Bp Peter Paul Saldanha, Mangalore
Episcopal Ordination on 15th of September
at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cathedral Grounds, Mangaluru
What is the motto you take or think of taking?
My episcopal motto is drawn from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It will be made known during the ordination ceremony.
How do you describe the Mangalore diocese, you are entrusted with to lead as its bishop? How many are Catholics, priests of the diocese and nuns?
Mangalore mission became diocese in 1886. There are nearly 2,48,860 Catholics, 124 parishes, 277 diocesan clergy, 125 religious priests and nearly 1500 religious sisters. There are Christians of other denominations too. We have good relationship with them. The diocese has given 45 bishops to the universal Church and I would be 46th bishop hailing from this diocese and 14th as the bishop of the Diocese. People are learned and many work for socio-economic progress. Mangalore is the hub of higher learning and medical care. The Church is rendering her service specifically in these areas.
What will be the priority of your pastoral governess of the community to which you are sent?
Basic priority is to proclaim the Joy of the Gospel and help the families to deepen their faith. The harmony between different religions is also part of my mission. The poor and needy should get greater attention. The youth should be the focus for growth. Concern towards our common home has to be shown. Jesus’ mission of mercy has to be central and everything else should be illumined by it.
Mangalore is a traditional Catholic community which has created so many missionaries, what is happening to the mission of India; do you think there is a dampening taking place due to the Hindutva?
It is true, Mangalore has been the cradle of missionaries. The diocese has more than four centuries of history of Christian faith and many Disciples of Christ have gone to different parts of the world from this land to bring the message of Christ. The diocese itself had begun mission in Bidar in 1982 and in the recent years it is working in the Same Diocese (Tanzania). India is a land of multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious presence. We need to look into the eyes of our fellow human beings and read the sentiments of their hearts and we should not treat others as lesser beings. I would insist on the common humanity of all of us. The true integral development of each person in all aspects and of all men and women should be goal of any political party or social organization. “Authentic human development here on earth concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate, 11). Any exclusivism reflects selfishness and it is dehumanizing.
You are returning from Vatican, how do you explain the religious fundamentalism affecting all religions even the Catholics, shrinking and narcissism?
Europe has opened its doors to a lot of migrants and war refugees and the governments provide for their sustenance. They do not ask to which religion they belong. The needy person, to whichever religious belief he or she belongs, is a human person and needs to be helped. In India, every citizen is to be considered as precious and his or her rights are to be protected. Vatican has provided the basic facilities for the homeless and they are not allowed to go hungry. We must learn from our Holy Father to overcome the petty and narrow mindedness and expand our hearts to embrace all human beings. Religious fundamentalism and narcissism is the cancer that can be overcome only by gratuitous love. Jesus has taught us the way. His Gospel is the sure compass.
As a bishop you are also entering national leadership, scandals are erupting one after another, people are shocked, do you think there is crisis of moral, leadership in the Indian church?
The Indian Church is going through a new phase; we are becoming greatly aware of being part of the mainstream of a secular society in this great democratic country. Dignity of each human person and religious freedom are the fundamental rights to be respected. The Indian Church has been working for the protection of the rights of tribals and dalits and she is raising her voice in favour of the less-fortunate. Indeed, there is a greater need that the lay faithful be closely involved in the decision making process as Pope Francis is insisting on.
You have worked in the General Secretariat of the Synod, how important is synodality in the church? Don’t you think this participatory form in the church must expand to the priests, religious and laity in more serious manner?
Synodality is the need of the hour. Mutual listening, and common discernment based on the one mission entrusted to all the baptized will make the Church to realize her true identity, as a pilgrim People of God marching towards the Kingdom of God. All have received the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of the Lord speaks to everyone, especially through the youngest one as St Benedict taught. We must learn from the simple, poor and suffering people, what it means to live an authentic life. Participatory model of the Church is promoted by Pope Francis. Priests and religious need to translate it in their own contexts, to walk with the people by listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.
As a priest, formator, teacher of theology what is in Jesus that challenges you most? Why do you pray what do you pray?
I believe that knowing and loving Jesus and making him known and loved is the most beautiful thing. The love that Jesus has shown really challenges me to imitate him. Believing in Jesus liberates us from the shackles of self-centredness. We need to do a lot more to deepen the faith of our families and strengthen them to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus. A human being really becomes human when he or she truly loves. People who hate others and teach others to hate one’s fellowmen destroy themselves before they destroy others. They become the enemies of God and humanity. Corruption is eating up the very substance of our existence as human beings. I pray that the people of our land become truly free from all sorts of corruption and egoism.
Tell me something about yourself and your family?
We are 9 children, 5 boys and 4 girls. I am the fourth one. My parents and one brother have gone to their eternal abode. My family is devout and I experienced a lot of freedom at home. My parents were hard working and they taught me the value of work and to love the Church. We are a well-knit family and my brothers and sisters help one another whenever any difficulties arise. The priests and religious are treated with great love and respect in my family and my parents often remembered the priests that served in our parish with gratitude.