The cardinal also chairs the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences and the Conference of Latin Rite Indian Bishops. He is a fervent supporter of the social work of the Catholic Church in India. He is following the process of canonization of the martyrs of Kandhamal (Orissa).
Bangalore (AsiaNews) - Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, was elected yesterday as the new president of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI). He succeeds Card. Baselios Mar Cleemis, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, who led the organ since 2014. Card. Gracias is a great friend of AsiaNews and a defender of Christians all over the world. Yesterday, immediately after the election during the Bishops' Plenary which ends today in Bangalore (Karnataka), he said: "The Catholic Church in India is vibrant, dynamic and we must keep it vital. We must work for greater wisdom, moral and spiritual wisdom. But also to increase our services and be more effective in serving our country and our population ".
Card. Gracias, 73, is among the most illustrious exponents of the universal Church. The cardinal is president of the Federation of Asian Episcopal Conferences (Fabc) and since 2013 member of the group of cardinals called by Pope Francis to advise on the reform of the Curia (the so-called C9). He is also the first Indian to guide the Asian Churches, the Indian Church and the Latin-rite Church in India (Latin Bishops' Conference, CCBI).
The cardinal will remain in office for four years. He has already led the bishops from 2010 to 2014. He was born in Mumbai on December 24, 1944 from parents originally from the State of Goa, he studied at St. Michael's School in Mahim and at St. Xavier's College run by the Jesuits. He later entered the seminary of St. Pius X and was ordained priest by Card. Valerian Gracias of Mumbai on December 20, 1970. He studied canon law at the Urbanianum University of Rome and holds a second degree in Law.
The current mandate comes at a time of particular difficulty for the Catholics of India. In the country, Christians represent about 2% of the total population, that is 27.8 million, of which 19 million are Catholics. Despite the small number, they are the promoters of social development, as declared during the Plenary also by Card. Charles Bo of Yangon: 25% of education is in the hands of the Indian Church and 20% of health care for the most vulnerable people is offered by an "army of Christian volunteers".
However, recently Catholic schools in India have been the victims of numerous episodes of intimidation and aggression by Hindu radicals. Dozens of pastors are harassed and subject to imprisonment and summary trials for alleged forced conversions. Catholic volunteers are often accused of kidnapping children, when they organize small camps and recreational initiatives. Moreover, the general elections of the Indian federation are expected next year.
Among the first who welcomed the election of the president, were the Christians who survived the violence of Kandhamal. Card. Gracias is following the process of canonization of the 100 Christian martyrs murdered in 2008 in the district of Kandhamal. Now the relatives of the victims and the whole local Church hope that his appointment will soon bring those who were killed in the name of faith to be raised on the altar of the saints.