Bellary (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church today celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For the occasion, Mgr Henry D'Souza, bishop of the Diocese of Bellary (Karnataka), spoke to AsiaNews about the "love and compassion of Christ" the local Church shows through its apostolate of education and health care, especially to women and children.
The love and compassion of Christ entreat us to serve the poorest of the poor, Dalits, the illiterate, the jobless and the homeless, abused women and girls, who live in the Diocese of Bellary. All of them are close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The latter's love helped the diocese make great stride towards the empowerment and development of people who are mostly Dalits. Three of our districts (Bellary, Koppal and Raichur) are among the poorest in Karnataka.
The Church has many challenges. Its actions seek to promote the health of women and children, eliminate child labour, empower women, raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, eliminate poverty and promote education.
Our sisters are especially involved with women living with HIV-AIDS, helping them in their medical treatment and social reintegration.
The local population is extremely backward from and an economic standpoint. Women and children are the most vulnerable groups, from a social point of view as well.
The expansion of mining,** often in violation of the law, has made matters worse.
More recently, a drought has hit the region, creating even more dangerous health conditions.
The apostolate of education is the most important thing for the Church in Bellary. It helps empower the poor, especially children, and brings changes to their live. As part of its action, the diocese offers vocational training and skill development courses. This increases self-esteem and the helps youth find dignity and courage.
Families have always been close to the Sacred Heart of Christ. Last month, in the parish of Hirenaganoor, 21 couples got married in a mass ceremony. When the families are poor, the diocese pays for the cost.
This was the parish's second mass wedding. More than 5,000 people joined in the celebration and banquet. The generous contribution by some donors helped meet the expenses.
In these districts, the need for interreligious dialogue is felt very much. As religious leaders, we must work together to promote respect for one another's beliefs and places of worship.
There is no place for violence in the name of religion. Only an India that is at peace with itself can guarantee dignity and prosperity to all its citizens. Violence and hatred can only drain our energy and reduce our resources.
Our efforts must therefore go to sustain the country's religious pluralism, its unity in diversity. May God, the Father of all, bless this great nation and its people!
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)
*Bishop of the Diocese of Bellary.
**A Human Rights Watch report found that mining companies have a poor tract record when it comes to respect for environmental laws, indifferent to water pollution and labour exploitation. The situation is especially bad in Karnataka and Goa.