08/03/2004, 00.00
INDIA

The new bishop of India's "Silicon Valley"

by Nirmala Carvalho

Between globalisation and ethnocentrism: an exclusive interview with Msgr. Bernard Moras about the problems facing his diocese.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Bangalore, a beautiful hill station in the southern Indian State of Karnataka, is India's Silicon Valley. It now has a new bishop: Msgr. Bernard Moras, former Bishop of Belgaum (also in Karnataka). He will be installed this coming September 17 and will head a diocese of about 361,000 Catholics in a region of 20 million people.

In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews, Msgr. Moras talked about the numerous challenges he anticipates in his new appointment.

"Ever since the announcement of my appointment as Archbishop of Bangalore, I have been inundated with requests to meet representatives of Bangalore's various linguistic groups, each wanting to know where I stand on the sensitive language issue confronting the Bangalore Diocese. For far too long, language has been a highly sensitive issue in this diocese."

The "language issue" is strongly felt throughout India. Most federated states have their own language, and although Hindi is the national language, it is not always well-received. It is seen as a northern language and for this reason, English serves as the lingua franca for many and has become the de facto "second" national language.

Even in Bangalore, the language issue is not far from people's minds. "For the past few years," the bishop pointed out, "with the setting up of information technology companies which now employ more than 160,000 highly skilled staff, our city has become cosmopolitan, part of the global village, putting it on par with other world-class city."

According to Bishop Moras, so many US and German companies have outsourced their research and development divisions to Bangalore that in modern American vernacular people have started to refer to outsourcing as "being bangalored".

In this brave new world of globalisation people tend to circle the wagons around their group identity. Slowly but surely ethnocentric attitudes have made inroad into the State. Karnataka Catholics, too, have become fanatical defenders of Kannada, the regional language. In Bangalore, English, Kannada and Tamil vie for liturgical supremacy and "the language issue," the bishop acknowledges not without bitterness, "has become a divisive issue in Catholic parishes throughout the diocese."

Within the Church (often with the consent of clergy hailing from other States), factions try to impose their own regional language on the Sunday Mass. For example, Bangalore's large and long-established Tamil-speaking population insists on having Masses said in their own language.

Bishop Moras is aware of the seriousness of the situation and how it touches the whole of Bangalore. "Since Bangalore is Karnataka's capital, we must enhance the status of Kannada, the State's main language." In fact, the main language of the upcoming installation celebration of the new Archbishop-elect will be Kannada, but there will be readings in Tamil and English.

Archbishop-elect Bernard Moras was ordained in 1967. As priest he ministered especially in the health care sector. He was appointed Bishop of Belgaum on December 31, 1996. He chairs the Pastoral Commission for Health of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and is the Ecclesiastical Advisor to the Catholic Health Association of India.

He told AsiaNews that his motto will be "In Thee We Hope–Mary Our Mother". "I chose it when I was appointed Bishop of Belgaum. I want to entrust the Diocese of Bangalore to the Holy Virgin as well."

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See also
Karnataka split over mandatory early English teaching
13/10/2006
"Upholding a culture of life in a globalised world"
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Some 2,100 schools shut down for teaching in English
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A culture of life: a mission for both Church and family in Asia
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