Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "Continuing the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, starting with the new evangelization", for Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), this is the first challenge for the new pope, who will be appointed after February 28 next, when Benedict XVI steps down from the Petrine ministry. A choice which, together with the general astonishment, raises the question of the problems and challenges will face the new bishop of Rome.
The Indian cardinal, born in 1944, is one of the 117 cardinal electors who will sit in conclave to elect a successor to Ratzinger. No easy task, he told AsiaNews, but one that is already enlightened "by clear program entrusted to us by Pope Benedict XVI." The new evangelization, before anything else, "on which the Holy Father also convened a Synod." For this reason, said the archbishop of Mumbai, "we will pursue all indications, following the right direction, this is important", as well as being "the only way to address the specific challenges of this era: fanaticism, materialism, and even relativism, of which Benedict XVI has often spoken".
In addition to this, notes the CBCI President, "another issue that the new pope will have to deal with is bringing the Church closer to Jesus Christ, to present the values of the Gospel. The Church must maintain and strengthen its spiritual leadership in the world. "
As president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), Card. Gracias often had the opportunity to discuss the Church in Asia with the Holy Father. A reality that is still young, said the cardinal, that "is very close to the Pope, but does not need special attention. Rather, I believe that the pope should focus on the whole universal Church, and certainly every church draws lessons from his leadership."
In his personal experience, he says, "I always felt the support and strength of Pope Benedict XVI for the Church in India, and we always look to the Pope and Holy See for instruction and guidance".
Card. Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, is currently visiting India as papal delegate to celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the CBCI. "From a certain point of view - explains Card. Gracias - his presence helps u sto feel the pope more closely. Whenever I met Benedict XVI we talked of India, of his great love for this land, and of course also the next pope will feel the same love and the same concern for our country too, because the Indian Church needs and will be very happy to have an ongoing collaboration with the Holy Father, and receive guidance, advice, direction and strength " .
Among immediate reactions, some argue that the new pope must be younger than Ratzinger at the time of his election. According to Card. Gracias "what really counts is the quality of the person. Pope Benedict XVI retired because of his age, not because of the chronological fact of his age, but because he felt his strength was waning." This condition, recognizes the cardinal, "can come when you are older, but it is not a mathematical equation. I assume that the next pope will be younger than Benedict XVI, but at this moment the most important thing is that he be a unique person, a firm and profound spiritual guide. And that he proclaim the Gospel to the world without fear. " (GM)