08/19/2005, 00.00
INDIA - GERMANY - WYD
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Card. Toppo: "Criticism against the pope swept away by the youths in Cologne"

by Nirmala Carvalho

In an interview with AsiaNews, the president of the Catholic Bishops 'Conference of India talks of his experience in Cologne, of the appointment of Benedict XVI and about the Indian Church.

Cologne (AsiaNews) – The Indian Church is in total communion with the pope who is "strongly appreciated by youth despite a touch of awe" in Cologne. Cardinal Telesphore, president of the Catholic Bishops 'Conference of India, was interviewed by AsiaNews in Cologne and he talked about World Youth Day, of the communion of the Indian Church with the Holy See and of the appointment of Benedict XVI.

He said: "It's a wonderful feeling here in Cologne, there is a sense of belonging, and this is possible only in the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church makes all boundaries and barriers disappear.  The Universal Church is visible and vibrant and this sentiment is being echoed by people of different nations here in Cologne. There is so much enthusiasm among the youth and it is infectious. I spoke to young adults from Mexico yesterday, they are so similar to our own youth back home, and this morning, some Americans and French youth asked me about Asia.  There is much interest among the youth to know more about the cultures and traditions of others and most importantly without any prejudices."

The cardinal carries a special memory in Cologne: "I had promised John Paul II, that I would be in Cologne for the World Youth Day in 2005, and I kept my promise.  I participated in the opening Mass, but I will not be preaching or giving any catechesis. Anyhow, yesterday Misereor interviewed me about social teaching, an important form of evangelization. They asked for my views on child soldiers in Africa and today I will talk about health issues and HIV." On the question of the virus which transmits AIDS, the Indian Church has no doubts: "The Church is against special licenses," he said, referring to controversy in the German media before the arrival of Benedict XVI. "Having HIV does not mean the freedom to do whatever one pleases. If a couple is married and one is infected, this is another question altogether, but I want to emphasize that the CBCI fully supports of the doctrinal teaching of the Church. We are with the Holy Father and the Catholic Church: there is no division in the Church. This is the fundamental truth, that there is unity in the Church."

About the election of Benedict XVI, Toppo said: "My opinion is that we should not talk about 'this Holy Father' or 'the other Holy Father' but that we should always and only consider the workings of the Holy Spirit in the Church through the election of His Chosen One. So even if I  had a personal fondness and affection for John Paul II, as I do for Benedict XVI, the authority to teach and ministry is handed down to them through the promptings of the Holy Spirit."'

The cardinal then returned to the theme of young people gathered together in Cologne: "Yesterday I looked around me and I could see only tens of thousands of young people searching for direction in their lives.  Many of these young people are professionals back home, yet they are following the Star of Christ, as they know that in spite of their lifestyles, there is a sense of restlessness which can only be conquered by Christ. So all this controversy about the 'conservative' Cardinal Ratzinger, and the 'doctrinaire' Benedict XVI is only so much nonsense. If any of these polemics made sense, tell me what prompted all these intelligent and thinking youth to come here from all around the world to see him?"

The theme of the WYD and its clear reference to Asia (tradition describes the Magi as "Kings of the Orient" coming from Asia) is not to be overstressed, according to the cardinal: "Here in Cologne there are no cultural divisions, each and every person is happy and youth are united as though they were one. All have come to worship Him and there is an intense participation from all nationalities. Boundaries between cultures and nations don't exist here."

The cardinal's final word is about the initial encounter of Benedict XVI and the youth: "From my observations, I can feel a strong sense of appreciation among youth for the pope's intellectual capacities. Benedict XVI was a renowned academic way before they were born and this is perhaps the reason behind a touch of awe."

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