10/14/2009, 00.00
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Indian Mission Congress begins, calls on Christians to incarnate the message of Christ

by Nirmala Carvalho
Some 1,500 delegates representing the Indian Church have come together until Sunday to work on the theme ‘Let your light shine’. Great celebrations are held during the inauguration ceremony. “The true missionary is the one in whom the messenger becomes the message”.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The first Indian Mission Congress (PrabhuYesu Mahotsav in Hindi) opened today at Goregaon’s St Pius X College in Mumbai. After a year’s efforts, the organising committee headed by Mgr Agnelo Gracias, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai, and Fr Vijay Shantiraj, saw its work crowned by the arrival of more than 1,500 delegates. Participants were welcomed in a festive environment by a suggestive show of light and sounds with hundreds of lamps and bhajans, devotional chants typical of India’s Christian tradition.

At the entrance of the seminary, organisers displayed banners with the names of the dioceses of origin of the delegates to tell the rich history of Christianity in India and its missionary commitment throughout the centuries. The Word of God was enthroned with the gift of fire (arathi) before an image Jesus surrounded by a garland.

Joining more than 100 bishops, hundreds of men religious, nuns and lay people travelled from India’s 160 dioceses in representation of the country’s three different rites, Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar.

Moved but satisfied, Card Varkey Vithayathil, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said that together, all three Churches pulled off something that represents an “historic event”, a four-day congress (14-18 October) on “Let your light shine”, filled with meetings, celebrations, testimonials and shows.

In a seminary decked out at its best, Mgr Pedro Lopez Quintana, apostolic nuncio to India, and Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and CBCI deputy chairman, opened the proceedings. In his address, Card Gracias said that the Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav and the Asian Mission Congress of 2006 are connected. The latter itself was organised on the initiative of John Paul II.

 Mgr Thomas Dabre, bishop of Pune, who presented the first paper, stressed several times that the “Church exists to evangelize,” and that mission of the Church is entrusted not only to the Bishops, the priests and the religious men and women, but to all Christians.”

“Only when we have joy in the faith can we be true evangelizers,” he said. Indeed, the “true missionary is the one in whom the Messenger becomes the Message.” Christians “must embody the message we have to proclaim” so that it can become “our identity.”

“The life of faith, worship, and prayer is not to be only in the Church or private but should influence and shape the public, socio-economic and the entire temporal sphere which should be consistent with the Christian faith,” he said.

Christ calls on every believer to turn His message in his or her identity. When message and messenger become one, a path opens in which the light of Christ can be shared with everyone, in India and around the world.

When facing a Christian who incarnates and lives his faith, “false charges of conversion, conversion by force, by fraud and by enticement” fail because such “false charges are based on false understanding and prejudice, on fear and insecurity.”

Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in India bore witness and gave their lives for their faith in Christ. For the prelate, “fundamentalists and extremists who oppose the Church are but a small number and do not represent the mentality of the Indian people, which is tolerant and respectful and abides by the secular constitution of India.”

Many messages from well-wishers also arrived, including one from Card Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and a former archbishop of Mumbai, who thanked the participation for their commitment to spreading the Christian message, which arrived in India some 2,000 years ago.

Following in the footsteps of Saint Thomas, the first missionary to the country, Card Dias urged the delegates to bring the light and truth of Christ to India’s soul.

Quoting from the country’s ancient teachings, the Upanishads, he said, “From evil lead me to good. From darkness, lead me to light. From death lead me to immortality.”

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