Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The canonisation of Joseph Vaz, celebrated by Pope Francis during his visit to Sri Lanka, has been a source of joy even in neighbouring India. The first Sri Lankan saint, in fact, was born in the Indian State of Goa.
A few days before the ceremony, Mgr Felix Machado, archbishop of Vasai and president of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), made a pilgrimage to Daman and Diu, a Union territory (directly administered by the central government), home to many missionaries from Goa.
Here, the bishop celebrated a special Mass in honour of Joseph Vaz before more than a thousand newly baptised Christians.
Below, we publish his reflection on the first saint of Sri Lanka, which Mgr Machado wanted to share with AsiaNews.
Saint Joseph Vaz is the model of a great missionary. Saint Joseph Vaz, a missionary from Goa, personally experienced the love of God within him and took this love to the island of Sri Lanka to pass it on to others.
Saint Joseph Vaz was from Goa but in Sri Lanka, he made himself like everyone, just like Jesus did. Thus, he did not preach long discourses, but, by sharing his life, he gave all of himself to so many Sri Lankans. We need such missionaries in India.
Saint Joseph Vaz was an authentic and credible witness to the Gospel. He was instrumental in helping the Christian community in Sri Lanka to read and live the Gospel from the perspective of the poor. He lived as one of the poor, among the poor, and thus he proclaimed the Love of Jesus.
Poverty, which we witness so much here in our country (glaring disparity between the rich and the poor), is a major challenge to every Christian witness, and Saint Joseph Vaz was a model of Church of the poor for the poor. Religions cannot afford to lose their prophetic character of denouncing evil and opposing injustice.
In our country and in Asia, we witness the glaring disparity between the rich and the poor. Poverty is not simply a misfortune; it is an injustice. The joys and sorrows of the poor should be the joys and sufferings of the Church. Joseph Vaz lived a life of true simplicity and an authentic life of poverty.
The people trusted Saint Joseph Vaz. We need to build trust, and carry out initiatives that make us trustworthy. When Joseph Vaz went to Sri Lanka, he had a credibility, which won people over. In order for me to be trustworthy, I should build a bridge, promote dialogue, and foster harmony.
Saint Joseph Vaz is a model for interreligious peace. From Goa, he went to Sri Lanka, a predominant Buddhist country. Buddhism is a religion that binds Asia. All over Asia, the spirit of Buddhism reigns. Joseph Vaz chose Sri Lanka as his place of work and won the hearts of so many Sri Lankans. In India, we too have this prophetic mission, since Buddha was born in India.
Saint Joseph Vaz is our gift to the Church Universal. He is our precious contribution of the Church in India and Asia to the global Church.
The canonisation of Saint Joseph Vaz prophetically opens the hearts of the people of India to inter-religious events scheduled next month in Bodh Gaya, which will be followed by a meeting at Varanasi in the presence of Vatican officials.
The missionary spirit of Saint Joseph Vas will guide the spirit of the seminar, creating anew a harmonious atmosphere for mutual understanding and peace co-existence."
The role of religion in contributing to peace and harmony in modern society cannot be underestimated. Hence, interreligious peace and dialogue can be carried out with mutual respect through ongoing meetings between members of various religions.
Let us therefore humbly seek the intercession of Saint Joseph Vaz for the Bodh Gaya and Varanasi meetings.
* Bishop of Vasai and president of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC)
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)