Mumbai (AsiaNews ) - "It is my intention to invite Pope Francis to India", His Beatitude Mar Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankara rite, reveals to AsiaNews. The cardinal was recently elected president of the Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI ). He succeeds Card. Oswald Gracias - Archbishop of Mumbai and a member of the Council of Cardinals chosen by Pope Francis to reform the Curia - who completed his four-year term. Below is the AsiaNews interview with Card. Thottunkal, in which he speaks of his hopes for this appointment, a mainly "missionary" task and how to lead the Church ahead of the elections next May.
How have you reacted to your election as CBCI President?
This is a mandate given to me, by the Catholic Bishops of India, to lead our Conference in taking responsibility for the Catholic Church in India and also in support of our nation India. Also this appointment is a mission, to ensure that the Church in India continues to grow according to the directives of the Holy See, as well as directions of the Holy Father Pope Francis.
Our Conference has taken few resolutions to continue to be involved more intensely in the service of the nation, by renewing herself from within. And this is a call for internal renewal, which will help the society and nation building.
India is preparing for the general election in a few months time. How will Your Eminence guide the Church of India as this critical juncture of India's history?
India's national election is an part of the administration of our nation, and it is through the Democratic process, that we get involved in these processes. The people are being informed in many ways to face the coming elections and the Church in India is raising awareness through the teachings of Church. The Church is not supportive of any particular political party- but stands for democratic principles and values and upholds the secular credentials of India and the fight of faith communities, both majority and minority, to exist and practice, believe and propagate, and these are very important for us, as Christians and we uphold these values as credible signs of our nation.
How will you guide the Church in India, in the vision of Pope Francis?
The Church in India has been in existence for 2,000 years, and continues to be at the service of the Gospel, in India, in many ways- especially in the Apostolates of education, healthcare and charity and welfare services. And the Church in India has been selflessly serving the poor, the Dalits and Tribals, the migrants, the women and girl child, the orphans and dying destitute without any discrimination.
The mandate of the Holy Father is specially, that by our own personal humility, love, care for the poor and marginalised, oppressed, and dispossessed, destitute, we are called to renew our commitment. This is witnessed in the life and mission of Pope Frances. And every member of the Church in India, is called to self-renewal according to the mind of the Church, to love and serve our neighbour, and the society and nation.
A few words as President, of the fourth largest Episcopal Conference to the Universal Church?
Firstly, "The Church in India, is as old as Christianity itself, and has its diversity, and has its unity expressed in different ways and by the three ritual bodies, has diversified ways of worship and adoration of the ritual realities-- through this diversity we profess our faith in the Holy Catholic church, so beautifully expressed in the Ecclesial life of the Indian. Diversity creates a beautiful mosaic. Three ritual bodies forming one Catholic Church in India.
Secondly, the Church in India is at the service of the poor, it is a witnessing sign of the Gospel being alive in this country. India's generous gift of missionaries' to the Global Church- In 166 countries around the world, there is an estimated presence of 15 thousand Indian missionaries. Moreover, the tens of thousands of religious personnel tirelessly serving the people in the remotest rural areas of India. All of this is a sign of Living Faith.
The Church in India is in constant renewal to the Catholic Faith, moral teachings of the Church and the social teachings of the Church , and also commits herself to a more dedicated service of the poor. I will personally extend an invitation to Pope Francis to visit India.