Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of the Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI), recalls the figure of the card. Varkey Vithayathil. The late cardinal was "a man of deep faith, a courageous leader, a person immersed in a life of prayer". In addition to being a dear friend for over thirty years. We publish the testimony of Card. Gracias.
The Church in India is deeply saddened by the passing away of our beloved Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R.. The Cardinal and I were close friends and I have known the Cardinal for over three decades, before either of us were even appointed Bishops. Cardinal was most importantly a Holy priest, a person of deep faith, a person immersed in a life of prayer, who trusted implicitly in God’s Love and providence.
I recently visited the Cardinal when he was sick, out of my respect and affection and had assured him of my prayers and the prayers of the Church for him.
The Cardinal hailed from a family of lawyers, his father was a high court judge, he himself was gifted with a sharp intellect (he had Doctorate in Canon Law), and a clear mind, and was an excellent administrator. Once, he was commissioned by the Holy See as an Visitator to a monastery in Bangalore and he was able to resolve the issues easily. However, even though he had to take tough decisions, kindness and compassion underlined everything. The Cardinal often shared with me his sensitivity, “I feel very bad about hurting anybody”.
The Cardinal made a great contribution to the Church in India, he was my predecessor as President of the CBCI, earlier, when I was the Secretary General, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil was the Vice President, and on occasions, we were called to take joint decisions and I found the Cardinal a courageous leader, who did not hesitate to take bold decisions for the good of the Church.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil was well esteemed and respected by civil society because of his clear vision and personal integrity . The Government of Kerala and also the Central government paid heed when the Cardinal spoke and also noted his exaltations to the faithful. He fearlessly spoke out in favour of Religious Freedom, quoting Article 25 of the Indian Constitution of our enshrined constitutional right to Preach Practise and Propogate our Faith.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil preached the Good News unceasingly and always reminded both faithful and clergy of their first duty to announce the Gospel.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil was an ardent Pro Life advocate, in a pastoral letter written by Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil read in all Syro Malabar Churches, he had warned Catholics not to view children as a “hindrance to a life of pleasure.” Cardinal Varkey noted “today the tendency to avoid having children is on the increase among the couples who are motivated by selfishness to seek their own enjoyment.”
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil had great love for our beloved Pope John Paul II on various occasions, he shared with me, of Pope John Paul II bringing him out of the monastery and appointing him Bishop and Cardinal. He also shared how he travelled to India on the flight with Pope John Paul II and his love for the beloved Holy Father. Now, our Cardinal Varkey, will celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II in his own place in heaven.
The day of the burial will be a Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving in All the Churches in India. I want to express, my heartfelt participation in the sorrow that affects the Church in India, and to all those who knew and esteemed the late cardinal.