At the Farewell function organized by the Archdiocese of Bombay for Cardinal Ivan Dias on the eve of his departure for Rome to take up his posting as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Urbanian University in 2006, His Eminence concluded his reply to the felicitations with the words: “CHRIST LOVES INDIA! AND INDIA NEEDS CHRIST!” I was one of those who had imagined that this line made a great slogan and would be used widely by speakers and writers alike, albeit in a given context. But that did not happen. Could it be that those who heard it that evening had missed the point of the late Cardinal’s assertion?
Perhaps it is not too late to act. As a fitting tribute to this stalwart of the Church, the slogan could well be adopted and used widely, particularly in the light of what’s going on in the India today. The way Christians in various parts of the country are being targeted and harassed, the need for such an assertion is paramount while the need to act on its sentiments and implications cannot be overemphasized.
Christ loves India!
For one, there couldn’t possibly be a country in the world that Christ doesn’t love. Yet, given the fact that India has become a provider of missionaries to practically all nations the world over, taking the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ to an increasing number of people in situations that are getting increasingly hostile – not least in our own country! - one may safely conclude that India holds a special place in the heart of the Divine Master! It was Pope Leo XIII [1878-1903] who had predicted, “Thine own sons, Oh India, will be ministers of thy salvation!” India’s sons and daughters have not only lived up to the Leonine prophecy but exceeded its implications by a wide margin! And so it is that despite abductions and kidnapping, restrictions and outright destruction of our places of worship with grave danger to life and limb, our missionaries soldier on, living the greatest love story ever told with equanimity and getting so many more to share in the greatness and goodness of that love story!
India is a land of many religions. It’s very soil can thus be considered sacred. And the fact of such religious plurality so fascinated Pope Paul VI, the first pope in history to ever set foot on Asian soil, that he termed his visit to our beloved motherland a ‘pilgrimage’. Indeed, it is significant that this was a pilgrimage that was to never end for, at the time of his departure, he declared unabashedly, “Here we leave our hearts!” I’d dare say that the Vicar of Christ leaving his heart in India is akin to the Lord himself leaving his heart here! Any doubts then about Christ loving India?
India needs Christ!
The Messiah came not merely to save the Jewish nation, the nation to which he belonged. He came rather to save every nation on earth, nay every single individual in each and every country of the world as is evident from the command he gave his apostles to go and make disciples of every nation. As Matthew [28:19-20] puts it: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” What Mark [16:15] reports is even more delightful: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all Creation”! Implicitly, Creation needs its Maker’s visible presence, that presence being his Church, ‘Laudato Si’ being enough proof. Any wonder then that despite the hatred being generated against the Christian religion in general, the Church continues to have her being in India?
At the height of the agitation against the so-called ‘Freedom of Religion’ Bill introduced in Parliament by Janata Party MP, Om Prakash Tyagi, with Shri Morarji Desai in the hot seat not willing to have the bill dropped, it was Mother Teresa who confronted the Prime Minister, pointedly asking: “Are you not afraid of God?” Tyagi, an Arya Samaji and Jan Sanghi guy is no more, so are Desai and Teresa. What came of the agitation launched by the Christian community apart, what matters is that there was someone who dared to give voice to the community’s feelings. Who do we have today? We have more cardinals and bishops today than we did way back in 1979. But the question is, ‘who will bell the cat?’
What is going on in the country today with regard to the Christian community and its religion is rather worrisome, what with no one at the helm of affairs to guide/lead us as such. It’s going to be a while before another Mother Teresa comes along. Until then, are we going to keep going around like headless chickens? We need someone to verbalize our doubts and anxieties and quell fears. We need to get ourselves better organized, taking into consideration the importance of liaising with Christian leaders of other denominations. And lest we forget that the late cardinal was Prefect of a Vatican body connected with evangelization no less, we need to chalk out a strategy whereby we can somehow convince the people of India and its government the truthfulness of Cardinal Ivan’s parting words: “Christ loves India! And India needs Christ!”(Published on 10th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 28)