PIME’s regional superior was consecrated bishop of Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh. Some 8,000 people attended the ceremony. The diocese had been waiting for a pastor for eight years. The new prelate has set his goals for 2020-2022. The first one is to give the faithful “hope of walking together.”
Srikakulam (AsiaNews) – Mgr Rayarala Vijay Kumar, regional superior of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in India, was consecrated bishop on Monday in Mary, Help of Christians Cathedral. His top pastoral objectives are evangelization among the marginalised, priestly training, and children education to guarantee them a better future.
The diocese that Pope Francis placed in his care is that of Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh. Some 8,000 people came from all over the state to celebrate his inauguration.
Speaking to AsiaNews about the challenges that await him in this "marginal diocese that had been waiting for a bishop for eight years,” he said that his task is to “breathe new life into the Christian community and give its members hope of walking together.”
PIME superior general Fr Ferruccio Brambillasca celebrated the Mass marking the episcopal ordination, along with 14 bishops from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Orissa (a state bordering the diocese), accompanied by 350 priests.
Those present included Fr Carlo Torriani (PIME), "my mission teacher who sang the Te Deum in Latin", said the new bishop, as well as his whole family, including his elderly mother to whom the missionary first revealed his priestly vocation (see cover picture).
"It was a heartfelt, spiritual, intense ceremony. Even the weather was kind and God gave us the sun until the end,” he explained.
Mgr Rayarala chose ‘Nolite timere’, ‘Do not be afraid’, as his motto, "a phrase that Jesus often repeated to the disciples in times of fear. I adopted it as a sign of God, so that he may be with me and guide me.”
"In the beginning I was afraid, because the diocese is far from PIME’s traditional area. Now I am telling my community not to be afraid: to the sick who are suffering, to the poor, to unjustly imprisoned people.”
His new episcopal coat of arms will have four symbols: “The boat, symbol of the mission and PIME; the Bible, because the bishop's first responsibility is to announce the Word of God; the star, which is the Virgin Mary; and, finally, the olive branch, symbol of peace and rebirth.”
The Diocese of Srikakulam is a missionary diocese, home to 70,000 members, mostly tribal. It was set up 25 years ago and today has 36 parishes led by 70 priests. About 100 nuns and 150 catechists work in the community.
Today the bishop met the local clergy for the first time, explaining his vision of the mission. "I have in mind a precise programme for the next three years so that I can learn the needs of the diocese.”
“The year 2020 will be dedicated to priests and religious, to their spiritual and pastoral training and to creating bonds between us, according to the teaching of Pope Francis who says to the bishops: ‘Love your priests’. The next year is to encourage catechists, who are the first to pass on the Gospel in the most remote areas. Finally, the third is for groups and movements operating in parishes of the diocese.”
In concluding, he explained that the mission "will run on two tracks, between Christians and non-Christians. There is a great need for service here.” (A.C.F.)