02/02/2010, 00.00
INDIA
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Steve Ray, Catholic response to sects in India

by Nirmala Carvalho
An American "apologist" explains the Catholic faith and the falsity of evangelical sects. In Mumbai there are 600 Pentecostal groups that alienate the faithful from the Catholic Church. To make Catholics less "politically correct" and more evangelists, Msgr. Agnelo Gracias, bishop of Mumbai, has proposed three-days of Catechism and reflection.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - At least 2,500 people flocked St Peter's Church, Bandra for three days to listen to the lessons of Steve Ray, a Catholic convert from Protestantism on the value and authenticity of the Catholic faith, at odds with the evangelical sects found in India who are seeking to detach the faithful from the Catholic Church.   50-year-old Steve Ray, an American, was born into a family of Baptists. As the Evangelical Church permits abortion, he left it accusing it of "superficiality".  

After a long period of reflection, he, his wife and 4 children joined the Catholic Church and since then Steve has become an "apologist", who explaining the faith of the Catholic Church reveals the common places of the Protestant sects’ beliefs and tradition.

The "lessons" by Steve Ray aim to make people more conscious of why they belong to the Church. Over three days in Bandra (29 to 31 January), he encouraged Catholics to be decisive and direct in their faith without fear or shame caused by the "ecumenical sensitivity" or believing that faith is something personal and intimate. "We have received the seal of baptism - he said - and this is a huge gift, and each of us is called to be an evangelist."

In his meetings he spoke of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the relationship between Scripture and tradition, the Petrine primacy, the Virgin Mary.  

His lessons are simple, but profound and based on studies he made on the Fathers of the Church and Church history.  

On the Eucharist, for example, after explaining the roots of Judeo-Christian sacrament, Saint Justin’s accounts of how the early Christian liturgies were preformed, he demolished the Protestant argument, that the Eucharist is only "memorial" and not "sacrifice." He explained that in the United States, many Catholics who had left the faith have since returned because "they thirst for the Eucharist." "At every Mass – he underlined - the innocent lamb of God is slain for us."  

On the question of Scripture and tradition, he explained that all those who read the Bible do so "from a tradition." "Those who say they ‘only read the Bible' in reality read it through the eyes of an accepted tradition, be it fundamentalist, Calvinist, Pentecostal, Baptist or otherwise”.  

"The Protestant position - he says, not without humour – is not 'Biblical' because it is recent. Only the Catholic tradition is in full continuity with historic Christianity".

On the Papal Primacy, in addition to illustrating facts of Church history, Steve Ray joked that "if you put some members of different Protestant communities in the same room (Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc ...) they will disagree on just about everything. But they will agree on one thing: their contempt for the pope. "  

Bishop Agnelo Gracias, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai, told AsiaNews the reason for these days: "Unfortunately, some Catholics have left the Church to join some cults. In Mumbai alone there are at least 600 Pentecostal groups. Since many of our faithful are going to these sects, it is an urgent pastoral duty to help them understand. So we asked the Family of Faith Foundation [the organization of Steve Ray] to conduct a programme of faith formation for our people, wherein points of the Catholic faith which are under attack will be studied, so that our people can see how our beliefs are based on Scripture understood in the light of tradition".  

For his part, Steve Ray, said he was excited and cried at seeing the participation of all those people. In his blog he writes "I have tears in my eyes standing in front of these faithful who have been attacked [persecuted by radical Hindu - ed] and humiliated."

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