03/18/2013, 00.00

Card. Gracias: Pope Francis is universal pastor for Asia too

Giulia Mazza
The archbishop of Mumbai, who took part in Conclave describes the "blessing and joy" of Pope Bergoglio’s election. Prayer, the urgency of New Evangelization and teaching of Benedict XVI essential in choice of successor of Peter. Confident there will be a papal trip to Asia and India.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis is a universal pastor who not only breaks boundaries, but is also capable of renewing the older churches while at the same time confirming the new realities of the Asian Church. Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai one of the 115 cardinal electors who voted conclave, spoke with AsiaNews describing the pope as "what the Church needs to meet today's challenges," and  whose election was "a blessing and a great source of joy for all of us and for the whole Church. "

The cardinal, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) and the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), says: "I had never met Card. Bergoglio in person, although I already knew his work in Buenos Aires well. From these days together at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, even after his election, he appears very simple, he has always spent his lunches and dinners with us all. "

From 1998 until his election, Pope Francis was also ordinary for the faithful of the Eastern rite in Argentina. A role, Card. Gracias  notes, which "in a sense enables him to understand deeply the real situation of Christians in Asia," despite coming from such a different reality like Latin America. His origins, he stressed, should not be seen as "in contrast" with the mission in Asia, because he is "pastor of the universal Church." "The Holy Father - he explains - comes from a large church in Argentina, which despite having strong roots still faces the exact same 'problems' as that of a young reality such as the Asian Church. My impression is that he is fully aware of all the challenges that the Church, in its entirety, is facing. "

Created cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, it was Cardinal Gracias' first Conclave.  The Cardinal prepared himself by "praying earnestly, knowing I had a great responsibility." In this sense, the congregations "were a defining moment, during which we discussed the basic needs of the Church." Opportunities for "unofficial" meetings - such as breaks between one congregation and the other, or for a walk around the Domus Sanctae Marthae - were fundamental in the week before Conclave, during which we "all got to meet each other, to talk and to discuss things". On the other hand, he adds, "I feel that the Synod on the new evangelization convoked by Benedict XVI played an important role in my preparation, even if it took place last October when we never could have imagined Pope Benedict's resignation." The proclamation of the faith and the call for new evangelization, in fact, "are the cornerstones which can not be ignored" in the choice of the successor of Peter.

In fact it was to Benedict XVI, that the cardinal often directed thoughts and prayers in congregations and in the Conclave. "Benedict XVI's resignation - he reveals - made me reflect a lot, even in these days. He was a great guide, really a great guide and we were wondering who could take up the Petrine ministry after a pope like him. We prayed strongly and when Francis was elected pope we understood that God has answered our prayers. "

Francis, the name chosen by Pope Bergoglio, "says it all." Not only for the reference to St. Francis of Assisi, as he himself explained, but also for St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit like himself, the Apostle of the Indies and patron of the missions and the East. "A figure - he notes - of incredible importance in India, Japan and China. When I was able to talk with him, I asked him to come to our beautiful continent: I trust and hope that Pope Francis will soon be in Asia and India" .


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