“Oh, how I would like a poor Church, for the poor.” These were the words of an ever-smiling, affable Pope Francis soon after stepping into the shoes of his predecessor. It was a benign expression of a dream he probably held close to his heart for years; a long-cherished dream of making an austere church in the true spirit of its peerless founder. It takes time for such nonconformist ideas to percolate. In the God’s own land, the unprecedented agony of people caused by the recent flood came as a trigger; a trigger that touched the hearts of the shepherds and the sheep alike.
It is opportune to recall the words of Dr. K Vasuki, District Collector of Thiruvananthapuram. In the thick of relief works, her emotionally surcharged speech made many eyes moisture-ridden: “I was in a state of helplessness; calls were pouring in from everywhere seeking help. Then I got a call from a priest in the Bishop’s House. He said: ‘Madam tell us how many boats and men you need; you will have them.’ I cannot express my feelings when I heard those soothing words.” The rest is history. Hundreds of fishermen with their boats rushed to the ground zero of rushing waters to save people from the jaws of death.
This is just one of many heroic stories. We salute and acknowledge every act of every person from every religion, caste, community, party, organization, institution and the government in the rescue and relief work. Simultaneously, we want to place on record, in this issue of Indian Currents, some of the activities of the Church, most of which went without finding a place in the public discourse. There is not a single diocese, congregation or church institution which has not chipped in with money, material or man power to offer succor to the victims; Churches had opened their gates to function as relief camps; schools and colleges did the same; hospitals offered free treatment; some of the congregations opened their ashrams and rushed truck-loads of material to relief camps.
Now the water has receded; people have left relief camps. But the works of the Church have not ended with the ebbing waters; rather the floodgates of support and aid are slowing opening up. One such act came from the Archbishop of Verapoly in Kerala, Rev. Dr. Joseph Kalathiparambil, who decided to auction his Innova car and use the proceeds to fund rehabilitation works. At an individual level, the act of the Archbishop is a shining example of what the Church should do when people scream for help. The diocese of Changanassery is planning to chip in with a mega 100-crore rehabilitation plan. The Idukki diocese is taking a step further to allot land for relocating the flood victims; several dioceses have requested parishes and individuals to donate land for the same cause; one church has sold out gold ornaments that decorated the statue of Mother Mary. They are putting the best foot forward in offering succour to the victims.
Caught in a whirlpool of allegations, it is time for the Church to retrieve its lost glory; the glory of being a benign Church that cares for all. It should shun the path of building extravagant churches, indulging in pompous celebrations, and holding wasteful receptions. There is need to blaze a new path; to reinvent a Church that goes to the abode of the poor; a Church that understands the agony of the people. The flood seems to have washed ashore seeds of this new beginning.(Published on 10th September 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 37)