New Delhi (AsiaNews) - In November 1999, John Paul II visited New Delhi, and his four-day visit caused great interest among people of all religions. During the visit, as well as the reception at the Presidential Palace, which the Indian Church defined as cordial, John Paul II laid a wreath at the place of the cremation of Mahatma Gandhi in Rajghat. In the guest book he wrote a few words, a quote from Gandhi: "A civilization can not survive if it attempts to be exclusive."
The Pope's commitment began with a meeting with the bishops of the Synod for Asia and the promulgation of the synodal document, "Ecclesia in Asia" (Church in Asia) in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in New Delhi on the evening of November 6, 1999 .
The Synod for Asia, met in the Vatican from April 19 to May 14, 1998. It was concluded on November 6, 1999, in New Delhi when the pope signed and issued an apostolic exhortation, which included the recommendations of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod was attended by 250 church leaders. The Indian delegation, was the largest in number, comprising 24 members. The second was that the Philippines, with 20 members. Three bishops from China were also invited (a cardinal, a bishop, a coadjutor bishop), but were unable to attend.
The Papal document of 140 pages: "Post-Synodal Exhortation," analyzes the social, political, cultural landscape, and moral development at the turn of the millennium and marks the path for the Church. It asks the Church to proclaim the Good News with loving respect and esteem. " This is maliciously interpreted by critics of the Church as a call to conversion to Christianity.
The four hour mass held at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on November 7 marked the conclusion of the Special Assembly of the Synod, and was considerably Indianized. The special altar, in the shape of praying hands, was flanked by a portrait of Mother Teresa, painted by a young artist, Adarsh Alphons on the left; to right was the Gospel. A huge Indian brass lamp stood in the foreground, while bright diyas (earthern lamps) painted on the rising stage decorated the terraced sanctuary. A group of tribal men and women from Ranchi danced to folk tunes as they ushered in the procession of priests and bishops. Bishops of the Eastern rites lent a special colour to the solemn ranks of the clergy. More than 300 bishops and 1,000 priests concelebrated with Pope John Paul II who said he was hoping for a great harvest of the Christian faith in Asia, and launched a message of love and hope for the continent. He also said that it was right that the mandate had been signed and promulgated in India, home to many civilizations of Asia.
Fr. Theodore Mascarenhas, sfx, responsible for Asia, Africa, Oceania at the Pontifical Council for Culture, told AsiaNews that John Paul "was a great friend of India, basically because he understood and loved the Indian culture. He was a charismatic man of great heart and cultural openness. " Fr. Mascarenhas recalled in particular the Pope's praise contained the encyclical " Fide set Ratio " of the countries of Asia "so rich in religious and philosophical traditions of great antiquity."
According to Father Mascarenhas, John Paul II particularly liked the Indian culture. " The great Pope while stepping into India on 1st February 1986 at the opening ceremony of his visit said that the purpose of his visit was “to come to a deeper understanding of the rich cultures of your country” And he had come in friendship with “a deep desire to pay honour to all your people and to your different cultures”. John Paul II loved India in a special way and personally I think this happened because he was fascinated by its culture, admired its spiritual and moral values and believed that this great nation has much to offer humanity. "
John Paul II appointed an Indian cardinal, Simon Lordusamy, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the first time for an Indian. "The Pope had great interest in India and its culture. But most of all wanted a real inculturation of the faith, genuine evangelization and genuine interfaith dialogue, one that is full of meaning. "