06/05/2004, 00.00
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New Archbishop of Raipur sees social issues as his pastoral priorities

Raipur (AsiaNews) - Archbishop Joseph Augustine Charanakunnel will be installed as the Archbishop of Raipur on Sunday June 6, 2004, in Chhattisgarh, Central India. Raipur is the Capital of Chhatisgarh. He has chosen the Motto for his Ministry: "Lord, Make My Life Fruitful in Your Service".

Archbishop Charanakunnel told AsiaNews that his elevation as Archbishop was a recognition of the significance of the Church and Her Ministry in the State.

Recently, media reported that extremist movement Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its frontal organization Dharma Jagran Vibhag (religious awakening department) decided to establish groups of armed youth, called Raksha Sena, in every village of the Central Indian tribal state Chhattisgarh, in order to stop conversions to Christianity.

However the bishop seems not overly concerned. Archbishop Charanakunnel emphasized that he shares good relations with the State Government.  The Governor, who is a Hindu, has deep respect for Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The social problems of the diocese are instead the Archbishop's major concern. Chhattisgarh has some of the best diamond stocks in Asia and six major diamond companies are fighting for rights to take away high-quality kimberlite group of rocks that contain large diamond deposits in 12 of the State's 16 districts.

Archbishop Charanakunnel regretted, however, that these massive diamond reserves would barely translate into jobs for the tribals and adivasi population. He appeared skeptical that the living conditions of the local tribals would improve. He stated that the tribals and schedule castes are poor and often are victims of oppression and exploitation by the mining industries and so continue to remain poor.

With a large tribal population, the Church is involved in many social welfare activities.  Prominent among these is a 'Food for Work Programme for the Adivasi people'.  With more that 43% of the State being forest areas, which are inhabited by tribals, the Church has a great social ministry in this diocese. Empowering Adivasis and schedule caste community and employment of these people is a major task for the Church. The Church has given employment to some of them in the recent road- widening work done in some of the districts.

Archbishop Joseph Augustine Charanakunnel was born on 6th June 1938. he was ordained on 15th May 1975, and his Episcopal Ordination took place on 7th Feb 1993. The Archbishop has chosen this date for his installation as it is the 53rd Anniversary of the arrival of the Pallotine Fathers in his diocese.

The diocese of Raipur has 47,000 Catholics. There are 62 parishes, 142 priests, 32 seminarians, 49 religious and 389 nuns. (NC)



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