The Chronicles of the Visit of Pope John Paul II to India – 1986



At the “Angelus”

“I go to India as a pilgrim of peace and as a Pastor who has the mandate to confirm the brothers in faith, in the ecclesial unity and in their testimony…I want to manifest respect, esteem and encouragement to all those who seek God”. With these words, pronounced at noon today, at St. Peter’s Square, during the usual appointment with the faithful for the Marian prayer, the Holy Father announced his forthcoming pilgrimage to the Indian subcontinent, which will start at 21.15 hrs. next Friday, the 31st of January and will end at around 24 hrs. on Monday, 10th of February. In his short discourse the Pope defined India as “a Country of ancient cultures”, known for its numerous religions, particularly sensitive to the spiritual values and to the needs of man and society.

“This noble nation is also known for its religions: Hinduism is practiced by the majority with various forms and traditions; Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism are diffused in many regions. Even Islam and Zoroastrianism have found their home there.

Christianity too has been present there from the time of the apostles. The Indian Christian Communities in the South justly glory themselves with the name of “Christians of St. Thomas the Apostle”. The work of zealous missionaries has made the Church present in various parts of the Country, and even though Christians remain a small minority, they are nevertheless active and appreciated in the work they do, especially in the fields of education, health care and social development.

This coexistence of religions and cultures, of attention to spiritual values and to the needs of man and society has facilitated the appearance of well known personalities such as Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation and Promoter of human rights through peaceful means”.

During the 10 days of his stay in India, the Holy Father will interact with the people of 15 cities.



Departure from Rome

A small representative group of those who live and render their service in the Vatican City gathered together, this evening, in the Courtyard of St. Damaso to greet the Pope who is about to begin his Apostolic Visit to India. It was a short but familiar meeting. John Paul II greeted each one of those present, thanking them for their expression of warm wishes for a good journey.

Together with many priests, sisters and laity, were Cardinals Carlo Confalonieri, Dean of the College of Cardinals, Sebastiano Baggio, Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church and President of the Pontifical Commission for the State of the Vatican City, Andrzej Maria Deskur, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications and Ugo Poletti, who brought to the Holy Father the greetings from the Diocese of Rome and from the Italian Episcopal Conference. Together with the Secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, Archbishop Achille Silvestrini, were also present Archbishops Luigi Poggi, Giovanni Coppa, Antonio Travia, Paul Marcinkus and Pier Luigi Celata, then Bishop Pietro Canisio van Lierde and Monsignors Giovanni Battista Re and Audrys Backis.

After the brief meeting, John Paul II reached by car the airport “Leonardo da Vinci”, in Fiumicino. Near the Boeing 747 of Alitalia, the Pope was greeted by the Ambassador of Italy to the Holy See, His Excellency Cagiati, by the Head of the Diplomatic Ceremonies of the Republic, Scammacca del Murgo, by the Prefect of Rome, Ricci and by the Ambassador of India to Italy. Finally, the Holy Father boarded the plane, called “Cervinia”, which at 21.48 hrs. took off for Delhi, the federal capital of India.


Flying toward India

During the journey to India the Papal aircraft flew over the territory of numerous nations. The Pope sent telegrams of greetings to the President of the Republic of Italy, His Excellency Francesco Cossiga; the President of the Republic of Greece, His Excellency Christos Sartzetakis; the President of Cyprus, His Excellency Spyros Kyprianou; the President of the Arab Republic of Syria, His Excellency General Hafez el Assad; the King of Jordan, His Majesty Hussein bin Talal; the King of Saudi Arabia, His Majesty Fahd bin Abdul Aziz; the President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh  Zayed bin Sultan al Nahayyan; the Head of the Sultanate of Oman, His Highness Qaboos Bin Said; and to the President of Pakistan, His Excellency General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq.



First Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India


Arrival at the Airport of New Delhi

Delhi is the first destination of John Paul II’s pilgrimage to the Indian subcontinent. The Pope arrived at 10 am today, corresponding to 5.30 am in Italy, after a flight of a little less than eight hours. The Holy Father was received on the airplane by the Chief of Protocol, by the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India, Msgr. Agostino Cacciavillan, by the Archbishop of Delhi, Msgr. Angelo Fernandes, by the Archbishop of Bombay and President of the Episcopal Conference of India, Msgr. Simon Ignatius Pimenta. Upon alighting from the aircraft, which landed on the long runway of the modern airport of Palam, a locality fifteen kilometers distant from the capital, John Paul II fell on his knees and kissed the soil.

The first among the personalities of the Country that greeted the Pope during the welcome ceremony was the President of India, Zail Singh, a native of the State of Punjab who is incumbent from the 15th July 1982; then the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indira, incumbent from the 2nd November 1984. On this first encounter, the Pope already expressed to all the political authorities words of encouragement, gratitude for the invitation to visit the country and encouragement in continuing the efforts towards justice and unity.

President Zail Singh, in his welcome address to the Pope said “it is my privilege to welcome you on your visit to India. Yours is the first State visit to this country by the Head of the Holy See. We recall, of course, the visit of His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, when he came to attend the Eucharistic Congress in Bombay over twenty years ago. Your Holiness, a Bishop of Rome, you have adherents in every continent of the globe. In this country, over 11 million Indians are Roman Catholics. For them, as much as for the rest of the people of India, your visit will be a memorable event.” President Singh continued to say “The Holy See has had diplomatic relations with this country almost from the time of its independence, but your visit here will establish a fresh relationship. From this encounter, and drawing from the strength of our ancient traditions and current convictions, we should be able to bring the world a renewed message of peace and freedom from want for all of mankind…”

Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in a written message, said “Millions of Indians of all religions are glad that His Holiness Pope John Paul II is paying a visit to India. We have a long tradition of respecting all religions equally. I am sure that the visit will strengthen the traditions of love and brotherhood”.

During the official welcome ceremony at the Delhi-Palam airport, the Holy Father, responding to the greetings of President Zail Singh, delivered his discourse.

In his first speech in Delhi, on his arrival to the immense subcontinent, the Pope indicated the religious and, at the same time, human dimension of his journey to India. The Church is always desirous to offer its own loyal and generous contribution to unity and fraternity of Nations, to promotion of justice, love and peace, and to the authentic general progress of the Country. In a special way, the Pope manifested his interest for all the religions of India, with which he hoped to deepen the dialogue that is underway, and also his interest for the various cultures that coexist in the country and are the sign of a living and dynamic society. Among the multiple aspects that characterize India in the world, the Pope indicated the efforts to promote the real recognition of equality and the same dignity for every human person.

In his speech the Holy Father remembered the good official relations which, for many years, existed between India and the Holy See; the visit of the Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Pope Pius XII in 1955; the visit of Paul VI to Bombay in 1964; and the visit to the Vatican of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi five years ago.

“My purpose in coming to India has both a religious and human dimension. I come to pay a pastoral visit to the Catholics of India, and I come in friendship with a deep desire to pay honour to all your people and to your different cultures. As I begin, I take this occasion to express my sincere interest in all the religions of India – an interest marked by genuine respect, by attention to what we have in common, by a desire to promote interreligious dialogue and fruitful collaboration between people of different faiths.

In this regard, I note with admiration how the Indian Constitution, through its official recognition of religious liberty, honours the dignity of each person in his or her most sacred dimension, and at the same time allows the promotion of genuine spiritual values, which are so fundamental for all social living.”

After quoting a lyric from Tagore (Gitanjali 35) the Holy Father concluded his first discourse:

“I come to India as a servant of unity and peace. And I desire to listen and learn from the men and women of this noble nation. I look forward to deepening the admiration and friendship which I already have for the Indian people. You shall be in my prayers each day. May God bless you all!  “Jai Hind”!”


Visit to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

From Palam, the Pope in a closed car arrived at the Cathedral of Delhi, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, Patron of the Archdiocese. It is the first contact with the Catholics of this country which number more than twelve million. This Catholic Church of the capital is celebrating in these very days the 50th anniversary of its dedication and it is enclosed by a complex of Catholic institutions: the diocesan center, the residence of the Archbishop Fernandes, two High Schools managed one by the Christian Brothers and the other by the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, with numerous students, the Centre of the Episcopal Conference of India. Inside the Cathedral, after praying before the Blessed Sacrament and after consecrating the Archdiocese to the heart of Christ, the Pope stopped to greet the more than three hundred people who collaborated in the preparations for his visit.

The Pope in his short speech said:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is the Good News of our Redemption. This is the saving message of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is the Gospel which I have come here today to proclaim to you. During these days, together with you all, I also wish to show my respect and esteem – beyond the limits of the Church – to every person in India. In this too we are impelled by the love of Christ. O Sacred Heart of Jesus, Burning Fire of Love, have mercy on us and make our hearts like your own”.

The prayer of Consecration to the Sacred Heart followed:

“Gathered together in your Name, which is above all other names, we consecrate ourselves to your most Sacred Heart, in which dwells the fullness of truth and charity. In consecrating themselves to you, the faithful of the Archdiocese of Delhi renew their desire to respond in love to the rich outpouring of your merciful love. Lord Jesus Christ, King of love and Prince of peace, reign in our hearts and in our homes. Conquer all the powers of evil and lead us to share in the victory of your Sacred Heart”.

Official visit to the President and the Government of India

From the Cathedral the Holy Father proceeded for the official visit to the President and to the Government of India, at the residence of President Zail Singh, called “Rashtrapati Bhavan”, residence of the Head of the People, a building constructed in 1929 on the top of Raisina Hill, as the residence of the British Viceroy. A stunning garden in the Mogul style crowns this very beautiful corner of the capital much visited especially in spring by tourists from Europe and Asia.


Homage at the monument of Mahatma Gandhi

Upon his arrival to India the Pope could not but honor one of the most noteworthy religious and political leaders of India, Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence, born in the State of Gujarat, “the land of the rainbow”, the most western State of India. The Raj Ghat (the royal staircase), a funeral monument dedicated to the Mahatma, is found in a garden at the right side of the river Yamuna, which, just like the most known Ganges, is born from the Himalayas in the region of Garhwal, near Gangotri Yamunodri the source of the sacred waters of the two rivers. A black marble square platform indicates the place where the Mahatma was cremated after his assassination (30 January 1948) by a fanatic Brahmin. Thirty eight years later, the Pope celebrated his memory as a sign of grateful recognition. Different trees bear the names of illustrious guests who planted them there on the occasion of their visit. The Pope did the same, as a remembrance of his historic visit to the Father of the Indian nation and the apostle of non-violence.

Barefoot, he approached the platform of the cremation to put a garland of flowers. Then, a pause for silence, a circle around the Samadhi, the signing of the golden book and the gift of books about Gandhi. Words, prayers, invocations and thoughts filled this moment of silence and solemnity.  The homage to a “hero of humanity”, to a light that is not faint but shines in the minds and the hearts of millions of men and women in every part of the world.

The Pope stopped in front of a memorial stone written in English and in Hindi. On it a famous writing by Gandhi is impressed, “the seven social sins”, which appeared in 1925 in “Young India”, the newspaper founded by him. John Paul II read rapidly the dry list of the evils of society according to the Mahatma: “Politics without principles. Riches without work. Pleasure without conscience. Wisdom without character. Commerce without morality. Science without humanity. Cult without sacrifice”. At the end the Pope exclaimed: “He was truly a great man”. In his discourse the Holy Father said: “It is entirely fitting that this pilgrimage should begin here, at Raj Ghat, dedicated to the memory of the illustrious Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation and “apostle of non-violence”. The figure of Mahatma Gandhi and the meaning of his life’s work have penetrated the consciousness of humanity”. 38 years after the death of that authentic “hero of humanity”, John Paul II rendered homage to him who more than any other person embodied the authentic Indian spirit based on dialogue, brotherhood and peace. These are the salient points in the discourse of the Pope:

“The power of truth leads us to recognize with Mahatma Gandhi the dignity, equality and fraternal solidarity of all human beings, and it prompts us to reject every form of discrimination. It shows us once again the need for mutual understanding, acceptance and collaboration between religious groups in the pluralist society of modern India and throughout the world”.

“From this place, which belongs, in a sense, to the history of the entire human family, I wish, however, to reaffirm the conviction that with the help of God the construction of a better world, in peace and justice, lies within the reach of human beings.”

After reading the Beatitudes, the Holy Father ended his discourse in this way:

“Mahatma Gandhi taught that if all men and women, whatever the differences between them, cling to the truth, with respect for the unique dignity of every human being, a new world order – a civilization of love – can be achieved. And today we hear him still pleading with the world: “Conquer hate by love, untruth by truth, violence by suffering”. (Footsteps of Gandhi, ed. Nirmal Kumar Bose, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1948, page 184). May God guide us and bless us as we strive to walk together, hand in hand, to build together a world of peace!”

During his visit to Raj Ghat, John Paul II raised a prayer to the Lord so that He may help all men to collaborate on the way to peace: “We recognize that Peace is a gift from you.”, the Pope affirmed and concluded his passionate invocation wishing that “the world community may place its security not in the manufacture of ever more deadly weapons, but in mutual trust and practical concern for a better future for all your children within a worldwide civilization of truth, love and peace.”


Eucharistic Celebration at the “Indira Gandhi” Stadium

From that dear and sacred place of memory for all the inhabitants of this country, the Pope reached the Indira Gandhi Stadium, the largest covered Stadium of Asia and the third in the world, with a capacity of more than twenty five thousand seats. There he presided over the first solemn Eucharistic con-celebration in the Indian land, together with many bishops of the Indian Episcopal Conference.

The theme of the celebration, “Appeal to the faith of a journeying people”, was well inserted into the ancient and recent history of these communities, evangelized by the Apostle St. Thomas and by other saints and witnesses, like Sapor and Prot, two witnesses of the love of God who lived during the 8th and 9th century, and like St. Francis Xavier, the apostle of India. In memory of these pioneers of the Gospel, this first celebration became a liturgical and historical memorial.

“The people of India – the liturgical commentator proclaimed in English at the opening of the celebration – is here represented from the 114 Dioceses of this Country, to give the warmest welcome to our Pope, pilgrim of love and unity”. The appeal to the faith of a journeying people was also emphasized by the reading from the Gospel of John (14: 1-11): “Do not be worried and upset. Believe in God and believe also in me (…) You know the way that leads to the place where I am going”. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; so how can we know the way to get there?” Jesus’ answer to the future Apostle of India was strong and incisive: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me…” In his Homily the Pope strongly actualized this invitation.

These are the main points of the Homily:

“Through faith we journey towards God along this path which is Christ”;

“Human life on earth is a pilgrimage. We are all conscious of passing through the world”.

“In this pilgrimage of life, religion assists man to live in such a way as to reach his goal”;

“Man’s pilgrim faith orients him to God and directs him to make those choices which will assist him to reach eternal life”;

“The Church proclaims that man in his pilgrim life is all the more worthy of respect and love and care in the many circumstances of earthly living precisely because he is destined to live for ever”;

“All true human culture, taking into account the dignity of man and his final destiny, is an aid to man in his noble and righteous living”;

“As man on this earth passes from birth to death he is aware of being a pilgrim of the Absolute. Here in India this consciousness is very deep”;

“In the very quest for the Absolute there is already an experience of the divine”;

“As man strives to know God, to perceive his face and experience his presence, God turns towards man to reveal his own life. The Second Vatican Council dwells at length on the importance of God’s intervention in the world”.

“Seeing God “face to face” is the deepest desire of the human spirit”;

“We “reach” God through the truth. Through the truth about God and through the truth about everything that is outside God: about creation, the macrocosm, and about man, the microcosm”;

“And this “reaching” God, through the truth which is Christ, is the source of life”;

“The Eucharist is the most holy Sacrament of our pilgrimage through faith. It is the nourishment for our journey. It is the banquet of life”;

In the Eucharist “we are united with Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life”;

“Our pilgrimage through faith has in the Eucharist its fullest and most expressive sign”.

Choral singing accompanied this solemn liturgy which lasted for more than 3 hours. Songs, prayers for the Church, for vocations, for the poor, for peace and unity in the Country, characterized the most significant moments of this celebration, which will remain imprinted in memory and in hearts.


Visit to the Centre of the Episcopal Conference

The visit to the centre of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, this evening, was a strong and intense moment of collegiality. As soon as he entered, the Pope stopped to admire a flowered circle depicted on the floor of the small entrance. Divided into equal parts, it reproduced the symbols of all the religions of India. At the centre of the entrance hall was placed a silver chandelier, which the Pope had the honour to light.

In one of the halls, John Paul II met the 100 members of the staff of the CBCI. This is in fact the seat of some of the most functional offices of the Catholic Church in India: the Commission for the Lay Apostolate, the social activities, Caritas India, which celebrates the 25th year of its foundation, the Centre for Health, which directs hospitals, nursing homes and dispensaries of the Catholic Church, and the office for Catholic Education.

In welcoming the Pope on behalf of all the staff, the President of the CBCI, Archbishop Pimenta, remembered the most significant steps of the constitution of the Indian Episcopal Conference, born in Madras in 1944. From 1944 to 1962, its first secretariat was working from Bangalore; from 1962 onwards the seat changed to the current one in Delhi. After the Second Vatican Council, the statutes of the Conference were approved for 5 years in 1976.

In a spontaneous speech in English, the Pope thanked everyone for their work and dedication to the cause of Christ and the Church. “What you do, is true apostolate”, he said.  As a memory of his visit, John Paul II gifted a mosaic depicting the Virgin with the Child. Then, a particular greeting and a gift for everyone was given.


Meeting with the Episcopal Conference at the Sacred Heart Cathedral

From the Centre of the Episcopal Conference, the Pope proceeded to the nearby metropolitan Cathedral dedicated to the Sacred Heart, where all the Bishops of the Country were waiting for him. “As Pastor of the universal Church I must perform my own duty in the service of the Church’s unity – John Paul II said at the beginning of his speech – For this reason I wish to support you in your responsibility as pastors of the local Churches. Moreover, our joint task is to enact the mystery of collegiality in its universal dimensions. As Successor of Peter I have come in order to confirm you and your local Churches in the faith. I am here to confirm you in all the aspects of your arduous apostolic ministry.(…)  I have come to benefit from your spiritual contribution to the life of the Church, in order to carry it back to the universal Church”.

The Pope insisted on the necessity of an apostolic commitment in giving witness to the Gospel of Christ, which does not disregard the temporal needs of man; he insisted on inter-religious dialogue, on the supreme criteria given by truth and charity, on the great challenge of “inculturation” and of the urgency of the unity of the Church. “The dialogue that you are called to is one of courteous respect, meekness and trust, from which all rivalry and polemics are excluded. It is a dialogue that springs from faith and is conducted in humble love”. After having emphasized the importance of the Sacrament of Penance and the role of the laity in the Church, the Pope expressed his admiration and gratitude for the missionaries and for all those who, in this land, have given witness to the Gospel of Christ.



Second Day of Holy Father’s Apostolic Visit to India

New Delhi

Meeting of the Holy Father with the Dalai Lama at the Apostolic Nunciature

At the Apostolic Nunciature in Delhi, the Holy Father received this morning the visit of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism. The private meeting underlined once again the importance that the Church gives to interreligious dialogue that contributes towards peace and constructing a world based on the fundamental rights of man.

The spiritual and temporal head of Tibet, the “first living Buddha”, lives in exile since the time of the Chinese invasion of the country. Today, he brings the Pope a gift of a scarf, made of white silk, as a sing of friendship and brotherhood. “I am very happy”, said the Lama as he arrived, “to be with him once more to share the common call towards peace and the wellbeing of mankind”.


Sunday Eucharistic Celebration at the “Indira Gandhi” Stadium

Today, Sunday, the Pope returned to the Indira Gandhi Stadium to preside over the solemn con-celebration of the Sunday Mass, with the presence of faithful from the ecclesiastical northern province of Agra, an historic city, situated on the right bank of the river Yamuna. A Metropolitan Archdiocese since 1st September 1886, Agra has given life to 9 suffragan dioceses: Jaipur, Allahabad, Bijnor of the Syro-Malabars, Gorakhpur of the Syro-Malabars, Jhansi, Lucknow, Meerut, Udaipur, Varanasi. The suffragan dioceses of Delhi were also present with a good number of faithful: Jalandhar, Simla-Chandigarh. About 15 Bishops con-celebrated with the Pope, among whom was Msgr. Fernandes, the Archbishop of Delhi.

Dressed in magnificent yellow, black, red and golden sarees, with their hands and feet painted according to the local custom and with garlands around their neck, their wrists and ankles, 200 dancers mimed a marvelous scenic action before the Mass, in the large covered stadium, accompanied by typical music and choirs of northern India. The Pope, who had not yet put on the sacred vestments, listened attentively, at the centre of the vast arena, filled with faithful. On the background, a huge luminous cross was surrounded by an infinite number of flower garlands. The theme of the depicted scene was the responsibility of the Christian community in front of the anguish and hopes of today’s India. Musicians, dancers and singers underlined with their sounds, voices and gestures the values of the Eucharistic celebration, as the central moment of a faith that is explained in works.

A voice denounced the evils of India: inequality, division in castes, dishonesty and corruption, child labour, terrorism, natural calamities and also artificial ones, like that one of Bhopal. Another voice sang a hymn on the lyrics of the great poet Tagore. A Hindi song was sung then by the choir, illustrating the contrast between the difficult life of farmers and workers and the comfortable life of the land owners.

The many faithful participating in this solemn Sunday liturgy, besides those from Agra, commonly called “marble island”, came also from Fatehpur Sikri, Mathura, Bharatpur, a city founded at the beginning of 1700 and famous for its “bird sanctuary”, and from Haridwar, one of the seven holy cities of India.

A delegation from the “sui iuris” mission of Nepal was also present today, led by its ecclesiastical superior, the Jesuit Fr. Anthony Sharma. Nepal is a Hindu kingdom, where by constitutional law it is illegal to abandon the traditional religion. The Church has always respected this preoccupation of the Government. Diplomatic relations between Nepal and the Holy See started on 9th December 1985.

“Christ, Light of the world”, was the theme proposed both by the readings and by the Holy Father in his homily. The Cross of Christ, the greatest sign of contradiction – John Paul II affirmed – becomes the most shining light of salvation. The Cross calls all those who belong to Christ to work for the liberation of the poor and the oppressed. Great efforts have been made in India to contribute in solving the social problems.  These noble efforts towards true social liberation are in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel. True social liberation, in fact, prepares the way towards a civilization of love. In this regard, the Pope mentioned the work of Mother Teresa and the efforts made in favor of this work of total liberation by Gandhi and Tagore, two “souls” that contributed in forming the spirit of modern India. The noble efforts of these great men and women, efforts aimed at fostering social liberation and integral human development are in accord with the spirit of the Gospel. All who have promoted the dignity and freedom of their brothers and sisters are blessed in the eyes of Christ, because they contribute towards the creation of a civilization of love.

“Ignorance and prejudice must be replaced by tolerance and understanding. Indifference and class struggle must be turned into brotherhood and committed service”;

“Discrimination based on race, colour, creed, sex or ethnic origin must be rejected as totally incompatible with human dignity”;

“God is present at the heart of human cultures because he is present within man himself, the creator of culture”.


At the Angelus

“God became man in the womb of Mary. Through this great mystery, all human life was changed. Humanity received a new dignity. God became one with us in all things but sin, so that we might become one with God”. The uplifting of man operated by God who descended on earth, was at the centre of the brief introductory meditation before the prayer of the Angelus, which the Pope recited today, Sunday, at the end of the Mass celebrated in Delhi. “We human beings – said the Holy Father – were brought close to God by God drawing near to us. But not only that – we were also brought closer to one another”. John Paul II concluded his reflection with an invocation so that the heavenly Father may grant us “the grace to love all our brothers and sisters as Christ has loved us”.




Meeting with the representatives of the different religious and cultural traditions and with the youth at the Indira Gandhi Stadium

More than one thousand invitees, members of parliament, religious leaders, diplomats, civil authorities, people representing the cultural, economic and commercial fields, and many youth, took part in the religious-cultural meeting, on Sunday afternoon at the “Indira Gandhi” Stadium of Delhi, the last appointment for John Paul II during his two-day stay in the capital of India.

In his message, more than a speech, pronounced after the addresses given by the representative of the Muslims, the Hindus and the Christians, John Paul II underlined that the building of a new world requires something deeply personal from each human being. And to this commitment, in this historical moment, India can give the unchangeable offer of “a spiritual vision of man”. The world must pay heed with joy to this ancient wisdom, and must find in it enrichment for human life.

“In the world today – the Pope said – there is a need for all religions to collaborate for the cause of humanity, and to do this from the viewpoint of the spiritual nature of man. Today, as Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsees and Christians, we gather in fraternal love to assert this by our very presence. As we proclaim the truth about man, we insist that man’s search for temporal and social well-being and full human dignity corresponds to the deep longings of his spiritual nature. To work for the attainment and preservation of all human rights, including the basic right to worship God according to the dictates of an upright conscience and to profess that faith externally, must become ever more a subject of interreligious collaboration at all levels”.

“This interreligious collaboration – John Paul II continued – must also be concerned with the struggle to eliminate hunger, poverty, ignorance, persecution, discrimination and every form of enslavement of the human spirit. Religion is the mainspring of society’s commitment to justice, and interreligious collaboration must reaffirm this in practice”.

All efforts in the cause of man are linked to a particular vision of man, and all effective and complete efforts require a spiritual vision of man: “With Paul VI – John Paul II added – I repeat the conviction that there is no true humanism but that which is open to the Absolute and is conscious of a vocation which gives human life its true meaning… Man can only realize himself by reaching beyond himself. The late President of India, Dr. Radhakrishnan, was right when he said: “Only a moral and spiritual revolution in the name of human dignity can place man above the idols of economic production, technological organization, racial discrimination and national egoism”.

After quoting again Radhakrishnan, and emphasizing that “the new world of peace, freedom and safety for all can be achieved only by those who are moved by great spiritual ideals”, and that the true liberation of man will be brought about only when the spiritual vision of man is held in honour and pursued, John Paul II reminded that within this framework of the truth of man, the holiness of God will be made manifest by the rectitude and uprightness of human relations in the social, political, cultural and economic spheres of life, since man is central to God’s plan.

“And it is for man– the Pope affirmed – that we are all called to work, to labour and toil. This is the humanism that unites us today and invites us to fraternal collaboration. This is the humanism that we offer to all the young people present here today and to all the young people of the world. This is the humanism to which India can make an immortal contribution. What is at stake is the well-being of all human society – the building up of an earthly city that will already prefigure the eternal one and contain in initial form the elements that will forever be part of man’s eternal destiny”.



Third Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India

New Delhi

Farewell by the Government Authorities and departure for Ranchi

The arrival and departure of an illustrious guest, according to Indian protocol, must take place in Delhi, the federal capital. For this reason, the farewell ceremony by the country authorities took place early this morning, at the Delhi-Palam airport. The Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, welcomed the Pope and President Zail Singh into an airport lounge, where John Paul II bid farewell to the civil authorities and to the diplomats. From the dais, the Pope listened to the Indian and Vatican national anthems, and then passed in front of the guard of honour. President Singh accompanied the Holy Father till the stairs ascending to the presidential aircraft, which he offered to the Pope for his visit to the country and the Churches of India.

Leaving New Delhi, the Pope sent to the President of India a telegram expressing his gratitude and best wishes.



Arrival at the airport of Ranchi

The flight from Delhi to Ranchi takes one and a half hours to cover 1218 kilometers. Ranchi is the Metropolitan Catholic See of the ecclesiastical province with the same name, which includes the entire State of Bihar and counts 62 million inhabitants. The Archdiocese of Ranchi celebrated one year ago the centenary of Fr. Constant Lievens’ arrival to this territory, a missionary called the “Apostle of Chotanagpur”, a region of the Archdiocese evangelized by the Jesuit since 1868. The Capuchins worked in the north of the State of Bihar, reaching the region before 1703. In 1703 they were entrusted with the Prefecture of Tibet-Hindustan and the territory of the nearby Nepal. The Catholics of the Archdiocese are 12% of the total population. The suffragan Dioceses are seven: Bhagalpur (the only Diocese in India led by an American missionary, Msgr. McGarry, of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis), Daltonganj, Dumka, Jamshedpur, Muzaffarpur, Patna, the capital of the State in north Bihar, and Port Blair. Many faithful came to Ranchi from all these Dioceses, and were waiting for the Pope since early morning. Many groups did a night vigil, praying and singing.

They welcomed him as “a great man and as a saint”. Sixteen girls from various tribes gave him a warm welcome, as soon as he alighted from the car that took him close to the stage, decorated with long yellow and white stripes. They wore festive white dresses with red stripes, they were barefoot, and had white and golden necklaces. They danced for a long time in front of the guest who had come from afar.

Eucharistic celebration at the airport – Discourse about human work

Accompanied by the slow and melodious sound of drums, John Paul II walked slowly the thirty meters path until the altar. According to an ancient local tradition, the illustrious guest must not touch the floor, but pass from one basket to the other following the rhythm of the drums. The Pope reached the stage where he received other honours: a very fine white garland, an embroidered shawl and a kind of miter which he briefly kept on his head. Then two young girls approached him for the washing of the hands.

On the vast plain adjacent to the airport, a very beautiful altar had been erected for the occasion, decorated with flowers and garlands. The high presbytery was decorated with other flowery symbols of the ancient faith. Six languages are spoken in this vast territory: Hindi, Oraon, Sadri, Mundari, Kharie and English, idioms that resounded in the mass intentions proclaimed before the offertory.

For this solemn con-celebration the Pope wore a beautiful chasuble with many symbols of the “adivasi” culture, a tribe which has many Catholics, is dedicated mostly to agriculture and lives in an area very rich in minerals, but is suffering today because of increasing unemployment.

The Pope came here to speak to this world particularly about human work, to underline the value and dignity of every worker and to re-affirm that no one can be used just as a simple instrument of production.

“The Church has a very special concern for the welfare of workers. The well-known Encyclicals of the Popes starting with Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII have continually defended the right of the worker to a just wage and to proper working conditions”.

“The Church rejects any social or economic system that leads to the depersonalization of workers”.

“All human work is a participation in the activity of the Creator himself”.

“All human work, however humble it may appear, must be fully respected, protected and justly remunerated”.

Over and above her concern for proper working conditions, the Church insists on a just wage for workers, a wage that takes into account the needs of their family. The Pope said that  his “heart goes out in a special way to the many unemployed who want to work but are unable to find suitable employment, at times because of discrimination based on religion, caste, community or language”. Reflecting upon this difficult situation, the Holy Father appealed to all those who in this Country have power over the present and the future of the working people. “There is an urgent need to take fresh initiatives to solve this grave problem, and these initiatives often require collaboration at the national and international level. And it is crucially important – John Paul II repeated – that the negotiations and plans to overcome unemployment be marked by respect and dialogue between the employers and those seeking work”.

“For a worker who places his trust in God, the toil and fatigue of work is accompanied by the joy of knowing that he or she is collaborating with the Creator”.

“For those of us who are Christians, Jesus is the perfect model and inspiration for our work”.

“The witness of Jesus in his work as a carpenter fills us with joy and encourages us to persevere in our humble service to humanity”.

“Jesus calls us and invites us to share in his own divine life through all the toil of our human work”.

“As followers of Christ, you are called to be the light of Christ here in India and with Christ to transform the world”.

“Let your work serve the good of your neighbor. Share with the underprivileged, the sick and the handicapped. Strive to remove everything that oppresses people, and working together do all you can to solve the unemployment situation”.

Thirty people, dressed in their typical costumes and coming from the dioceses of Bihar, offered various gifts. The Pope asked their names, and was interested to know about their tribes and about their work. Then he blessed them with a sign on their forehead. The offering of gifts was accompanied by a ritual dance performed by a group of adivasi girls, dressed in the local costumes. At the communion, the Holy Father distributed the Body of Christ also to a group of sick and handicapped people. After imparting the solemn final blessing, the Holy Father prayed for the catechists, the newly married couples and for the entire assembly.

During the rite the Pope gave the pallium to Archbishop Telesphore Toppo, promoted to this office on 8th November 1984.

Blessing of memorial stones and departure for Calcutta

At the end of the celebration, which lasted for about 3 hours, and saw the participation of several Hindus, Muslims, followers of the traditional sarma religion, Lutherans and members of the Church of North India, the Pope blessed three memorial stones destined for the upcoming dispensary of St. Joseph, for the Don Bosco Center in Ranchi and for the church dedicated to the Guardian Angels.

From Ranchi, the journey will proceed to Calcutta, the capital of the State of West Bengal.


Arrival at the airport of Calcutta

At 15.30 hrs today (in Rome 11.00 hrs), the Presidential aircraft, Boeing 747, with the Holy Father on board, landed at the international airport of Calcutta-Dum Dum, where the guest was welcomed by the Archbishop, Cardinal Lawrence Trevor Picachy and by other religious and civil authorities.


 Visit to “Nirmal Hriday Ashram”

Kalighat, visited by the Holy Father in the late morning, is situated in the south part of the city, on the bank of the river near the temple dedicated to the goddess Kali. The temple is built on the spot where, according to an Indian legend, a finger of the deity had fallen. The cult of Kali, the black goddess depicted with a necklace of skulls, as the spouse of Shiva, symbolizing the destructive power, is peculiar in Bengal. She is considered the protector of Calcutta, and perhaps the city took its name precisely from her. Near the temple there is the so-called “cemetery of the poor”, where cremations are done on common pyres.

In order to reach the temple, the Pope entered the labyrinth of narrow lanes of the overcrowded city, filled with huts, small shops, carts of the different vendors. The air was filled with a bitter smell, clouded by the dark smoke from funeral piles and by the burnt incense from the temple. On one side were the grey walls and the silver roofs of the temple. Just below the walls, there is a long and low building, the house of Mother Teresa for the dying destitute, called “Nirmal Hriday”, “the house of the pure heart”. It is as if there were no doors. Anyone can enter. Mother Teresa and the sisters of the Congregation founded by her, have given here hospitality through the years, and cured almost fifty thousand dying destitute.

At the entrance, John Paul II stopped in front of an image of Our Lady. It is an unusual little statue, bearing the ribbon and the medal of the “Padmashree”, the Indian Order of the Lotus, in memory of the award received in 1962 by Mother Teresa. She had been the first non Indian person to be honoured with that award. She had obtained the Indian nationality only 14 years earlier, and she was already receiving a sign of gratitude from India.

The Pope was welcomed by the sisters, and even by the head priest of the temple of Kali, with whom they were very good neighbors.

On entering the house, John Paul II found a blackboard with the agenda of the day: “3rd February. 2 entered, nobody went out, dead 4”. And below the following script: “We do this for Jesus”.

Accompanied by Mother Teresa and visibly touched, the Pope first visited the vast bedroom where 60 men were hospitalized, lying on short beds, with a mattress and a blanket. In the middle, about two steps further, the dying people, at the sides, those who were not too serious. The Pope touched them one by one, embracing those who managed to sit up. At a certain point a sister brought a tray with some food, some yogurt and bread. The Pope started feeding one of the sick, but the sisters allowed him only to hold the tray.

The same happened in the room where 60 women were lying, again with profound emotion on the part of the Pope and great serenity on the part of the sisters and the sick. A woman, who seemed to be delirious, held tight his hand for a long time crying out in Bengali language, translated by Mother Teresa: “I am alone, I am alone, come back again”. Behind a small kitchen at the end of the corridor, one can find a few rooms and the small obituary. Inside, laid the bodies of a woman, two men and a child, who, being a Catholic had a cross on his breast.

The Pope signed all of them on their foreheads while Mother Teresa was telling him: “With these, the number of the dead at our house has reached 22000”. The house was opened on 22 August 1952.

After greeting all the sick people of the house, one by one, the Holy Father recited this prayer:

“All-powerful and ever-living God, Father of the poor, Comfort of the sick, Hope of the dying, your love guides every moment of our lives. Here in Nirmal Hriday, in this place of loving care for the sick and dying, we lift our minds and hearts to you in prayer. We praise you for the gift of human life and especially for the promise of everlasting life. We know that you are always near to the broken-hearted and the destitute, and to all the weak and suffering.

O God of tenderness and compassion, accept the prayers we offer for our sick brothers and sisters. Increase their faith and trust in you. Comfort them with your loving presence and, if it be your will, restore their health, give them renewed strength of body and soul.

O loving Father, bless those who are dying, bless all those who will soon meet you face to face. We believe that you have made death the gateway to eternal life. Keep our dying brothers and sisters in your love, and bring them safely home to eternal life with you.

O God, the Source of all strength, watch over and protect those who care for the sick and assist the dying. Give them a courageous and gentle spirit. Sustain them in their efforts to bring comfort and healing. Make them ever more a radiant sign of your transforming love.

O Lord of life and Foundation of our hope, pour out your abundant blessings upon all who live and work and die in Nirmal Hriday. Fill them with your peace and grace. Let them see that you are a loving Father, a God of mercy and compassion. Amen”.

Ending the prayer, John Paul II addressed those present, underlining among others, the importance of Nirmal Hriday Ashram for the suffering population of Calcutta.

“Nirmal Hriday is a place of suffering, a house familiar with anguish and pain, a home for the destitute and dying. But, at the same time, Nirmal Hriday is a place of hope, a house built on courage and faith, a home where love reigns, a home filled with love.

In Nirmal Hriday, the mystery of human suffering meets the mystery of faith and love. And in this meeting, the deepest questions of human existence make themselves heard. The pain-filled body and spirit cries out: “Why? What is the purpose of suffering? Why must I die?” And the answer that comes, often in unspoken ways of kindness and compassion, is filled with honesty and faith: “I cannot fully answer all your questions; I cannot take away all your pain. But of this I am sure: God loves you with an everlasting love. You are precious in his sight. In him I love you too. For in God we are truly brothers and sisters.

Nirmal Hriday proclaims the profound dignity of every human person. The loving care which is shown here bears witness to the truth that the worth of a human being is not measured by usefulness or talents, by health or sickness, by age or creed or race. Our human dignity comes from God our Creator in whose image we are all made. No amount of privation or suffering can ever remove this dignity, for we are always precious in the eyes of God”.


Meeting with the heads of other Christian communities at the residence of the Archbishop

Upon concluding the third day of his Apostolic Visit to India, John Paul II met the heads of the Non-Catholic Christian communities. These were: members of the “Church of NorthIndia” (Anglicans and other Protestants), Methodists, members of the MarthomaChurch (a group that separated in the XIX century from the Syro-Orthodox Church of Malabar) and others.

During the meeting the Pope, in his discourse, said among other things:

“In India you have a tradition of fine initiatives in the cause of unity. You have given leaders to the ecumenical movement not only in India but on the world scene. All of this awakens a sympathetic response in my heart, because the unity of the Church concerns the Bishop of Rome in a singular way. That is why I have continued to encourage the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church in their ecumenical responsibility”.

“Such collaboration – the Pope continued – cannot stand by itself. It must be oriented and given purpose by the theological dialogue which seeks to help resolve all those questions which still divide us in the profession of the faith. In dialogue one speaks the truth in love and engages in a deepening, accomplished in common, of the faith delivered once for all to the Saints”.

This dialogue, John Paul II concluded, needs always to be sustained by, and expressed in efforts of “collaboration, common witness wherever possible, and above all fervent prayer and change of heart. I pray that all the Christians of India may be stirred by the Holy Spirit of God to work for the cause of unity with generosity and wisdom”.


Meeting with the representatives of other religions

and with the cultural and academic world

John Paul II’s last meeting of today was with the representatives of other religions, of the cultural and academic world and with the Catholic men and women religious.

Various hymns of the different religions opened the inter-faith programme: Christian hymns sung by the “Bohala Church Choir”, a traditional Arab quawal composed from verses written by the poet Saadi in the 13th century, three poems by Tagore in English. Three different forms of invocation to the Lord, three different poetic ways of searching the traces of truth in a world which is often characterized by suffering and pain.

The Pope, greeted as “the pilgrim of peace and unity”, was welcomed by the economist Amlan Dutta and one representative of the government, Jatin Chakraborty, who expressed to him the wish of all citizens, non-Christians included, of hearing his words and receiving his blessings. The gifts offered to the Pope represent a document of the results of the encounter between the different religious traditions: a picture of Christ, painted in the “pat” style by the Bengali artist Ramananda Banerjee and a finely bound copy of the “Mangalbarta”, the Bengali translation of the New Testament, the fruit of the collaboration between a catholic priest, the Jesuit C. H. Mignon, and an Hindu intellectual, Prof. Sajal Banerjee.

In the courtyard of St. Xavier’s College, where the meeting was held, John Paul II remembered his previous visit to the house of Mother Teresa with these words: “I strongly believe that just as all human beings are joined in the experience of pain and suffering, so too all men and women of good will who are the leaders in the field of intellectual and artistic endeavour must join together in a new solidarity in order to respond to the fundamental challenges of our times. In this sense you are invested with an altogether special responsibility for the well-being of your motherland.

The new situation into which the advances of knowledge and technology have thrust the human family requires vision and wisdom equal to the best that humanity has produced under the guidance of its saints and sages. A new civilization is struggling to be born: a civilization of understanding and respect for the inalienable dignity of every human person created in the image of God; a civilization of justice and peace in which there will be ample room for legitimate differences, and in which disputes will be settled through enlightened dialogue, not through confrontation.

Religious leaders, by a special title must be sensitive to the sufferings and needs of humanity. There opens up an immense field of dialogue between the various philosophies and religious traditions in answer to these questions, and of mutual collaboration in seeking to respond concretely to the challenges of development and assistance, especially to the poorest.

The saints and true men and women of religion have always been moved by a powerful and active compassion for the poor and the suffering. In our day, as well as seeking to relieve the distress of individuals and groups, our religious and social conscience is challenged by the questions inevitably raised by the growing inequality between developed areas and those which are increasingly dependent, and by the injustice of much needed resources being channeled into the production of terrifying weapons of death and destruction.

Our religious beliefs, which teach us the value and dignity of all life, urge us to commit our energies to the endeavour of men and women of good will, in the first place the poor themselves, to help change those attitudes and structures which are responsible for man-made poverty and oppressive suffering. This requires a heavy investment of intellectual energy and imagination. Herein your contribution in the cause of truth is paramount. As intellectuals, thinkers, writers, scientists, artists, you must always be intent on unleashing in the world the power of truth for the service of humanity”.

Reaffirming the Catholic Church’s commitment to the process of development which leads to greater justice for all, John Paul II invited the Catholic community of Bengal and all India “to work wholeheartedly for this goal”, and expressed “the hope that followers of all religious persuasions will join in the construction of a new civilization of peace and love”.

The Pope then underlined the Catholic Church’s esteem for the ancient culture of India, and expressed his admiration and profound respect “for the spiritual vision of man that is expressed century after century through your culture and in the education that transmits it”.

At this point the Pope made reference in particular to the rich cultural heritage of Bengal and of the city of Calcutta. Concluding his speech, he especially addressed Catholic educators, reminding them that in the Catholic Church one will always find a willing partner in the dialogue of truth and in the service of man.

“I wish to encourage the Catholic educators of all India to make their schools and centres of higher education ever better instruments at the service of justice, development and harmony in social life, inspiring an ever increasing awareness of the vocation to serve the integral well-being of people, especially of the young and the poor.

In order to fulfill this task with completeness these institutions are called to a twofold fidelity. Fidelity, in the first place, to the Gospel message of universal brotherhood and solidarity under the loving providence of our heavenly Father, and fidelity to what is best and most valuable in Indian culture. Christians in India know that their vocation is not only to give, but also to receive. Theirs is a pilgrimage to the depths of the human spirit, a pilgrimage which enriches their vision and insight into religious truth and into the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”.




Fourth Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India


Arrival at the airport of Guwahati and transfer to Shillong

Guwahati, the city which ceased to be capital since 1874, when the British preferred the city of Shillong on account of its milder climate, preserves with significant pride, its ancient splendour, sculptured in the great monuments that tell the story of a glorious past. “City of temples”, as it is usually called, it is spread as an amphitheatre on the green hills that overlook the Brahmaputra.

This morning the Pope had barely the time to admire, from the plane, this immense landscape of the State of Assam. From the civil airport of Guwahati, he flew for about 30 minutes towards Shillong, the capital of the State of Meghalaya (“the dwelling place of clouds”) which borders Bangladesh.


Eucharistic celebration at the golf course

With a stop in Shillong, the Pope wanted to pay homage to the North-East India, a territory covering 255,000 kilometers and including 30 million inhabitants, spread over the States of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, and the UnionTerritories of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. MotherChurch of seven suffragan dioceses of the North-East – Dibrugarh, Tezpur, Silchar, Tura, Kohima, Imphal and Diphu – Shillong is usually called “the Scotland of the East”, due to its climate and landscape.

The Salvadorians, the Jesuits and, from 1921, the Salesians were committed to the evangelization of this land. And it is precisely a Salesian, Archbishop Rupert D’Rosario, who is at the helm of this part of the local Church of the North-East since June 1969. Eight are the languages spoken within the territory of the Archdiocese: Khasi, Pnar, Hindi, English, Assamese, Garo, Karbi and Paling. Catholics number over 164,000 (8% of the population).

The solemn Eucharistic con-celebration on the theme, “The Gospel at the service of all people and of all cultures”, was celebrated on a huge golf course, among green meadows with small clubs where one can play cricket and tennis, pervaded by the perfume of the tea leaves from the tea estates nearby.

“The historic moment starts now”, a young man announced in English on the microphone to the 300,000 people present. The Pope made his way to the huge presbytery and responded, with an ample gesture, to the hundred thousands of handkerchiefs waving to him with enthusiasm. Songs and dances were performed at the feet of the altar by the choir and by young girls from different tribes. The Pope observed everything and was very touched.

“God bless John Paul II, Alleluia”, the choir sang, while on the stage the dances continued in honour of the guest (the altar was placed on a round stage with different levels). The singing and dancing, the sound of drums and the acclamations continued for about ten minutes. As soon as the Pope reached the altar, the crowd waved yellow and white flags, while a little girl approached him to offer a garland. But she was too small to give it to the Holy Father. So a prelate lifted her up and the Pope kissed her on her forehead.

Representatives from all the States and Territories and from all the eight Dioceses of the North-East, with their pastors, were present at the rite. The entire celebration was characterized by the typical tribal tones, both in the colors of the liturgical vestments of the assistants, and in the different moments of the solemn open air liturgy.

Reserved seats were kept for the members of the government of the region and for the heads of the Non-Catholic Christian churches, and also for the sick. Lively and orderly was the presence of the various components of the Catholic community: diocesan priests, men and women religious, seminarians, catechists, youth. The eight Bishops of the region con-celebrated with the Holy Father, together with many priests from the eight dioceses.

In his homily, John Paul II considered the most significant steps of the evangelization of North-East India; he analyzed the present time, projecting into the future the commitment and action of a missionary community that has always been at the service of all faiths. The Pope recalled the heroic deaths of Father Krick and Father Broury, two missionaries who were killed in the forest while they were about to reach the nearby Tibet; he recalled the Polish Father Leo Piasecki and the Italian Father Costantino Vendrame, two Salesians who preached the Good News of Christ on the plains of Assam and the Khasi Hills. The Holy Father also praised the heroic efforts put in by the diocesan clergy and the Congregations of men and women religious in making the Church today grow continuously.

“This work of evangelization is also continuing today through the untiring and zealous efforts of the diocesan clergy, whose steadily increasing number is a sign of the growth and maturity of your local Churches. The development and present condition of this mission of North-East India is also the fruit of the active involvement of various religious congregations of men and women, to whom the Church wishes to express a debt of profound gratitude, respect and love. What has also marked the history of your mission has been the active involvement of numerous lay men and women, especially the catechists. They have often been the ones who prepared the ground for the spread of the Gospel. In a very real way the truth and values of the Gospel have taken root in the heart and imagination of the young people of these hills”.

“The Gospel that is preached – the Pope affirmed – has come to these areas not in order to dominate but to be at the service of every people. The Gospel has come in order to be incarnated in your cultures without doing violence to them. In this process Christian tradition both enriches and is, in turn, enriched by this contact with the many values that are preserved in the hearts of the peoples of these hills and plains”.

John Paul II then asked himself: what has the Gospel of Jesus Christ to say to the faithful of Shillong? What is its message in the North-East of India? The Pope answered these questions in this way:

“You are filled with a deep longing to share in God’s life here on earth. You have a profound aspiration for the noblest ideals of human dignity, for respect for your human rights, and for development and peace. Yet you have your share of the universal problems and frustrations that the world faces today: illiteracy, rural poverty, problems arising from rapid urbanization, the tension between the consciousness of your own cultural identity and the many dehumanizing forces at work in society.

Your own traditions and cultures are not without answers to these problems. Building on these, the Gospel, with its unique message of divine filiation, of love and solidarity, embodied in the person of Christ, reveals and makes present “the immeasurable riches” of God’s grace through which we are saved. In this way your human endeavors are imbued with the wisdom and power of the same Holy Spirit who “anointed” Jesus for his messianic work. Christ is God’s answer to man’s highest aspiration”.

John Paul II then affirmed that “the task ahead is still immense. Those who have embraced the saving message of the Gospel have a special duty to work for the inculturation of the Christian message in these areas. In intimate communion with the universal Church, let your local Churches take to themselves, in a wonderful exchange, the perennial values contained in the wisdom, the customs and traditions of your peoples so that “Christian life will be adapted to the mentality and character of each culture”.

At the prayers of the faithful, eight intentions were proclaimed in the eight languages of the North-Eastern dioceses, accompanied this time too, at the feet of the altar, by five dances performed by the five tribal groups. During the communion as well, while the Holy Father was distributing the Body of the Lord to 30 sick people, and 400 ministers were spreading towards the various points of the golf course, other dances were performed praising the Creator and in honour of the special guest who came from afar.

Before the final blessing the Pope, in Khasi language, spoke once more to the assembly, who had gathered to greet with songs and dances the “Father” and the “Pastor” of the Universal Church, the one who had come to pay homage to the faith of the people.

It was already past 1 o’clock (9 a.m. in Italy) when the Pope flew back to Guwahati in helicopter and from there to Calcutta, the city of Tagore (1861-1941), where he was to celebrate a second Mass, at the “Brigade Parade Grounds Park”, for the faithful of the Archdiocese and of the State of West Bengal.


Arrival at Calcutta

Coming from Guwahati, the airplane of the Holy Father landed at the airport of Calcutta, and from there the Pope was transferred to the place of the Eucharistic celebration.


Eucharistic celebration at “Brigade Parade Grounds”

The fourth day of the apostolic pilgrimage of the Pope in India ended at the Brigade Parade Grounds Park of Calcutta, where the Holy Father presided over a Eucharistic con-celebration, attended by Cardinal Picachy, Archbishop of Calcutta and by the Bishops of the five suffragan dioceses.

During the Mass with the theme “Sent by the Spirit, so that they may have the fullness of life”, John Paul II’s homily developed the following points:

“It is the fundamental mission of the Church to proclaim to the world the Good News of the Redemption”.

“The Church seeks to know the minds and hearts of her hearers, their values and customs, their problems and difficulties, their hopes and dreams. Once she knows and understands these various aspects of culture, then she can begin the dialogue of salvation”.

“The Church in Bengal and all India has sought, in various ways, to put into practice this Messianic programme of Jesus Christ, by following her age-old apostolic tradition and meeting the concrete needs of the actual place”.

“All the initiatives of education and service which the Church has undertaken in this region, under the leadership of the bishops, have been made not only on behalf of Christians but of everyone living here”.

“In performing these services you have borne witness to the Gospel of the Redemption. And you have greatly contributed to the unity and development of society”.

Mother Teresa’s evangelical service to the poorest of the poor “has given the world a compelling lesson in compassion and genuine love of our neighbor in need. Such charity and self-sacrifice, done out of love for Christ, challenges the world, a world which is all attached to selfishness and hedonism, to greed for money, prestige and power. In the face of the evils of our modern age, this testimony proclaims not with words but by deeds and sacrifice the preeminent value of love, the love of Christ our Redeemer”.

“Our age also faces numerous kinds of moral poverty which threaten the freedom and dignity of the human person, like the poverty of those who live without perceiving the meaning of life, the poverty of a misguided or erroneous conscience, the poverty of broken homes and separated families, the poverty of sin”.

But who are the poor of today’s world? – John Paul II asked himself at the end of his homily. The poor include those who are hungry, but also the refugees, and entire tribes or peoples facing total extinction due to drought and famine; the illiterate, those who are deprived of their right to religious freedom, those who are threatened by every kind of moral poverty. On behalf of all these people the Pope called out from Calcutta Maidan: “Do nothing to perpetuate hatred, injustice or suffering! Do nothing in favour of the arms race! Nothing to promote the oppression of peoples and nations! Nothing inspired by hypocritical forms of imperialism or inhuman ideologies. Let those who have no voice finally speak! Let India speak! Let Mother Teresa’s poor and all the poor of the world speak! Their voice – as Mother Teresa has well understood and she is trying to explain to those who do not want to listen – is the voice of Christ! Amen”.




            Fifth Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India


Departure from Calcutta and arrival at the airport of Madras

The day started in Calcutta but continued in Madras, an important city which boasts of the moral and economic leadership of the south of India. But for the Catholics, Madras is much more. It is the place where the Portuguese discovered the tomb of St. Thomas, the first evangelizer. It is also a place linked to the memory of Mary: somebody very truly says that the name of the city derives from her name, accordingly from the phrase “Mãe de Deus”, which in Portuguese means, “Mother of God”.

During the flight from Calcutta to Madras (almost 1400 kilometers) John Paul II, through his spokesperson Navarro, informed us that he was “very happy” about how his visit was going, as far as his two aims were concerned:

“I am very happy about how this visit is going on. I had come here for two reasons: first, to make a pastoral visit to the Catholic Church in India; second, to encourage more and more the dialogue with the great religions of the Country. Not a dialogue towards a superficial syncretism, but a dialogue on the great and actual issues of man and humanity. The Pope wants to reinforce the Catholic identity of the Church, but he is also for dialogue. Just like at Casablanca towards Islam, in the same way here towards the religions of India. And I am very happy to see that my Indian partners have understood and fully accepted it”.

Hundreds of thousands of people were waiting for the Pope in Madras. At the airport, 70 young girls holding white and yellow decorations had arranged themselves to form a huge inscription, saying “Welcome”. The Archbishop Rayappa Arulappa and other civil and religious authorities were there to welcome the Holy Father.

Visit to the Church of Our Lady of Expectation, on St. Thomas Mount

On the way, various triumphal arches had been erected, bearing huge images of John Paul II and of other personalities, dear to the heart of the Indians, like Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi, together with expressions of welcome to the “messenger of peace”. The visit started from St. Thomas Mount, the place where the Apostle met his martyrdom, pierced by the spear of a Brahmin. In the chapel dedicated to the Virgin, built in memory of the saint’s death, many children from the schools of the Saint Apostles offered to the Holy Father the ritual aarthi homage, showering petals of flowers at the sound of music of a band.

On the main altar is placed the cross of granite. According to the tradition, St. Thomas was praying before this cross when he was murdered. The cross has 4 arms of equal length, each one having three knots at the edge. It is surmounted by a dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit, and has a flower drawing at the base, maybe a lotus flower. Around the cross there is a stone on which an inscription is engraved in an ancient language (pahlavi?) which has not been deciphered until now. The cross is called “bleeding” because according to tradition, it bled more than once, in the 16th and 17th century. The Pope visited the shrine and stopped to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament; he kissed the relics of St. Thomas and lingered over the Cross and over a wooden tablet with a painting of the Virgin that is attributed to St. Luke, which the faithful have been venerating for centuries.

Here the Holy Father gave a short speech, saying:

“Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). With these words, Saint Thomas showed his desire to be with Jesus, even in the face of death. At the same time, Saint Thomas spoke these words to the other disciples to inspire in them a similar love for Jesus, to stir up in them the same courage and devotion.

“Let us also go, that we may die with him”. According to tradition, at this very place, which is now called Saint Thomas Mount, the great Apostle of India fulfilled his own exhortation. Out of love for Jesus, here in Madras, Saint Thomas died for Christ. He gave his life as a martyr for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.

Dear friends in Christ, and you especially, dear children: let us ask God for a trong faith and courage. Let us love Jesus as Saint Thomas did. Let us offer him our lives day after day, so that we may live with him forever”.


Meeting with the representatives of Non-Christian religions at Rajaji Hall

As a sign of the continuity of the faith transmitted from the older generations to the younger ones, the first public meeting of today with the non-Christians of the city of Madras, was held at the “Rajaji Hall”, a building constructed by the British administration. This ecumenical meeting, undoubtedly the most relevant of this apostolic pilgrimage into “the soul of India”, was organized by the Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, by its Chairman Msgr. Michael Duraisamy, Bishop of Salem, a small city of Tamil Nadu with more than 80,000 Catholics. The meeting was attended by a representation of Hindus (78.8% of the population), of Muslims (11.6%), of Sikhs (2%), of Buddhists (0.8%), of Jains (0.9%), of Parsees, a community of 115,000 adherents from all over the national territory, and by other groups.

After the aspersion with perfumed water, the Pope was offered typical gifts: sandalwood paste, sugar sweets. Then, while some bhajan cantors were singing the Vedic hymn (“asathoma sath gamaya”, Lord, lead us from falsehood to truth), John Paul II lit the typical oil lamp called “kuthuvilakku”. He was gifted with a green shawl with brocade decorations as a sign of special honour. A social worker from a leprosy centre offered him a panel depicting the symbols of the various religions of India. The same symbols were also printed on the walls of the Rajaji Hall, where the 2000 participants were gathered, and were also painted on the big banners held up by the children of the Catholic schools who gathered outside the building in their colourful uniforms. Under the Christian symbol of the cross, a phrase from the Gospel of John was inscribed: “Ut unum sint”.

John Paul II based his discourse on the primary importance of spiritual values.

“In a world filled with poverty, disease, ignorance and suffering, genuine spirituality can not only change the mind of man but also change the whole world for the better”. Paying homage to India for the priority it has always given to spiritual values, the Pope affirmed that the abolition of inhuman living conditions, a great challenge for the Indian sub-continent, is an authentic spiritual victory, “because it brings man freedom, dignity, and the possibility of spiritual life”.

“The world notes with great satisfaction that in the Preamble to her Constitution, India has assured to all her citizens liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. It therefore becomes a duty incumbent on all citizens, especially on leaders of religions, to support and guard this precious principle which specifically includes the right “to profess, practise and propagate religion”.

“In the context of religious pluralism, the spirit of tolerance, which has always been part of the Indian heritage, is not only desirable but imperative and must be implemented in a framework of practical means of support”. “Everyone is called upon to uphold this religious liberty and to work for peace and harmony among people of different religious traditions, among societies, and among nations”.

“Your overwhelming sense of the primacy of religion and of the greatness of the Supreme Being has been a powerful witness against a materialistic and atheistic view of life”.

“The Church’s approach to other religions is one of genuine respect; with them she seeks mutual collaboration. This respect is twofold: respect for man in his quest for answers to the deepest questions of his life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in man”.

“Because we believe in man – the Pope said – we love him and serve him and seek to alleviate his sufferings”.

The relationship between Christians and the exponents of Indian religions has been characterized during history by misunderstanding and even by conflict. The very hill upon which St. Thomas was killed by intolerant Brahmins is a cruel symbol of this. But today the Pope presented himself to the great India with the desire for dialogue and addressed the religious leaders with the urgency given him by a world that seeks in religion a help to be more united and no longer divided. “We should use the legitimate means of human friendliness, mutual understanding and interior persuasion. We should respect the personal and civic rights of the individual. As followers of different religions we should join together in promoting and defending common ideals in the spheres of religious liberty, human brotherhood, education, culture, social welfare and civic order”.

Urged by the need of “a global solidarity in the face of the enormous challenges facing mankind”, the Pope wished for dialogue and collaboration in the “great projects”, convinced that wisdom and strength deriving from religious commitment can humanize the journey of man through history.

“Dialogue which proceeds from the “internal drive of charity”  is a powerful means of collaboration among people for the sake of eradicating evil from human life and from the life of the community, in establishing right order in human society and thus contributing to the common good of all men in every walk of life”.

“Dialogue between members of different religions increases and deepens mutual respect and paves the way for relationships that are crucial in solving the problems of human suffering”.



Visit to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Thomas

In the afternoon John Paul II went to visit the Cathedral, a Minor Basilica in Gothic European style, dedicated to St. Thomas, where the tomb of the Apostle is preserved with great care and devotion. For the historic occasion the crypt of the Saint was decorated with 60,000 roses, spread over the steps and the balustrade and stuck on the walls.

An uninterrupted chain of pilgrims who have visited the tome through the centuries confirms this tradition. Among the visitors who stopped here were Marco Polo who visited in 1293 and St. Francis Xavier who remained here in prayer for many weeks. Excavations made through the centuries in the nearby area have confirmed that the bricks used for the construction date back to the first century after Christ.

The Pope went down the steps to the tomb and, on his knees, recollected himself in prayer. Then he greeted a group of handicapped people: children, youth, men and women, priests and religious women. The wooden “Via Crucis” hung on the walls found a reflection in their lives marked by suffering. At the foot of the main altar there was a picture of St. Maximilian Kolbe, in front of which the Holy Father knelt down.

When the Portuguese came in 1523 the tomb was guarded by the Muslim brethren and the place was commonly called “House of St. Thomas”. The Portuguese built there a church, which in 1606 became the Cathedral of the diocese of Meliapur. The present church in Gothic style was built in 1893 by Bishop Henrique José Reed da Silva. Only in 1952 did it become the Cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore.

In the Cathedral the Holy Father spoke briefly, recalling the martyrdom of St. Thomas and the witness of many others who dedicated their lives to the preaching of the Gospel.


Eucharistic celebration at the “Marina Beach”

At the Marina Beach, the long beach that crowns the city, a solemn Eucharistic con-celebration was held in open air under a blue sky, with the presence of more than one million people (Christians and non-Christians), with a spring breeze blowing from time to time from the Gulf of Bengal. The huge crowd, orderly and composed, waited for the Pope since the early hours of the morning.

The Bishops of the three Ecclesiastical provinces of Tamil Nadu con-celebrated the Mass with the Holy Father. These provinces include Madras-Mylapore, with the suffragan dioceses of Coimbatore, Ootacamund and Vellore; Madurai, the temple-city, (which keeps a monument dedicated to the deity Meenkehi, which in its splendor represented the style par excellence of the Dravidian temple), with its suffragan dioceses of Kottar, Palayamkottai, Tiruchirapalli and Tuticorin;  and Pondicherry, a city that was previously a  French colony, and where today an international community lives, dedicated to peace and love, with its suffragan dioceses of Kumbakonam, Salem and Tanjore. The solemn rite was celebrated in English and Tamil.

During the Eucharistic celebration dedicated to St. John de Brito, John Paul II made a strong appeal to the apostolic responsibility of the lay people. The Pope reminded the faithful that we are all called to serve and take part in the mission of the Church by giving witness to the gospel message. The following were the main points of his homily:

St. Thomas, St. Francis Xavier, St. John de Brito together with numerous men and women from various religious congregations, have made Jesus Christ known and loved in this land.

We too are called to become, like the Apostles, witnesses to the mystery of the saving love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

“The profound transformation that takes place in us through Baptism and Confirmation is the source and the foundation of every apostolate and in particular of the apostolate of the laity”.

“The principal duty of lay men and women – in the words of the Second Vatican Council – is to bear witness to Christ, and this they are obliged to do by their life and words in the home, in their social group, and in their own professional circle” (Ad Gentes, 21).

“As I wrote recently in commemoration of the Apostles of the Slavs, Saints Cyril and Methodius: “The Gospel does not lead to the impoverishment or extinction of those things which every individual, people and nation and every culture throughout history recognizes and brings into being as goodness, truth and beauty. On the contrary it strives to assimilate and to develop all these values: to live them with magnanimity and joy and to perfect them by the mysterious and ennobling light of Revelation” (Slavorum Apostoli, 18). The dialogue between faith and culture belongs in a special way to the laity, whose faith inspires their daily service to their fellow citizens and to their country”.

“The immense and tender love of Jesus Christ for the poor and the downtrodden, for sinners and the suffering, remains a challenge for every Christian. Christ’s unrelenting stand for truth is a compelling example. Above all, the generosity shown in his suffering and death, as the culmination of his service to humanity and the supreme act of Redemption, is the example for us”.

“Today we live at a time of history when peace and harmony between nations and races is constantly threatened. Division and hatred, fear and frustration – these are among the counter-values of our day. Hence, the Church’s task of proclaiming the Gospel and of being at the service of society is supremely relevant in India today”.

“Through the testimony of your lives, through your words and deeds, the word of God is made known to the minds and hearts of others who seek him, so that “they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10), that “they may obtain salvation”.

“Brothers and sisters, you are called to be living witnesses to Christ, living witnesses to God’s word, living witnesses to the saving message of love and mercy that Christ revealed to the world”.

At the offertory the Pope was presented with some gifts: a musical instrument called veena, the sandalwood miniature of the Cathedral with a Buddhist temple and a mosque, a wooden peacock, the sacred symbol of the Indian nation, a big gong which at the center had a picture of the church of Vailankanni, the Lourdes of Tamil Nadu, and a silver crucifix.


Departure from Madras towards Goa

At the end of the solemn rite, the Holy Father flew from the international airport of Madras towards Goa, the Indian and Mediterranean “Rome of the East”.

It is from Madras that begins the way for the south, towards the coast of the Arabian Sea that leads one to pay homage to St. Francis Xavier who, from this corner of the world, irradiated the message of Christ all over Asia.



Goa gave John Paul II a festive welcome, from the moment when, late this evening, the aircraft coming from Madras landed at the Dabolim airport, about 30 kilometers away from the city.

At the airport, Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Msgr. Raul Nicolau Gonsalves, and many other religious and civil authorities and personalities were waiting for him. Three different flower bouquets were presented to the Pope upon his arrival: one from each religious community present in the area. As for the size of the population, the Catholic community is the second, after the Hindu community which numbers 817,468 and the Muslims being 55,618. But John Paul II was welcomed as a messenger of unity.

Along the way a great crowd had assembled. Women and children with thousands of lamps, candles and torches; other thousands of colourful lights decorated trees and plants. “Wherever is Peter, there is the Church” a banner read. The bells of the 158 churches and chapels of the place, which in unison saluted the guest on his arrival, continued their ringing while he was passing through the villages. Big and small luminous crosses dotted the way in the spots where more people had gathered. Sounds of trumpets and fire-crackers completed the festive atmosphere pervading the whole coastland.

Goa, the centre from which the spread of the faith took place, is called “the Rome of the East”, not only because at the time of the Portuguese conquest in 1510, the European missionaries departed from here towards other Eastern Countries, but also because priests born on this land left from here to bring the Good News to every corner of the earth.

In 1534, the year in which Goa was made a diocese by the Holy See, it extended from the Cape of Good Hope to China. Erected as a Metropolitan See in 1557 with Cochin and Malacca as suffragan dioceses, in the next years other dioceses were added to it: Cranganos (India), Macao (China), Funay (Japan), Mylapore (India), the Prelature of Mozambique (Africa) and the Dioceses of Peking and Nanking (China). Since 1886 the Archbishop of Goa was Patriarch of the East Indies.

The two cities, separated by the ten kilometers stretch of the Mandovi river, bear the same name: Old Goa, founded in 1510 by the Portuguese Afonso de Alburquerque on the site of the city of Panaji, which he had taken from the Muslim king Tusuf Adil Shah, and New Goa, where the Portuguese transferred their capital in 1760 to escape the plague. Today Old Goa is almost an abandoned city, a destination of numerous pilgrimages and tourist trips. New Goa, instead, is the capital of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu and it includes the ancient Portuguese possessions annexed to India in 1961. Its territory covers 3,813 square kilometers; the population counts 1,100,000 inhabitants. Catholics are 385,000.

This small community has given to the missionary Church of India, of Pakistan, of Cabo Verde, of Panama, Ghana and Myanmar, two Cardinals, one Apostolic Nuncio, a Pro-Nuncio, seven Archbishops and 32 Bishops: all together 43 men of God, 23 of whom are still active in the lands entrusted to their pastoral care. St. Francis Xavier arrived in Goa in 1542 and made it the centre of his apostolate for all Asia.

Since 1978 the Diocese of Goa is guided by an Indian Bishop, Msgr. Raul Nicolau Gonsalves, who bears the title “ad honorem” of Patriarch of the East Indies, in memory of the time when the jurisdiction extended till China. The Catholics here distinguish themselves for the quality of their religious practice, expressed among other things in the 90% of people attending the Sunday Mass, but also for the impact of their presence in the society. They have 142 educational institutions of every kind and grade, where 88,000 youth are being formed; four hospitals, 28 dispensaries, 24 homes for the aged and 30 social works for the youth. The Church is appreciated here as the only organization capable to manage the five rehabilitation centres for the handicapped people at an acceptable international standard. Also the activity held in the counseling cells is very highly appreciated, which is also reflected, more generally, in the constant help offered to women belonging to the lower social classes to obtain self-sufficiency and come out from their state of original inferiority. The commitment of the Church in trying to solve the problem of youth unemployment has also had, in the course of time, a very strong impact on society.

Besides, at the locality called St. Monica, Goa, there is a very big Centre of formation for religious women of Asia and Africa, where Sisters are taught to use the most modern methods to face adequately the problems afflicting people of less privileged regions.




Sixth Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India


Eucharistic celebration at the “Campal Grounds”

The sixth day of the Apostolic Visit of John Paul II started this morning, at the Campal Grounds of Goa. On the vast sport grounds just in front of the bank of the Mandovi river, the Pope celebrated the Holy Mass with the theme: “The Lord’s appeal to unity”. Around two hundred thousand people attended the rite, Christians and non Christians.

A huge iron cross, ten meters tall, dominates on top of the altar. Beside it, two white pillars with liturgical symbols seem like two chandeliers. On the grass, that has become the presbytery, a big design of sunlight has been drawn with long green and yellow stripes.

The calm of the early morning was interrupted as soon as the Pope reached the “Campal Grounds”. The band and the choir, made up of people from all the parishes of Goa began the celebration with the entrance hymn. The liturgy was in Konkani and English. (Konkani is one of the six languages spoken in this UnionTerritory; others are Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, and Portuguese).

Among those present, sitting in the first row, was the Governor of Goa, Gopal Singh, a Sikh, together with the Catholic Mayor and several Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.

In his homily, John Paul II commented on the prayer of Christ for the unity of the Church related in the Gospel of John. “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, … so that the world may believe that you have sent me… that they may become perfectly one …”

He denounced first of all the disunity among Christians which constitutes a scandal to non-Christians, and an obstacle to dialogue. The unity of Christians, he added, is essential for the proclamation of the Gospel, because love cannot reveal itself except through the testimony of unity. Today, the Church feels a special responsibility in the human family – and this apostolic pilgrimage is a splendid demonstration of it: namely, to promote dialogue and understanding among all, to work for unity and peace in our divided world.

“The work of ecumenism demands our constant efforts and fervent prayers. It begins with the recognition of that primary unity which already exists because of Baptism”.

“Love cannot reveal itself or enter into hearts except through the testimony of unity”.

“In our union with Jesus and in the ecclesial communion of the Church, we find the strength and inspiration to overcome all barriers and divisions”.

Thinking about the divisions that are found in Goa, about those afflicting India, the Holy Father recalled more generally the divisions troubling the world of today: constrasts between East and West, imbalance between North and South, factions, rivalries arising from prejudice and ideologies, from historical stereotypes and ethnic barriers. None of these factors are worthy of our human dignity.

The Pope said: “We must be eager to work for the fullness of unity among the followers of Christ, here in India and throughout the world. We rejoice to see the ecumenical progress which has already been achieved: the overcoming of longstanding prejudices, false judgments and disparaging expression; the great growth in reciprocal understanding and fraternal respect; the significant progress in dialogue and in collaboration in the service of humanity, and the increasing opportunities for common prayer which respects the different traditions. Let us continue on the path to full unity, looking forward in hope to the day when we shall be truly one”. What is the task of the Church today, – the Pope asked himself – in a divided world, if not that of promoting harmony and peace? “In charity and truth the Church goes forth: in that charity which sees every person as a child of God, as a brother or sister of equal dignity, regardless of his or her social status, regardless of his or her race or religion; and in the truth which overcomes the slavery of falsehood and brings new freedom to mind and heart”.

At the offertory procession, various groups of people approached the Holy Father, offering a small boat, symbol of the life of these people who find in the sea their source of wealth and welfare; a basket of rice, tomatoes and mangoes. The municipal administration gifted him with an artistic silver key of the city, with an inscription written on a parchment signed by a Catholic, a Hindu and a Muslim.


Liturgy of the Word at the airport of the city

Today, 6th February, John Paul II celebrated the Liturgy of the Word on the esplanade adjacent to the airport of Mangalore, a port city on the sea of Oman. Mangalore was one of the first dioceses erected after the establishment of the hierarchy, a hundred years ago. Catholics are 12% of the population, and even here they are pioneers in social and educational works. The diocese has also an important vocational centre. For this occasion of the Pope’s visit, faithful from all the nearby dioceses had gathered on the esplanade of the airport, where the celebration was held: from the Dioceses of Karnataka (Karwar, Belgaum, Chikmagalur, Bellary, Bangalore and Mysore) and of North Kerala (Calicut, Tellicherry, Mananthavady) and also many Hindus, Muslims and Jains.

The theme of the celebration was: “The Church as service”. Addressing the non Christians the Pope said: “May we all be united in a sincere desire to serve the cause of peace and progress among all peoples without distinction or discrimination, since we share a common belief in God, our Creator and Father”. “The Church – he added – is dedicated to this work of reconciliation and service in the spirit of Jesus himself (…) During the past centuries and today, the Church carries on this work of the Son and servant of God in this region of India through the selfless service of innumerable men and women of faith and untiring love”.

“She feels, therefore, especially called to defend and promote everywhere the inalienable dignity of every man, woman and child, in every nation, and of every social condition”.

“The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth may also be contemplated as an inspiration for your loving service to your fellow citizens”.

It is necessary “for all religious traditions to join hands against the forces which militate against the human and spiritual dignity of human beings. (…) Religious communities must be the first to live in peace and harmony with each other, in mutual acceptance and co-operation”.

After having thanked the Lord “for the works of faith and love which are carried out in his name among you”, John Paul II addressed the Bishops present there: “May you find in your communion with the Bishop of Rome and the UniversalChurch great strength for all your pastoral service”.

Before the closing of the ceremony, the Pope greeted the numerous representatives of other Indian religious traditions: “Your presence is an eloquent token of your fellowship with your Christian neighbors and, I am sure, it means that you recognize the need for all religious traditions to join hands against the forces which militate against the human and spiritual dignity of human beings. Living in a pluralistic world filled with tensions and conflicts, religious communities must be the first to live in peace and harmony with each other, in mutual acceptance and co-operation”.

“Upon the distinguished representatives of public life, – the Pope added – I ask the Almighty God to bestow wisdom and courage so that you may be effective “promoters of order and peace among men” . May you always work for the ideals of freedom, justice and peace, harmonizing cultural, linguistic and religious diversities in the pursuit of social and economic progress, and of communal fellowship”.

“Let us pray together – the Holy Father concluded – for a world in which every individual will be treated as a child of the Living God! And let us all work together for a civilization of peace and love, in which all human beings will be inspired by the great ideal of serving God and their fellow men!”

At the end of his speech the Holy Father recalled the drought in the State of Karnataka and the victims of the tragedy of Bhopal in December 1984, and invited all to pray. The meeting was meaningfully concluded with the Pope releasing some doves in the air, to the applause of the crowd.



Meeting with the Clergy and the Religious at the Basilica of “Bom Jesus”

From Mangalore the Pope went back to Goa to meet the clergy of all India at the Basilica of “Bom Jesus”, where the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are kept. From this missionary outpost the Pope spoke not only to the 406 diocesan priests of Goa and to the 165 religious priests who work in the territory of the Archdiocese, but also to the 7327 diocesan priests and the 5185 religious priests who, in the name of Christ, work in the 112 Dioceses, 5159 parishes and 17228 mission stations of the Indian sub-continent. After being welcomed by the Rector of the Basilica, the Holy Father fell on his knees in front of the glass urn containing the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552). The tomb, a gift of the Grand duke Cosimo III of Florence, is situated in a chapel annexed to the shrine. It is a monument of Italian marble, with bronze embossed works depicting the life of the Patron Saint of missions, on the summit of which the urn is kept in a bronze and silver sarcophagus. The Pope, in his discourse to the clergy of all India, touched on the most significant stages of the earthly mission of St. Francis Xavier, the untiring Apostle of the Indian coasts, of the Molucca islands, of Japan and China.  The Pope recommended to the Indian priests and religious – today’s apostles of the Gospel –to walk following the example of this evangelizer, in order to radiate the light of Christ to all people in Asia and beyond.

In order to perform their mission of convincing the faithful that each one of them is called to sanctity, priests must have their heart filled with the love of Christ. This is the counsel that John Paul II gave to the priests of Goa and all India.

Here are the most significant points of the Pope’s speech:

“You are heralds of the Gospel and builders of unity in this great land of India”.

“I wish to express my admiration for the excellent work you are doing, often under difficult conditions”.

“The heart of our priestly vocation is the proclamation of the word of God”.

“As priests, we owe it to our people to be men totally imbued with the word of God”.

“It is as servants of the Word that I encourage you in your efforts to form and strengthen your Christian communities in sound doctrine, transmitting to them the full content of the faith”.

“It is through such carefully programmed Christian formation of the people entrusted to your care that you will succeed in forming a truly enlightened and zealous laity”.

“A priest serves the Church in an irreplaceable way when he faithfully fulfils the ministry of reconciliation as exercised especially in the Sacrament of Penance”.

“Only the ordained priest can forgive sins in the name of Jesus Christ”.

“The Church has entrusted the Sacraments to your care, and she asks you to administer them for the spiritual benefit of all God’s people”.

“For the priest’s love for the poor to be authentic it must spring from a deep experience of God. It begins with a lifestyle of simplicity and humble service to all, including those who are not poor, and it is meant to lead to the building up of a new world, a new human community where brother does not exploit brother but where hearts are united in peace”.

The Pope then wished them to be sages, following the example of the Indian gurus: “The gurus in India have been known as spiritual teachers playing a prominent role in the transmission and development of religious truths. The importance of a guru as mediator of divine truth is recognized in India. The necessity of having the saving truth come from one who is the manifestation of God is again well known in the Indian religious tradition. How much more zealously should priests fulfill their mission as spiritual guides to the people entrusted to their care, transmitting the Gospel truth to them more faithfully! How seriously are they called upon to be mediators between God and men in the saving world and the Sacraments! With what earnestness do not the people expect from our priests the life-giving nourishment that is to be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!”

John Paul II then exhorted the Indian clergy to continue “in your efforts to form and strengthen your Christian communities in sound doctrine”.

The Pope entrusted to the Indian clergy two pastoral concerns: the solidarity with the poor and the fraternal interest for the youth.



Seventh Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India


Transfer from Goa to Cochin and then to Trichur

Coming from Goa, the Holy Father reached the airport of Cochin, where he was welcomed by the Bishop of the city, Msgr. Joseph Kureethara, by the Bishop of Trichur, Msgr. Joseph Kundukulam and by other civil and religious personalities and authorities.

From Cochin, the “Queen of the Arabian sea”, the commercial and industrial centre of Kerala since the VI century B.C., the Holy Father reached Trichur by helicopter, a city which is considered to be the cultural capital of the State, a meeting point of various religions. There, he was to preside over a prayer meeting on the grounds of the place dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle, attended by Catholics from the seven dioceses of North Kerala: five belonging to the Syro-Malabar rite (Irinjalakuda, Mananthavady, Palghat, Tellicherry and Trichur), one of Latin rite (Calicut) and one of Syro-Malankara rite (Bathery).

The Pope arrived in a helicopter at the “Thorpe Stadium”, the sports ground of a college dedicated to St. Thomas. During the flight, he passed by two important churches: the Cathedral church of Trichur, dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, celebrating the centenary of its foundation, and a church built in neo-Gothic style in 1940, which is considered to be the biggest of all India.

A large crowd of hundred thousand people was gathering on the roads. Counting also those who gathered on the grounds, one could think that on the whole they were about 2 million people. Their welcome was enthusiastic, even pompous in certain aspects, though simple in the popular expressions. One cannot easily forget, for example, the sixteen elephants that, dressed up for the feast were lined up on the square while the guest was passing. And then the giant pictures of the Holy Father, the white and yellow paper chains, the flowers, the banners, the colorful umbrellas, the canopies, the numerous flags. But what was impossible to forget was the joy on every face, the luminous smiles, and the human warmth of this wonderful welcome ceremony.


Prayer meeting in the place of St. Thomas

At the opening of the prayer meeting, John Paul II lit a torch, brought from the Shrine of Cranganore, the place where St. Thomas first arrived. After him the Bishop of the Syro-Malabars, Msgr. Kundukulam, lit other seven lamps representing the seven dioceses of the region.

The common profession of faith in Malayalam language, recited in front of the Pope, represented a strong and intense moment with the Church “Caput et Mater omnium Ecclesiarum”, that is the Church of Rome. Before his speech, the Pope listened to and blessed the marriage vows of several bridal couples, and also blessed four foundation stones destined to the construction of new churches. He also blessed two memorial stones in memory of his pastoral visit, one of which will be placed at the Thorpe Stadium, the sports ground of the St. Thomas High School that from now on will be called “Pope John Stadium”. The Pope also crowned a statue of the Holy Virgin meant for the Cathedral of Trichur. Before the final blessing, John Paul II gave a symbolic key to one of the beneficiaries of the project for three thousand homes for the poor of the area, a diocesan initiative in collaboration with the Government.

“Family life in Kerala and in India has been and continually strives to be just such a community of love and solidarity, and I encourage you to defend and promote the institution of the family”. With these words the Pope addressed this morning the huge crowd of faithful who gathered at the place of St. Thomas. These are the salient points of his discourse:

“The healthy condition of family life is essential to the well-being of individuals and of society”.

“In a world of great inequalities, where patterns of thought and behavior change ever so slowly, it is imperative that all sectors of society feel duty-bound to hasten the achievement of that measure of social justice which consists in ensuring the basic necessities of life for every citizen”.

We hope that the “Charter of the Rights of the Family” published by the Holy See, may serve as a point of reference in a world-wide effort to uphold and strengthen the family as the fundamental cell of society and the primary environment for the personal and social development of individuals”.

To the youth: “Love your families and your country. Love the Church and share ever more fully in her life”.

The Pope invited the young people of Kerala and of India to see in the symbol of the torch the need “to offer light, brotherhood, hope and solidarity to your contemporaries and to all those who search for the truth”.

Unluckily, an accident disturbed the Pope’s visit to Trichur: a 50 year-old nurse died and other 20 people were injured (14 of them seriously) due to the collapse of a wall on which they were leaning, while waiting for John Paul II to pass by. The wall was one and a half meter high and gave way with the pressure of the crowd. The victim was crushed under the weight of the debris and of the people who had climbed the wall. At that moment the Pope was one and a half kilometers away. When he passed in front of the place of the tragic accident, the injured had already been transferred to the hospital.



Eucharistic celebration on the grounds of the “Hindustan Machine Tools Site” complex

Before noon, the Pope coming from Trichur entered Cochin, a city that was at the time a protagonist in the history of cultures that came: from the Hindu to the Muslim one, from the Portuguese to the Dutch, and from the Chinese to the Jewish one.

A town counting over 500,000 inhabitants, Cochin welcomed the Pope with incredible warmth. Words of welcome in the local language, Malayalam, and English were pronounced with an insisting rhythm. More than half million people crowded around the long decorated streets, under the scorching sun.

In the afternoon, on the vast grounds of the “Hindustan Machine Tools” complex, John Paul II presided over the Holy Mass for the faithful of the three ecclesiastical units of “Gran Cochin”. Cochin Catholics belong to three different dioceses: the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam, the Latin Archdiocese of Verapoly and the Latin diocese of Cochin. The Syro-Malabar diocese of Kothamangalam and the Latin one of Alleppey also belong to the same region. The Siro-Malabar rite, whose name is taken from the Indian region of Malabar, is the oriental-Assyrian rite or Chaldean, brought here by the missionaries coming from Mesopotamia, possibly in the 4th century.

Kerala is the most densely populated State of India. The people live by farming, which is sometimes severely affected by droughts like in 1982, and of the new possibilities opened by some industrial complexes. Several ethnic, social and religious diversities derive from a complex history. From the religious point of view, the Hindus are predominant (8 million), but Christians too are quite numerous (6 million, 4 of which are Catholics). There are also 3 million Muslims.

The Church has contributed a lot to the welfare of this area, and it is considered as the major institution, after the State government. Christianity reached this land with the preaching of St. Thomas in the year 52.

During the solemn liturgy, the entire Catholic community of Kerala was invited to reflect on the theme: “Reconciliation and unity: that all may be one”.

In such a varied and composite historic-cultural context, truly, there was no theme more fitting than this, which is well based on the past and present history of this region of India and projects it towards the immediate future.

From Kerala, the cradle of Christianity in India, John Paul II solemnly repeated the resolution of the Church to establish a profound dialogue and effective collaboration with the great non-Christian religions, in the context of an ample design of unity and reconciliation, for the benefit of all in our restless times.

The Pope declared the urgency of proclaiming the faith with “one voice”, because preserving or restoring unity is a sacred duty which does not exclude a legitimate variety. Christ’s prayer for unity – the Holy Father explained – is also a fervent appeal to reconciliation in all its forms: a transcendental reconciliation in the love and mercy of the Father; a social reconciliation against all forms of discrimination.

Here are the main points of the Holy Father’s homily:

“Church in Kerala with her tradition of service in the educational, medical, social, developmental and charitable fields gives a bright witness to the Gospel message”.

“The Church’s sacred duty is to preserve this unity, which is none other than the fullness of fidelity to her Lord. And she must strive to restore this unity where it has been weakened or tarnished”.

“This fundamental unity in no way excludes legitimate variety. You are living witnesses to the variety of liturgical and spiritual traditions and of ecclesiastical discipline which form pattern of the Church’s presence in Kerala”.

“The priestly prayer that exalts the goodness of unity becomes at the same time a fervent plea that everything opposed to unity will be overcome”.

“It is therefore a prayer for reconciliation. For reconciliation in many forms: within man himself; between individuals; between Christians themselves; between Christians and non-Christians; between nations and states, and between developed and less developed areas of the globe”, as Paul VI had already expressed in his encyclical “Ecclesiam suam”.

“Reconciliation is a profound experience of the human spirit. In its highest form it is the loving Father stretching out his welcoming arms to the wayward son tempted to try to build a world by himself, beyond the Father’s influence”.

“Reconciliation has a social dimension too. It overcomes class feelings, regional rivalries. It abolishes forms of unjust discrimination. Above all, it upholds the unique dignity of every human being and works for the respect of human rights wherever they are threatened”.

“As citizens of India, a vast country with many languages, customs and religions, you certainly realise the essential importance of a true spirit of reconciliation and communal peace. This is the spirit that you find in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi”.


Visits to the Latin Cathedral of Verapoly

and to the Syro-Malabar Cathedral of Ernakulam

At the residence of the Archbishop of Verapoly, the Pope met seven Christian Protestant leaders, the majority of whom are united in the “Church of South India”, as a fruit of a series of unifications that took place during the first half of the century.

This afternoon, Friday, 7th February, the Pope went to visit the Cathedral of the Latin Archdiocese of Verapoly, dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. The Archdiocese, that will celebrate this year in September the centenary of its foundation, has 272,000 Catholics. During his visit, John Paul II blessed the foundation stone of a monument that will celebrate his presence, and then greeted the Archbishop, Msgr. Kelantara and the Latin community.

Today the Pope also went to see the Cathedral of the Catholic Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam, dedicated to Our Lady. After the erection of the Archdiocese in 1923, it became the Metropolitan Cathedral with the title of Minor Basilica. The Holy Father addressed a brief greeting to the Catholics of the Archdiocese, mentioning in particular the Archbishop Msgr. Padiyara and Cardinal Parekattil.

The Holy Father said, among other things: “As Christians of Kerala, you trace your spiritual heritage to the preaching of this great Apostle. And just as Saint Thomas discovered that Jesus himself is the answer to the question, so you too, together with the whole Church, have come to believe that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life “. This revelation by God is the cause of our joy and the foundation of our faith. May we always praise God for the great privilege of knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour”.



Meeting with the Catholicos of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church

This evening, Friday 7th, the Pope paid a visit to the Catholicos of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Mar Baselios Paulose II, at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, in full communion with the Syro-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, counts 14 Bishops. In 1984 the Catholicos Mar Baselios Paulose II had come to visit the Vatican accompanying the Syro-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, S.S. Moran Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas. It was a very important visit, one of the most important of these years from the ecumenical point of view, because it ended with a common declaration that was meant to represent a milestone. It reaffirmed the profound spiritual communion among the members of the two Churches, it proclaimed that the differences born during the past centuries do not touch the substance of the faith, but are just differences in terminology and culture. They are difficulties “inherent in the formulas adopted by different theological schools to express the same subject” and “they do not have a real foundation”.

This Church is not in full communion with Rome yet, but it is undoubtedly very close. John Paul II reminded His Beatitude Mar Baselios Paulose II of the content of the declaration, wishing it to be ever more useful to dispel the last divergences. Defining the document as a decisive step towards unity, he then confirmed – and the Catholicos did the same – his own commitment to “hasten that blessed day when we will be able to celebrate the Eucharist together”.

The visit concluded with a moment of prayer of great intensity. The Pope, after a moment of prayerful silence, was led to seat on the throne reserved to the Patriarch of Antioch, while the choir was singing the “Tobaslomo”, a Syrian traditional hymn that is sung in honour of the Patriarch. The Orthodox Metropolitan and two representatives of the Patriarch, Mar Timotheos Metropolitan of the United Kingdom and Mar Theophilos George, Metropolitan of Lebanon, were then introduced to John Paul II. The Catholicos thanked the Pope for his visit, which will reinforce the intention of both Churches to walk together on the path of fraternal relations, Christian solidarity and common action. The meeting concluded with two meaningful gifts for the Holy Father: a chalice and a book in memory of the Patriarch’s visit to the Vatican.

As a sign of respect for diversity which is not an obstacle to unity, John Paul II spent the night here in Cochin, at the residence of the Archbishop of Ernakulam, of Syro-Malabar rite. He will spend the following night at the nearby residence of the Archbishop of Verapoly, of Latin rite.




Eight Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India


Beatification of Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and of Sr. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu        at the Nehru Stadium

In the morning the Pope sent a message of condolences to the family of the 51 year-old woman who died yesterday in Cochin, crushed by a wall that collapsed after it was hit by a truck, at the end of the celebration of the Mass, attended by half a million people.

Today, Saturday 8th, John Paul II presided over a solemn Eucharistic con-celebration at the Nehru Stadium of Kottayam, during which he proclaimed blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, a priest, founder of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, and Sr. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, of the Clarist Tertiaries of Malabar.

The Pope arrived by helicopter and landed on the grounds belonging to the MedicalCollege. A few thousand people had gathered there just to greet John Paul II for a moment, on his arrival. Another multitude of people had spread over the 7 kilometer stretch from the heliport to the stadium, lining up behind the wooden fence. It was a very enthusiastic welcome, as it is always in Kerala.

The Mass was celebrated according to the Syro-malabar rite, in English and Malayalam. The altar was situated over an imposing stage of cement, in oriental style, about 40 meters high, which will perhaps remain to dominate the ample grounds as a memory of this visit. Around the stage, one and a half million people had gathered. They were Catholics, but also numerous followers of other religions.

The altar for the Mass, lifted on the platform of the Nehru stadium in honour of Christ and of the two new ‘Blessed’ of this land and of this Syro-MalabarChurch, seemed to touch the sky. The workers took almost a month to build it: three platforms with 30 steps; then other five to reach the altar, covered by a roof with a cross on top, all this in Kerala style.

Placed on the platform to make it visible to the thirty thousand people inside the stadium as well as to the thousands and thousands of praying faithful who, barefoot, were following the meaningful rite from outside, the altar was a “monument” to the faith and piety of the Blessed Cyriac Elias Chavara, a Syro-Malabar priest, founder of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate and of Sr. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, of the Clarist Franciscan Tertiaries of Malabar. The first one, a tenacious and faithful pioneer connected with the mystical practice and the culture of the Oriental Fathers; the second, a simple woman who lived in poverty and pain, on the example of Brother Francis and Sisters Clare of Assisi.

For the first time on the Indian soil, John Paul II presided over the solemn celebration of beatification according to the Syro-Malabar rite; a meaningful and ancient Syro-Chaldean oriental rite, which developed in the Persian empire of the Sexanids and was brought to India by the missionaries from Mesopotamia, most probably during the IV century A.C. The language used in this rite before was Syriac, a Semitic language, which in the 4th century had become the idiom of the literate people and of the liturgical life of the Aramaic speaking Christians. Until 1962, the Syro-Malabar religious rites in India were always celebrated in Syriac. Later on, with the Vatican Council II, the texts were translated into Malayalam in order to enable the people to actively participate in the celebrations. The Pope celebrated this Mass of beatification mostly in English.

Besides the faithful coming from the eleven Syro-Malabar dioceses of Kerala Region, particularly numerous were the religious men and women belonging to the “families” of the two new ‘Blessed’ of the Church, who had come from all the different communities of India, and the postulators, Fr. Antonio Cairoli and Fr. Lucas Vithuvattikal, who came for this purpose from Rome.

Dressed in their liturgical vestments, Archbishops, Bishops, priests and religious, gathered round the Pope, who, after saying the opening prayers, proceeded with a slow pace to incense the altar decorated with flowers. Then, the rite of the beatification began: the petition, the reading of the two biographies, the formula of the beatification pronounced by the Holy Father and the thanksgiving prayer.

The pictures of the two new ‘Blessed’, placed on the left and on the right of the altar, were disclosed as soon as the Pope finished reciting the formula of the beatification. Applause and songs marked this ecclesial moment that was lived with great joy by the members of the Syro-Malabar community, faithful to its history, its liturgical piety and its spirituality.

The words of the gospel of Mathew resounded in the stadium, that had become an open air temple: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to the little ones (…) Come to me, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. Simple but sublime things – the Pope said in his homily – have been revealed to these two simple ones of the Kingdom, who, through the offering of their own lives to Christ and the Church, have worked heroically for the coming of God into the hearts of these people. About the new Blessed Fr. Kuriakose, the Pope recalled “with love and gratitude all his efforts to resist threats of disunity and to encourage the clergy and faithful to maintain unity with the See of Peter and the universal Church. His success in this, as in all his many undertakings, was undoubtedly due to the intense charity and prayer which characterized his daily life, his close communion with Christ and his love for the Church as the visible Body of Christ on earth”.

About the new Blessed Sr. Alphonsa, instead, he recalled “the way of the Cross, the way of sickness and suffering” as a path to sanctity. Starting from the occasion of this solemn beatification, John Paul II reminded the religious priests and sisters of all India of the beauty and greatness of their religious vocation, of the urgency of a public testimony of the Gospel, and of the originality and richness of the apostolic and contemplative life.

“In a rich variety of forms, you live to the full your evangelical consecration. Some of you have heard the Lord’s personal call to the contemplative life where, though hidden from the world, you offer your lives and prayers for the sake of all humanity. Others have been called to an active apostolic life, where you serve in teaching, health care, parish ministry, retreats, works of charity and many forms of pastoral activity. No matter how you serve, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, never doubt the value of your consecrated life. Whether your service resembles the great apostolic endeavours of Father Kuriakose, or takes the form of hidden suffering like Sister Alphonsa, whatever it may be, it is important in the life of the Church”.

After the homily, other prayers followed, the incense, the offering and the veneration of the altar; then the anaphora already used by the blessed Apostles Mar Adai and Mar Mari, Doctors of the Christian East; the fraction of the bread and the marking of the chalice with the bread dipped in wine; communion and final blessing. It was very rich rite in all its parts and filled with profound spirituality, and was followed by the crowd in absolute prayerful silence.

The solemn celebration was attended by some members of other Christian confessions, by Hindu and Muslim brothers whom the Pope greeted with “respect and esteem” and by the civil authorities of the KeralaState.

The Pope said: “Truly extraordinary is this day in the history of the Church and Christianity on Indian soil. It is important, too, in the history of the pastoral ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Saint Peter. It is the first time that he has had the joy of raising to the glory of the altars a son and a daughter of the Church in India, in their native land”.


Meeting with the Catholicos of the Malankara Syro-Orthodox Church

From the Nehru Stadium the Pope arrived at the Chapel of Mar Elias where he met the Catholicos of the Malankara Syro-Orthodox Church, His Holiness Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews I. Having detached itself from the Patriarchate of Antioch and declared itself “autocephalous”, the Malankara Syro-Orthodox Church counts today 19 Bishops. The Catholicos had already visited John Paul II in the Vatican from 2nd to 6th June, 1985.

Today John Paul II returned his visit at Kottayam, in the chapel of Mar Elias. “The visit that Your Holiness paid to me three years ago – he said among other things – marked an important stage on our journey towards greater unity with one another and with Christ. (…) We cannot tarry; our separations – like all separations among those who believe in Christ – are an obstacle to the spreading of the Gospel and to the fulfillment of our calling”.


Visit to the Syro-Malabar Cathedral and

to the Latin parish church of the Good Shepherd

In the afternoon John Paul II went to visit the Cathedral of the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Kottayam, dedicated to Christ the King. On this occasion, the Pope blessed a memorial stone and gave a cordial greeting to the Bishop, Msgr. Kunnacherry and to the community.

Subsequently, the Pope visited the parish church of the Good Shepherd, belonging to the Latin diocese of Vijayapuram, situated in the city of Kottayam. After halting for adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, he addressed a short greeting to the people present and special words to the Bishop Msgr. Elanjikal.



Visit to the Cathedral Church of the Latins

In the early afternoon the Pope moved further south by plane, to Trivandrum, the political capital city of Kerala.

A moment of prayer and Eucharistic adoration characterized John Paul II’s visit to the Cathedral Church of St. Joseph, belonging to the Latin Diocese of Trivandrum. The present diocese, established in 1937, counts 380,000 Catholics. The Pope addressed a greeting to them, with particular mention of the Bishop Msgr. Acharuparambil.


Visit to the Syro-Malankara Metropolitan Cathedral

Subsequently, the Holy Father reached the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Mary, of the Syro-Malankara Archdiocese of Trivandrum, the only Metropolitan See of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church with 210,000 Catholics. Archbishop Mar Ivanios who, in 1930, led together with others, the process of re-establishing the full communion with the Church of Rome, is buried in the Cathedral. After halting for a few minutes for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, John Paul II greeted the people present, remembering in a particular way the Bishop Msgr. Thangalathil.


Prayer meeting with the faithful at the airport

On the esplanade adjacent to the airport of Trivandrum, in the afternoon, John Paul II led a prayer meeting during which he underlined that the Church has a particular role at the service of the poor and the suffering.

The Pope’s discourse to this city was of a very strong social character. His words fell on the background of an agitation that, more than one year ago, shook the government of Kerala and involved priests, religious sisters and Bishops. In fact, over 1 million fishermen live on the 580 kilometers of Kerala coastal area. It is the poorest community, the less educated and the most marginalized. The government takes little care of these fishermen who constitute the 3.2 % of the State population, counting in total 25.5 million inhabitants.

About 12 years ago, a group of priests and nuns started studying their problems and discovered a new one: the threats posed by the motor boat owners. These people, the latest to arrive in the fish trade of the region, would comb the sea with dragnets, while traditional fishermen would use catamarans with nets and hooks. The motor boat owners, who got quickly rich at the expense of the others, have been destroying the wealth of this sea with an unscrupulous method of fishing.

John Paul II addressed his first words to the Syro-MalankaraChurch that possesses “a very ancient liturgical tradition which had its origin in Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians”. For more than sixteen centuries your community remained in unbroken communion with the See of Peter. Then there was a series of difficulties which interrupted that communion. (…) I am very pleased to know that the latest period of your Church’s history has been a time of growth and vigorous Christian life”.

“Today – the Pope added – I wish to encourage you in your faith, in your fidelity to your ancient traditions, in your sincere efforts to promote fraternal relations with your brothers and sisters of the Jacobite and OrthodoxChurches and other Ecclesial Communions. May your constant aspiration be that the time will soon come when the prayer of our Lord for perfect unity among all his disciples will be realized”.

John Paul II then underlined that the Church is called to serve the human family and he reminded that some expressions of the Second Vatican Council represent for us a constant challenge: “The Church encompasses with love all those who are afflicted with human weakness… She recognizes in the poor and the suffering the likeness of her poor and suffering Founder. She does all she can to relieve their need and in them she strives to serve Christ”.

The Church excludes no one from her compassion and loving service. Moreover, the Pope added that “the Church is the home of the poor and the rich alike. However, each community in the Church is required to make a special effort so that the poor feel fully at home in her. For this reason the Church herself, in humility and self-sacrifice, must be willing to walk the paths of the dispossessed and those who seek out justice. In this way she walks in the footsteps of her Lord, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant”.

“Twenty years ago the Second Vatican Council clearly recognized that “we are at a moment in history when the development of economic life could diminish social inequalities if that development were guided and coordinated in a reasonable and human way”. But at the same time the Council foresaw – and rightly – that material development too often serves only to intensify such inequalities. What is needed for greater social justice is this: that economic development and the technical instruments it produces should be placed at the service of man: at the service of the whole man, and of every man – every man, woman and child – without intolerable forms of discrimination”.

“Furthermore, economic and social progress must be directed to the integral well-being of the human person. This means that people must not be considered as mere instruments of production. They must be treated in accordance with their human dignity and in accordance with their needs, which are not only material but also cultural and spiritual”.



Meeting with non-Christian representatives at the Archbishop’s House of Verapoly

The Pope met 15 representatives of non-Christian religions at the Archbishop’s House of Verapoly, renewing once more his fervent appeal which sounds like a constant note of this 29th international pilgrimage: dialogue and collaboration in the name of mankind.

The meeting was a very cordial one. John Paul II manifested his appreciation for the spiritual and cultural values of India and underlined the common goal of churches, which is to bring people close to God.

He then repeated his invitation to unite the efforts towards peace ad justice and invited the religious leaders to inform their faithful about the fact that the Pope prays for the welfare of all of them.



Ninth Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India



Arrival at Bombay and transfer to Vasai

Capital city of the State of Maharashtra, Bombay is the economic center of the country (it offers, in fact, 20% of the employment to the entire Indian industry) and it is the most cosmopolitan and most representative compared to the other main cities of the nation (Delhi, Calcutta, Madras).

More than 2 million people, men, women and children, live in the slums, in extremely precarious living conditions, with one bathroom for 50 people and one water tap for 25 “houses”. They say it is the largest slum of Asia. But there are those who live even worse: the hundred thousand people called “pavement dwellers”, who do not have even a house and drag their painful existence, just like in Calcutta, on the pavements of the metropolis. But there is also another Bombay, the one of Nariman Point, the centre of business with its skyscrapers housing big insurance companies, banks and multinationals.

After landing at the Bombay-Santa Cruz airport, the Holy Father took immediately an helicopter to reach the heliport of St. Augustine High School of Vasai, the ancient Bassein today incorporated into the “great Bombay” where he had a prayer meeting based on the theme: “The Lord’s appeal to our Christians”.


Prayer Meeting at St. Augustine High School, Vasai

The visit to the Archdiocese of Bombay, the last city touched during this journey, started this morning with a prayer meeting in a Catholic school on the island called Vasai. The locality, presently integrated into the “great Bombay”, saw the birth of the Catholic community when the Portuguese, in 1535, built there a fortress and the Franciscan, Jesuit Dominican and Augustinian missionaries began spreading the Gospel. Vasai is dear to the heart of Bombay Catholics also because St. Gonsalo Garcia was born there, the first Indian saint and patron of the Archdiocese. A UniversityCollege will be dedicated to this eminent figure of the Church history in Asia, the foundation stone of which was blessed by John Paul II on this occasion.

The Pope reached the grounds on the river banks, where around 150 thousand people were waiting for him. On board a jeep decorated with flowers, sheltered from the scorching sun by a red umbrella embroidered in gold, and greeted by the music and songs of the local folks, the Holy Father reached the stage that was dominated, on the background, by a huge wooden crucifix. Among the stones ready to be blessed, the largest was the one meant for the College. Also a miniature of it was exposed, reproducing the massive complex of the campus, with a church in pyramidal shape at the centre and around it the mighty buildings meant to host the prestigious cultural and formative institution.

Five young girls dressed in different colors, symbolizing the various ethnic and religious communities of the region, presented John Paul II with the usual homage called aarthi, which consists in the triple rotation of the plates containing flower petals, incense and a candle, and a profound bow. Typical dances of the tribals, the fishermen and other communities followed, accompanied by the sound of panpipes and other kinds of instruments. Archbishop Pimenta, welcoming the Holy Father to the Diocese, introduced the local community, recalling the hospitality this land had given to the first announcers of the Gospel and the luminous figure of St. Gonsalo. “I had already heard about the good people of Vasai – the Pope replied – and here I am among you in person. It is a day I will never forget”.

The short prayer meeting was thus started, in English and Marathi, the local language, and accompanied by traditional songs.

The reason for this apostolic stop can be given by the history and geography of the Christian faith in India. The Pope remembered it in these words: “We are gathered in this part of the present Archdiocese of Bombay where the Christian faith was first proclaimed and Christian communities were first established. (…) It was in Vasai that missionaries arrived in the first half of the sixteenth century, to proclaim the Gospel message of peace and reconciliation in Christ”.

“It is a good thing to return to the past and to think about the priceless gift of God’s call to the people of this region. – the Pope said – Your ancestors welcomed the Good News of Jesus Christ. (…) Their perseverance is the reason why the faith was transmitted from generation to generation, until it was handed on to you and is seen today in the flourishing life of the parishes of Vasai”.

These are the main points of his discourse:

“If we look around and ask how the “goodness” of God is made known today in Vasai, we are immediately struck by the vitality of your family and parish life”.

“I wish to encourage you to strengthen your family life and love. Dear families of Vasai: listen to my appeal. The Pope asks you to continue to pray together. Pray together as a family, for your family and for other families”.

“The stability, happiness and security of your families greatly depend on your prayerful relationship with God”.

“God’s goodness and love is shown too by the pastoral and catechetical life of your parishes, in your regular reception of the laws of the Church, in your devotion to the Saints and especially to Mary”.

“Who will be surprised, then, that from such a dynamic family and parish life has flowed a steady stream of vocations to the priestly and religious life?”

“The Church thanks you for this, and prays that you will continue to co-operate with the Lord of the harvest so that his Church may always have suitable heralds of the Gospel”.

“I also wish to address a particular word of encouragement to the laity. It is their special task to make God’s goodness known in the world for the common good and to help to build society on the principles of justice and truth, freedom and love”.

“I am also aware of the many co-operative endeavours undertaken especially by the laity in Vasai, which have as their objective the welfare of the people and the apostolate of the Church”.

“May your faith and hope in Jesus Christ inspire you to deeds of love that will build up the Church in your midst and contribute to the peace and unity of the wider community of which you are a part”.

The Pope also blessed the foundation stone of the UniversityCollege dedicated to St. Gonsalo Garcia (1557-1597), the young Franciscan native of Vasai, who was martyred together with his confreres in Japan, thus giving the highest example of love, as he remembered in his speech. A silver plate with the image of St. Gonsalo, the first Indian saint, and with the Fort of Vasai, was gifted to the Holy Father in memory of his visit. Besides the dances, the youth from St, AugustineHigh School performed to hymns composed for the occasion: “Welcome Song to Pope John Paul II” and “The Song of Maharashtra”.

Visit to the Marian Shrine of “Mount Mary”



From Vasai the Holy Father entered Bombay, among a festive people who greeted him along the way and had decorated the streets, of about ten kilometers, in sign of joy, affection and gratitude. The first destination was the Basilica of Mount Mary, one of the most known Marian shrines of India, a pilgrim center for Christians and non-Christians. Just like Paul VI, who came to this shrine as a pilgrim on 5th December 1964 on the occasion of his visit to Bombay for the 38th International Eucharistic Congress, John Paul II performed this gesture of Marian devotion, which characterizes his pilgrim journey around the world. 280 people were present in the Basilica: the sick, the elderly priests form the nearby clergy home and the Poor Sisters of Our Lady who care for them. Welcomed with the song “God bless our Pope”, the Holy Father stopped to greet those present, having words of comfort and blessings for each one of them.

Before reciting the Angelus, he recalled that the history of the Church in India is also marked by the devotion to Our Lady.

“It gives me particularly great joy to come to this Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, as my predecessor Pope Paul VI did before me. This shrine is hallowed by the feet of pilgrims who make their way here in thousands to pay homage to the Blessed Mother of God. Even before coming, I had heard so much about the devotion to Our Lady that is characteristic of the people of India. The Basilica here in Bandra is a symbol of this. In addition, there are other famous Marian shrines such as Our Lady of Graces in Sardhana, Our Lady of Lourdes in Vijayawada and Our Lady of Health in Vailankanni. When the history of the Church in India is written, this Marian aspect of your spiritual lives will occupy a place of honour and renown”.


Visit to the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus

After his visit to the shrine of Our Lady of the Mount, the Holy Father halted in prayer at the Cathedral, dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, which was consecrated on 28th November 1964, during the 38th International Eucharistic Congress and was visited by Paul VI on 4th December 1964.

Cardinal Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay from 1950 to 1978 and the first diocesan priest who was Rector of the Cathedral, is buried inside the church.

In his short address the Holy Father said: “The title of your Cathedral expresses your reverence and love for the name of the Lord Jesus, “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). Saint John tells us that his whole purpose in writing his Gospel was “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:31). And Saint Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4;12). In the name of Jesus is found grace and salvation, peace and consolation, joy and hope for all the world”.

After this, the Holy Father moved to the Archbishop’s House.



Meeting with the Primate of the Anglican Church

In the afternoon, the Holy Father privately met wit the Primate of the Anglican Church, Robert Runcie, the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, who was also visiting the Anglican Communities in North and South India.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, on the occasion of his three week visit to India requested to meet the Pope. The private meeting between the Pope and Runcie was held at the Residence of the Catholic Archbishop which lasted for about half an hour. Being a courtesy visit, no statement was issued on the matters discussed in the meeting. This is the third time in five years that the two eminent personalities met after that encounter at Acra in Ghana on May 1980 (during the course of the first trip of the Pope to Africa) and two years after that in Canterbury.


Eucharistic celebration at Shivaji Park

Then followed the great embrace with the faithful of the Archdiocese at “ShivajiPark”: a vast ground named after a hero of MaharashtraState, who in the 17th century faced the Moghul emperors who were trying to extend their dominion southwards.

“An appeal to the Christian family for building a new world of peace” was the theme of the solemn and lively celebration that constituted the central moment of an unforgettable day for all the inhabitants of this cosmopolitan city. Upon his alighting from the car, some representatives of the families offered the Holy Father a flower garland.

A great cry for peace will rise from the families of India. The Church never ceases to proclaim the truth that peace in the world has its roots in the human heart. Peace can only be the fruit of a spiritual change, beginning in the heart of every human being and spreading throughout communities. The first of these communities is the family. It is the family that is the first community to be called to peace, and the first community to call for peace. This was the theme of the homily.

John Paul II became the interpreter of the desire of all Indian families, affirming that families need a social atmosphere of peace and fellowship which protects their rights. “Our modern world – he exclaimed – is all too familiar with the lack of brotherhood and with violence, tension, discrimination and injustice. (…) The world longs for harmony and peace. And therefore the Church of the twentieth century insistently calls for justice and integral human development”. The Pope then described a sentiment shared by many hearts in India when he reaffirmed the priority of the spirit in the journey of humanity. “The human race is more numerous than ever before and is achieving scientific and technical progress never before known. Hence, ethical progress, spiritual progress, fully human progress is all the more necessary”.

In such a social and demographical context, John Paul II dealt with the problem of family planning and birth control, reiterating the Second Vatican Council teaching about responsible parenthood.

“For the Second Vatican Council, responsible parenthood means that parents should “take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which may be foreseen. For this accounting they will reckon with both the material and spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life, maintaining regard finally for the good of the family community, of temporal society and of the Church herself” (Gaudium et Spes, 50). The Council goes on to say that “when there is a question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspect of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives. It must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love” (ibid., 51).

In his speech based on the family, John Paul II did not confront particularly the problem of natural and artificial methods of birth control, but he meaningfully quoted some statements of Mahatma Gandhi, who had been very strict on this topic. He asserted that “the act of generation should be controlled for the ordered growth of the world”. About the method he stated: “Not by immoral and artificial checks… but by a life of discipline and self-control”. And he added: “Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints”. The Pope’s comment on this thought was lapidary: “This, dear brothers and sisters, is the Church’s profound conviction”.

“Furthermore, it is the role of the family everywhere and of all society to proclaim that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception. It is the task of all mankind to reject whatever wounds, weakens or destroys human life – whatever offends the dignity of any human being”.

At the end of the Mass celebrated at ShivajiPark, the Pope pronounced the Act of Entrustment of India to Mary. “I place before you the great work of spiritual renewal of this Church, her efforts to proclaim the Gospel of merciful love, her ecumenical initiatives, her desire to be a reconciling force within society. (…) In imitation of Jesus who entrusted the beloved disciple John to your care, I entrust to you all the people dwelling in this great land. Be near them with your motherly protection. Open your arms to embrace all those who look to you and ask you to present their prayers to God.

O Mary, Virgin Most Pure, I entrust to your love and care all the youth of India, the children whose innocence expresses the goodness of their Creator and whose littleness reveals the greatness of their Maker. (…)

Loving Mother of our Saviour, I entrust to you all families, especially husbands and wives seeking to model their home on your home in Nazareth. Intercede for parents and their children, that their love may be strong and faithful like the love that fills your own Immaculate Heart.

Mary Most Holy, we entrust to you the family which is the Church in India, with its clergy and religious, its different rites and liturgical traditions, its two millennia of experience and its ever vigorous youth.

Mary, Queen of Peace, your children long for peace. They hunger and thirst for justice. They desire to live in harmony despite all the violence and divisions which exist in the world. Obtain for us the favour to live in perfect union with Jesus and with our brothers and sisters”.

At the end of the open air Mass, while the crowd was greeting the pilgrim of peace and love with songs and dances, John Paul II reached the Diocesan Seminary of Goregaon, dedicated to St. Pius X. This year the Seminary celebrates its 50th anniversary. 90% of the clergy of the Archdiocese had been formed to the mission in this institution.




Tenth Day of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India


Eucharistic celebration at the ‘campus’ of the “Jnana Deep” Pontifical Athenaeum

This morning the Pope set off towards the South-West of the MaharashtraState to reach, on this last day of his apostolic pilgrimage in the Indian sub-continent, the laboratory-city of Pune, commonly considered the spiritual capital of the State thanks to its ancient University. It was the capital city of the Maratha Empire of the Peshwa dynasty in the 18th century and later, one of the centres of Indian nationalism against the British.

The evangelization of this territory started around 1790. The Apostolic Vicariate was erected in 1854. In 1886, with the establishment of the hierarchy on Indian land, it became a Diocese. Today, this ecclesiastical unit extends to a territory of 128,309 square kilometers, with a population of 25,312,000 inhabitants. Catholics are 144,810 (0.57% of the total population). Seven are the languages spoken in this area: Marathi, Konkani, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam and English.

The Pope went to Pune to meet the professors and the seminarians attending the Pontifical Athenaeum, run by the Jesuits. Inaugurated on 27th July 1926, the “Institute of Philosophy and Religion” has today 72 philosophy students and 86 theology students. 14 were the priests ordained during this year. Fr. De Menezes is the Rector of the Athenaeum.

At the campus of the Pontifical Athenaeum, John Paul II presided over his last Mass on Indian land, attended by the faithful from the 59 parishes of the Diocese and by numerous young seminarians, religious men and women, and novices from various institutes, who, for many years have been working in their various social and formation centers opened in the diocese.

To this active and committed diocesan community, John Paul II reaffirmed his predilection for the Christian family and for vocations, a theme that is very dear to him and constitutes one of the constant preoccupations of his itinerant apostolic ministry.

The “disciples” of Christ, in their white cassocks, were standing at the feet of the altar, built on the grounds of the Athenaeum.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you”, “I am the vine, you are the branches”. The words form the Gospel of John resounded more than once in the Pope’s homily, who came to this city, the hope for the future and the centre of vocations for all India. During the years of their formation – the Pope said to the young seminarians – young people must profoundly assimilate “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. The mystery must be first assimilated, before it can be proclaimed.

“As future priests in the world you are called to be spiritual leaders with a specific identity: men of the Church, men dedicated to prayer and to the word of God, men who wish to share humbly and generously in Christ’s role of mediation. (…) It is therefore urgently necessary for you to be convinced of the precious value of your vocation from God. This is especially true because in this country there has always been an abiding interest in spiritual things. This interest applies likewise to the religious vocation”, which is “both a sign of love and an invitation to love”.

“Ours is a world that abounds in experts and leaders in countless areas of human existence. The Church’s ministers are not called to play leadership roles in the secular spheres of society. India has many competent lay men and women to attend to these matters. You may be tempted to emulate the secular leadership because of its growing attractiveness in society today. You may at times feel irrelevant because your call is specifically spiritual. It is therefore urgently necessary for you to be convinced of the precious value of your vocation from God”.

“The Lord’s call always demands a choice, a decision in full awareness of one’s freedom. The decision to say “yes” to Christ’s call carries with it a number of important consequences: the need to give up other plans, a willingness to leave behind people who are dear, a readiness to set out with deep trust along the path that will lead to ever closer union with Christ”.

“The individual who is called and Christ who calls must be more closely united. And this necessarily involves discipline and sacrifice: the discipline of study and prayer in particular, and the sacrifices which free our heart to embrace God’s word eagerly and to give ourselves in service to others. This too is in accordance with Christ’s words: “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (Jn 15:7). So never doubt the Lord’s love when you have to face hardships and suffering, for the Lord “prunes” those whom he loves, so that they may bear more fruit”.

“A condition for union with Christ is the total acceptance of his word, which in fact is communicated to us through the Sacred Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church. The Church herself guards and presents this word of God in all its purity, integrity and power. By the action of the Holy Spirit, and through the charism of her Magisterium, she transmits the Gospel intact to each generation. A loving adherence to the authentic Magisterium guarantees the real possession of God’s word, without which there can be no life-giving union with Christ. Fidelity to the Magisterium is also an indispensable condition for the proper interpretation of the “signs of the times””.

“Saint Paul tells us about his own vocation from the Lord: “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). “To preach the unsearchable riches of Christ” – this was Saint Paul’s vocation; it is a principal duty of the Church; it is a principal task of every priest. Religious and seminary formation and training must always be based on this. During the years of their preparation, young people must profoundly assimilate “the unsearchable riches of Christ”, in order to be able to make those riches accessible to others. You must assimilate them so that you can proclaim them with conviction in years to come. Your responsibility is to communicate Christ. But you will be able to do this only if you have first experienced his love”.

But – the Holy Father added – the Christian family is the fist place where vocations to priesthood and consecrated life develop. The family is a “replica” of the Church.

“The Christian family is the first place where vocations develop. It is a seminary or novitiate in germ. This means that you, the parents, must deepen and cultivate your own Christian life continuously. Let us get rid of the false notion that Christianity is practised entirely in Church. What happens in the liturgy must be carried over into daily life. It must be lived in the home. Then the home will become the place where life in Christ grows to maturity. Such a home is a real expression of the Church. Bear in mind that vocations in the Church are fostered in families where priests and religious are respected and loved, where there is a real interest in the life of the local Church and the universal Church”.

The Christian family and vocations were also the topic of the universal prayer of the faithful. Two by two, parents and young seminarians approached the lectern to proclaim the intentions, in English and in a loud voice. They prayed for the stability and the testimony of the Christian family, for the growth of vocations and for the fidelity to Christ of the ministers of the Church. Meaningful were the gifts brought to the altar, fruits of the earth and of human labor. Among others, there were also some publications by the professors of the Pontifical Athenaeum.

In the early afternoon, the Pope boarded again the presidential aircraft to return to Bombay, where he continued the dialogue with all the religious of India.



Meeting with the religious men and women at the Seminary of Goregaon

Today, Monday 10th February, John Paul II met the Religious in a hall of the Seminary of Goregaon. 5,185 religious priests, 2,516 religious brothers and 52,930 religious sisters offer their pastoral service in India. In the Archdiocese of Bombay there are 262 religious priests, 109 brothers and 1,426 sisters.

To the religious gathered at the St. Pius X Seminary, where 90% of the priests of the Archdiocese of Bombay have studied, John Paul II indicated the vast range that is opened to their witness, underlining first of all the role of the contemplatives, and then the role of those engaged in active apostolate, education, health care, parish activities, social apostolate, mass media and other specialized pastoral activities, respectively. “India wishes to see the truth of your message in the integrity of your consecration, in the simplicity and humility of your poverty, in the joy and total self-gift of your chastity, in the sacrifice and self-emptying experience of your obedience (…) Through the faithful observance of your vows in humble service to others, especially the poor, you penetrate to the very heart of Indian life, so steeped in religious values. There, in the spiritual heart of your people, you help to promote the Kingdom of God”.

“Your religious consecration is a special gift of God to the Church. It is impossible to think of Christian religious life outside of the context of the Church, the Body of Christ, the community of salvation “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). The Church, as the “sign and instrument of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind” (Lumen Gentium, 1) is your true home. Indeed, religious life is a powerful manifestation of the Church’s interior holiness and vitality”.

“Furthermore, the Council enjoined on all Christians to become aware of their belonging to a pilgrimChurch. More than anyone else it is the vocation of religious to uphold this pilgrim dimension of Christian life. You are living witnesses of the fact that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb 13:14)”.

“May your enthusiastic love for the Church be a uniting force which will perfect her image before the eyes of the world”.

“Mary’s discipleship shines forth as the foremost example of how your religious consecration is to be lived in faith and love. And may the prayers of the newly beatified Blessed Alphonsa and Blessed Kuriakose, both outstanding examples of religious consecration and love of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his Church, sustain you and fill you with joy, today and always!”


Meeting with the youth at Shivaji Park

Today, Monday 10th February, the meeting with thousands and thousands of youth at ShivajiPark, Bombay, was the last intense moment of John Paul II’s apostolic visit to India. Here the Holy Father delivered a discourse in which he affirmed that the Church offers a fundamental help to understand life, exhorting the youth to apply the Christian message to the social reality of India.

“In you who believe in him, Jesus himself has become Indian” – the Pope said. “To belong to Christ and to keep his commandment of love means that we are called to serve our neighbour, to make our contribution to society, and to work for the good of our country and the whole world”. The youth are called to transform the world, here in India as well, by forgiveness and reconciliation, by solidarity, by promoting peace and working for justice, by contributing to the advancement of people, by remaining faithful to the national heritage and to the Church, by rejecting all discrimination based on race, religion, sex, social condition or language.

The Pope’s appeal was not directed only to Christian young people. To all, John Paul II indicated the way of “working together in fraternal love for integral human development in India today, showing special concern for the poor and the downtrodden”. And, in order to further confirm the unrestricted meaning of his exhortation, the Pope added an invitation to listen carefully to the teachings of the Indian sages: understanding and patience, non-violence, endurance of suffering. “But truth is power – he concluded –  and when combined with love it is a power that can totally transform the world”.

Ending his address to the youth, the Holy Father pronounced his farewell greeting to India:

“Dear people of all India: your warmth and hospitality will remain in my heart for all the days to come. I am deeply grateful to you all.

I renew the expression of my special appreciation to His Excellency the President of India and to the Prime Minister and Government. To all the religious and civic leaders who have done so much to make this pilgrimage to India possible and to all who have worked so hard for its success. I say, from the depths of my heart, “thank you”. Upon all the people of India I invoke God’s blessings of peace and justice, of love and truth.

Jai Hind!”



Departure from Bombay to Rome

In the evening, on board of an Air India Boeing 707, the Holy Father together with his retinue departed from the Santa Cruzairport of Bombay to Rome.

John Paul II, as it is usual, met with the journalists of various nationalities who for 11 days had followed him in his apostolic pilgrimage during the return flight from India, as soon as the Papal aircraft took off from Bombay.

The Pope was interviewed by the journalists for 40 minutes, answering their many questions.

“On your arrival to India you said you wanted to learn a lot: what lesson did you draw from these 10 days?” John Paul II answered this question with the following words: “Two things above all: that there is a people with a great culture, a great spirituality, and this spirituality is still alive, is incarnated, so to say, in their behavior. And that there is a problem which is shocking for us, the problem of an evident poverty: one third of the population of Bombay, that is 3 million people, is homeless. I hope that these difficulties can be overcome in the democratic spirit. I think that Gandhi is still alive and not only that, I think that his thought, his teachings are very relevant in our time and not only for India, but also for us”. “For us – he added with force – and for the West, Gandhi is necessary”.

“You said you were satisfied about this journey – they asked the Pope – but what are the reasons of this satisfaction?”

The Holy Father answered: “I think that the single aspects cannot be separated: the whole journey, the fact that it was possible to do it, the way it was done and how the Pope was accepted by the Hindu population, because we know that the Catholics are a small group: those moments in Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, when many non-Catholics and non-Christians were reaching close to me, means that the Indian people have opened up”.

“Did you invite also Iranians for the world meeting of religious leaders that you have proposed for Assisi?”

Answering this question the Pope underlined that “all those who are interested in building peace have been invited”. “Do you think that the Russian Orthodox will also come?” “They are invited; Assisi is open to all. I hope they will come, because the problem of peace unites us all”. “Hindus will be there as well?” “It is possible; all religious communities have been invited”.

“Why didn’t you criticize the Indian Government for its birth control policies?” –  an American journalist asked.

“I have not come to criticize, but to speak of the Gospel. However, if you read well my speeches, you will see that I have even mentioned Gandhi’s thought about contraception”.

Another journalist asked: “How come you did not speak more forcefully against the caste system?” “I have come to visit the Catholic Church as such – the Pope replied – and not to reproach the people of the Indian tradition for its ancient social faults. With Gandhi and with modern India they have already made some steps forward in eradicating thousand year-old traditions”. And he added: “After all, there are in the world other kinds of caste systems, which are not called like that, but still, in fact, exist”. “And what can the Church do to transform the Indian society?” “The Church has already done a lot and can do a lot. If this journey was possible – the Pope underlined – I owe it also to Mother Teresa of Calcutta: I came with peace in my soul because she is there”.

“You appreciated all religions – a German journalist objected – but in India there are some of them which make man passive”. The Pope answered: “I do not know what is more important: that religion gives a meaning to life or that it influences the human activity. After all, the active man can perform acts which are not human”.

To those who had him notice the fact that many Hindus, taking the Eucharist during the Pope’s celebrations though they were not baptized, had the “intercommunion” legitimized, that is, the use of sacraments denied by the Church, for example, to Protestants, the Pope replied: “This was not intercommunion, but unaware communion”. “Then, is it more difficult for Protestant than for Hindus?” “Yes, because unawareness is not possible for them”.

When asked whether his visit would open new perspectives of dialogue also with the non-believers, to whom he publicly made an appeal in Calcutta, the Holy Father replied: “This dialogue would not exist if it was not because of the Second Vatican Council and of Pope Paul VI. New perspectives? That is why I went to India”. “But beyond this country?” “I want to work to bring ahead the guideline that has come form the Vatican Council and Paul VI”.

“Your Holiness, you went to India to bring the Christian soul to that people. On your return, are you convinced of bringing home the gift of the Indian soul?” “Of course, the Indian soul is really open because it is a religious soul”.

Regarding the love and prayer by which the youth of the world accompanied this pilgrimage, the Pope said: “The youth are really good in India, as elsewhere. The whole Church is united during these journeys; it is a universal dimension”.

About the visit of Gorbachev to the Vatican, the Pope said that he did not know as yet whether the Soviet leader would come.

“Could a meeting with the Soviet leader, on the occasion of his forthcoming visit to Italy, favour a visit of the Pope to the USSR” “Nothing is known, and it is premature to speak about it”.

During the journey back from India the papal aircraft flew over the territory of numerous nations. The Pope sent greeting telegrams to their Heads of State: to the President of India, His Excellency Giani Zail Singh; to the Head of the Sultanate of Oman, His Highness Qaboos Bin-Said; to the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Hamadjalthani; to the Emir of Bahrain, Shaikh Isa Bin Sulman Al Khalifa; to the King of Saudi Arabia, His Majesty Fahd bin Abdul Aziz; and finally, on reaching Italy, to the President of the Italian Republic, His Excellency Francesco Cossiga.



Conclusion of the Apostolic Visit of the Holy Father to India


Landing at the airport of Naples and transfer by train to Rome

Because of the snow that had fallen abundantly on Rome, the Pope’s aircraft coming from India had to change route. Instead of landing at Ciampino, as it was scheduled, the papal aircraft landed at the Naples-Capodichino airport at 1.45 am. Then the journey continued for the whole night by train, till 8.25 am, when the Holy Father reached the Vatican.

Rome, under the snow, appeared to the Pope in its originality and also in its discomfort. The long journey on the Indian land was thus concluded. From the tropical temperatures to the cold and the snow of Rome.



General Audience in the Paul VI Hall

“I wish to express my sincere gratitude to God, who has supported my steps on the roads of the noble Indian nation and granted me to visit, in the 14 cities of that immense Asian country, many brothers and sisters in the faith, and at the same time to reinforce dialogue with the non-Christian religions of the place”. With these words the Holy Father began the general audience of this morning, 12th February, Ash Wednesday. “I thank the Bishops, the Sisters and the Religious – the Pope continued – for the commitment by which they prepared the faithful for these meetings of joy and faith”. John Paul II also addressed a deferential word of thanks to the civil Authorities and to the leaders of the other religions for their cordial welcome. “I thank in particular the good Indian people – he finally said – whose traditional sense of hospitality and religiosity I have deeply appreciated”.