all over India. Since its inception, PMI has grown, and is currently serving 1,412 prisons and 4.5 lakh prisoners across India.

Indian Catholic Matters

Tripura

Church’s outreach in COVID-19

The local Church in Agartala found ways to respond positively to the COVID-19 pandemic. The diocese of Tripura has twenty parishes, and all the parishes reached out to the needy people in their own area, providing mostly dry food rations and cooked food packets, counselling as well as providing facemasks. Catholic schools in Tripura, along with the teachers, supplied food packets to many villages. Some of the initiatives taken by Fr Paul Pudussery, CSC of ASHA, Agartala were remarkable in this regard: 25,000 masks were manufactured and distributed (mostly free); this created work for many during this time, especially women. Dry food packets were given to needy communities in collaboration with local and district administration, and cooked food was also provided to the most deserving in the city. Four cyclists (one from Spain and three from Kerala) who were on their way to Tokyo for the (now postponed) Olympics, were quarantined in Agartala. ASHA accommodated them for about two months till they could return home. ASHA also organised a Blood Donation camp; 54 persons donated blood; many of them were religious.

Sacred Heart parish, Bishramganj reached out to sixteen villages; around 800 people were helped during the lockdown. Don Bosco School, Bishramganj helped 14 construction workers from Assam who were stuck in Tripura, due to the sudden announcement of lockdown.

The FMM sisters of St Clare community, Bishramganj decided to help some of the very poor students. Along with the teachers, Sr Kumodini and Sr Sali distributed dry food packets to the families of 60 such students. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped us to revisit our faith, to re-affirm our commitment and to re-align our age old values.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Vatican City

Pope adds three new invocations to the Litany

The addition that Pope Francis has made to the Litany of Loreto was made public by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on June 20 - the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In a letter to the Presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation, and its Secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche, noted that through the course of centuries, Christians have been using innumerable invocations and titles to call upon the Virgin Mary, “as the privileged and sure way to an encounter with Christ”.

“Referring to the present times, marked by feelings of uncertainty and trepidation, the People of God devoutly have recourse to her, full of affection and trust. Discerning this sentiment and welcoming the desires expressed, the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis, wishes to provide that in the formulary of the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, called ‘The Litany of Loreto’, the invocations ‘Mater misericordiæ’, ‘Mater spei’ and ‘Solacium migrantium’ should be inserted.”

According to the directions, the invocation, “Mother of mercy” is to be inserted after “Mother of the Church”, "Mother of hope” after “Mother of Divine Grace” and “Solace of migrants” after “Refuge of sinners”.

In an interview, Archbishop Roche explained that these invocations “respond to the realities of the time in which we are living”. He said that many people across the world who are afflicted in many ways, not only by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also forced from their homes because of poverty, conflict and other reasons, are invoking Our Lady.

The Litany of Loreto takes its name from the Marian shrine of Loreto in Italy, where it is believed to have been used as far back as 1531. It was officially approved in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V, who suppressed all other Marian litanies used publicly. The Litany of Loreto is the only approved Marian litany. Through the centuries, at least seven new invocations to Mary were added. Saint Pope John Paul II added “Mother of the Church” in 1980, and “Queen of families” in 1995.

Vatican News

Pope's message for World Day of Poor

The theme for the 4th World Day of the Poor is “Stretch forth your hand to the poor”, taken from the book of Sirach. The Message was released on June 20; the actual World Day is observed on November 15, 2020. Drawing from this text, Pope Francis observes that “its author presents his advice concerning many concrete situations in life, one of which is poverty. He insists that even amid hardship, we must continue to trust in God.” The Pope points out that from these pages, we see that “prayer to God and solidarity with the poor and suffering are inseparable.” He also notes that “time devoted to prayer can never become an alibi for neglecting our neighbour in need.”

“Generosity that supports the weak, consoles the afflicted, relieves suffering and restores dignity to those stripped of it, is a condition for a fully human life,” Pope Francis says. “The power of God’s grace cannot be restrained by the selfish tendency to put ourselves first always.”

In his message, the Pope acknowledges that “keeping our gaze fixed on the poor is difficult”, but, he underlines, it is “more necessary than ever if we are to give proper direction to our personal life and the life of society. We cannot feel ‘alright’ when any member of the human family is left behind and in the shadows.”

“The present experience has challenged many of our assumptions. We feel poorer and less self-sufficient, because we have come to sense our limitations and the restriction of our freedom. The loss of employment and of opportunities to be close to our loved ones and our regular acquaintances, suddenly opened our eyes to horizons that we had long since taken for granted.”

However, Pope Francis stresses, “now is a good time to recover ‘the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world’.”

In a word, he continues, “until we revive our sense of responsibility for our neighbour and for every person, grave economic, financial and political crises will continue.”

Vatican News

Germany

Pope Emeritus visits ailing brother

Retired Pope Benedict XVI, who is 93 years old, travelled to Germany to visit his ailing older brother, Msgr Georg Ratzinger, who is 96.

The Vatican Press Office confirmed that Pope Benedict went to Germany on June 18 to visit his brother. "The Pope Emeritus is now in the city of Regensburg, where he will spend the time necessary," said Matteo Bruni, Director of the Vatican Press Office. Pope Benedict was accompanied by his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, one of the consecrated laywomen who cares for him and his household, a doctor, a nurse and the vice commander of the Vatican gendarme corps.

The two brothers, who were ordained to the priesthood together in 1951, have always been close. While his brother was Pope, and even after he stepped down from the papacy, Msgr Ratzinger would come to the Vatican to spend Christmas and a summer holiday with his brother. The two also had a sister, Maria, who died in 1991.

While Fr Joseph Ratzinger pursued advanced theology studies, served as a professor and an archbishop, before moving to the Vatican as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and then as Pope, Msgr Ratzinger became famous as director of the renowned Regensburg boys' choir from 1964 to 1994, when he retired.

Pope Benedict will be staying at the Regensburg Seminary. Italian news reports said that before Pope Benedict left the Vatican, Pope Francis met with him at the Mater Ecclesia Monastery in the Vatican Gardens, where the retired pope lives.

CNS

Italy

Teenaged Computer Programmer Carlo Acutis to be beatified

Venerable Carlo Acutis, an Italian teenager and computer programmer who died in 2006, will be beatified October 10 in Assisi, Italy. “The joy we have long awaited finally has a date,” said Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi in a June 13 statement.

The beatification will take place in Assisi at 4 p.m. at the Basilica of Saint Francis. It will be chaired by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is Prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Acutis is currently buried in Assisi’s Church of St Mary Major.

Acutis, who died of leukaemia at the age of 15, offered his suffering for the Pope and for the Church. He was born in London on May 3, 1991 to Italian parents, who soon returned to Milan. He was a pious child, attending daily Mass, frequently praying the Rosary, and making weekly confessions.

In May 2019, Acutis’ mother, Antonia Salzano, told CNA Newsroom: “Jesus was the centre of his day.” She said that priests and nuns would tell her that they could tell that the Lord had a special plan for her son. “Carlo really had Jesus in his heart, really the pureness … When you are really pure of heart, you really touch people’s hearts,” she said.

The date for the beatification was announced the same week as the feast of Corpus Christi. Acutis had a great devotion to the Eucharist and Eucharistic miracles. “It is beautiful that this news comes as we prepare for the feast of Corpus Christi,” Archbishop Sorrentino said. “Young Carlo distinguished himself with his love for the Eucharist, which defined his highway to heaven.”

The miracle that paved the way for Acutis’ beatification involved the healing of a Brazilian child suffering from a rare congenital anatomic anomaly of the pancreas in 2013. The Medical Council of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes gave a positive opinion of the miracle last November, and Pope Francis approved the miracle in February.

Acutis was exceptionally gifted with computers. In Christus Vivit, the apostolic exhortation published after the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, Pope Francis offered Acutis as a model of holiness in a digital age.

CNA

Italy

Pope appoints women to Vatican Library and financial authority

The Holy See Press Office announced papal appointments to two positions in the Vatican. Pope Francis appointed Dr Raffaella Vincenti as office head of the Vatican Apostolic Library. Dr Vincenti had previously served as Secretary of the Library. Pope Francis also named Professor Antonella Sciarrone Alibrandi as a Member of the Managing Board of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF). The AIF works to combat money-laundering and financing of terrorism. Prof. Alibrandi is a professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, located in Milan, Italy. She is also a member of the Milan Bar Association, President of the Association of Economics and Law Professors, and a member of the Union of Catholic Jurists.

Vatican News

USA

Statue of Junipero Serra toppled in indigenous protest

San Francisco Archbishop Salvadore Cordileone criticised the pulling down of the Junipero Serra statue in Golden Gate Park. “What is happening to our society? A renewed national movement to heal memories and correct the injustices of racism and police brutality in our country has been hijacked by some into a movement of violence, looting and vandalism,” he said in a statement June 20 night.

Serra was an 18th century Catholic priest who founded nine of California’s 21 Spanish missions, and is credited with bringing Catholicism to the Western United States. Serra is accused of forcing Native Americans to stay at those missions after they were converted, or face brutal punishment. His statues have been defaced in California for several years by people who claim he destroyed tribes and their culture.

However, Cordileone said Serra made heroic sacrifices to protect the indigenous people of California from their Spanish conquerors, especially the soldiers. “Even with his infirmed leg which caused him such pain, he walked all the way to Mexico City to obtain special faculties of governance from the Viceroy of Spain, in order to discipline the military who were abusing the Indians. And then he walked back to California. And lest there be any doubt, we have a physical reminder to this day; everywhere there is a presidio (soldiers’ barracks) associated with a mission in the chain of 21 missions that he founded, the presidio is miles away from the mission itself and the school. St Junipero Serra also offered them the best thing he had—the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, which he and his fellow Franciscan friars did through education, healthcare and training in the agrarian arts,” the archbishop said.

“All of this is not to deny that historical wrongs have occurred, even by people of good will, and healing of memories and reparation is much needed. But just as historical wrongs cannot be righted by keeping them hidden, neither can they be righted by re-writing history. Anger against injustice can be a healthy response when it is that righteous indignation which moves a society forward. But as Christ Himself teaches, and St Francis modeled, love, and not rage, is the only answer,” Cordileone continued.

The archbishop said that for the past 800 years, various Franciscan orders of brothers, sisters and priests that trace their inspiration back to St Francis “have been exemplary of not only serving, but identifying with, the poor and downtrodden, and giving them their rightful dignity as children of God. St Junipero Serra is no exception.”

Crux Now

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Fr Alvaro Nazareth: Lifelong Legionary

Sir, Fr Alvaro Nazareth, a diocesan priest serving in the Archdiocese of Bombay, a legionary for most of his life, was called home by the Lord, at the age of 88 years, on June 22, 2020. Looking back at his life, he had generously dedicated it since his early years to the Legion of Mary.

He served the Legion in Brazil for 38 years. To the challenges to the Legion, Fr Alvaro responded with great patience and determination, and always sought to do what was best for the Legion. As Spiritual Director, he worked in the background and never sought the limelight. He was intelligent, knew the Legion system and also had knowledge of Church documents, Theology etc. but never boasted. We always found him gentle, understanding and loving. He was truly a spiritual person, and was therefore able to guide the Legion so effectively for so many years. With his knowledge, he stepped forward to defend the Legion or take the lead in new developments. After returning from Brazil, he readily took on the responsibility of guiding the Senatus of Bombay that oversees more than 600 units of the Legion of Mary in India and Nepal for 12 years, till a year and a half ago.

His passing away is a great loss to the Legion of Mary. We are grateful to the priests of our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Bandra, Mumbai for their dedicated and committed service to him in the last weeks of his life.

We will all miss Fr Alvaro, but we can rely on his continued help from the next life. We shall remember Fr Alvaro in our prayers and Masses, imploring the good Lord to grant him fellowship with the Saints, and unbounded happiness and everlasting union with Jesus and his beloved Mother, Mary.

Star of the Sea, Legion Senatus of Mumbai

Memories of Fr German Lemos

Sir, Time heals they say, yet it feels like just moments ago, the news was broken to us of his sad demise. We grew up seeing the close bond between three brothers, along with their families, always warm, caring and respectful towards each other. In the days when phones were a luxury, they communicated through letters and greeting cards regularly.

Every occasion, be it Baptisms, First Holy Communions, marriages, etc. were solemnised by Fr German. He was always the key figure at family occasions, yet he did not need any special invitation or treatment. He was always present for us, and blended easily with all of us, often being the star of the show, playing the guitar, sometimes joined by his brothers on mouth organs.

He looked handsome and elegant in his cassock or his ‘Roman collar’, always neatly attired and well groomed. We were proud to be seen with him. We loved it when he celebrated Mass at our respective parish churches, and took great pride in showing him off to all our friends and neighbours. For the nephews, serving as an altar boy at his Mass was pure joy and a real privilege.

He always made it a point to spend some part of his break from his assignments with family. When Fr German came home, we would wait for him and for the simple, beautiful gifts he’d bring for us. He introduced us to the steam boat - the one that you put in a tub of water with a lit candle, the plastic plane kites, playing cards, fishing, above all, reading books, fish aquariums, roses and more. Fr German was so hands on with every generation, he could get down to their level and work with them, celebrating their good times and guiding them through rough times.

He loved spending time at his ancestral home in Goa - the simple Goan home-cooked food, walks down the dusty village roads, meeting family and friends, walks down to the river behind the church, the beach, walk to the pato and taar, and so much more.

There is so much we could say about Fr German. He has left us with the most beautiful memories that will remain with us forever. He was a mentor, guide and inspiration with strong principles of integrity, ethics and excellence. We are confident that he is already with the Lord in Paradise, and continues to pray for all of us, and we look forward to the day when we shall all meet again. Until then we shall revere, cherish, honour and emulate the memories he has left behind.

His loving and grateful family

Lockdown blow to Catholic Publishers

Sir, CNA (Catholic News Agency) reported on June 2, 2020 that Catholic Publishers in the UK (United Kingdom) are turning to social media and online sales in an effort to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business.

CEO of Catholic Truth Society (CTS) told CNA that many publishers had lost 60-70 per cent of their normal income, after the government imposed a nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s a pretty huge hit to take. Two main selling outlets for CTS Publications – bookstores and Church stalls – were forced to close. We saw individuals ordering through our website going up quite substantially. But it didn’t make up for the loss of the other two big ones – Pauline Books and Media (UK), which had to shut five book centres.”

“We are constantly asking ourselves, how is this changing our outlook and our way of operating? However, it has energised us to be more present online and on social media,” opined Sr Angela Grant, Provincial of the Daughters of St Paul in the UK. She emphasised that they remain committed to operating their book centres, even if they are unlikely to make a profit. The Gospel requires to be sown. God will provide.

Dr Hazel Colaso, Bandra (W)

Finding God in all people

Sir, When we teach our children about Christ being present in the Eucharist, do we also tell them that the same Christ is present in the heart of every single human being?

When we preach about the works and miracles of Jesus, do we pause to reflect on how He loved to interact with people who worshipped differently from Him, and who were polytheistic and bowed down to idols?

When we talk about how Jesus chose to dine with Matthew and other tax-collectors who were far from accepted in the regular social circles, do we realise that He didn’t choose an occasion to break bread with them? He chose to do this on a regular day, devoid of pomp and fanfare.

While the West witnesses a surge of protests in the midst of the pandemic, raising their voices for the cause of black lives suffering police brutality, it’s about time we took a look at injustices closer home. Although it’s easier to be aware of the news, sigh when we read about these happenings, say a prayer and move on to the next piece of information, we have to realise the importance of why these occurrences take place.

Racism may be the bugbear of the West, but casteism is a problem that is more familiar to us. And people suffering at the hands of merciless men in power in the name of religion is something we cannot turn a blind eye to. The root of the issue is a lack of respect for the value of another human being, no matter which religion they adhere to.

Growing up, I wish I wasn’t told to restrict my mingling to the Catholic students in school or my neighbourhood. Looking back, some of my friends who practise different religions have more faith in God than most of my Catholic friends, and I’ve come to realise that a person’s faith or lack of faith in God has no bar on them being lovely people. We have it ingrained in our minds that it’s better to marry within the faith, and if we hear of a couple who chooses differently, our eyebrows are instantly raised, even today. We may speak of openness and embracing different cultures, but there’s an underlying bias that lurks in our minds.

How can we talk about inclusiveness and non-discrimination when we already have a list of discriminatory factors in our head? How do we move on from painting a pretty picture of embracing other faiths by lighting diyas and savouring biryani to actually encouraging regular conversations and knowing more about people just as they are, and loving them, even when they don’t have anything to offer us? When will we learn to be brave enough to stand in solidarity against small injustices that happen daily, and not just the big ones that deem attention?

When will we go from living in close-knit circles and doing things that will benefit us later or make us shine in the limelight to doing the work that really matters?

And the work that really matters is to re-frame our thoughts about people of other faiths, to have conversations about things like the value of a human being, irrespective of which God they pray to, or don’t pray to. To encourage our children to build healthy friendships with everyone, irrespective of the food they carry in their tiffin, or the language they are fluent in speaking.

We have to let it sink deep that there is no superior religion, and to think that way is to inferiorise God Himself.

Do we dare to breach the borders of ‘comfortable’ Catholicism and reconstruct our views on finding God not just in all things, but in all people?

Pearl Mathias, Mazgaon

Schools re-opening in Mumbai

Sir, There are subtle indications and strong rumours of schools being reopened in time for the next academic year. It's my personal opinion that in the light of the pandemic situation

in the city of Mumbai, it is a threat to students and their parents to be put through the trauma of school re-opening at this juncture.

In my opinion, we should look at opening schools post the monsoon. The further we delay, it will be more ideal; a better option is the next academic year. As there are no formal evaluations, the students can be given the lessons via WhatsApp, digital media etc. to bridge the gap. Lastly, I think the fees should not be taken during this period, as many families are facing a financial crisis, giving the uncertainty of wages/salaries.

Kevin D'Silva, Mumbai