Episcopal ordination on Thursday, 29 June, 2017
What is the motto you would take and why you choose it?
“In the mind of Christ” as found in Phil 2:5 and 1Cor 2:16 is the motto I have chosen. Primarily for no reason than the fact that I like it. Personally I feel these verses of St Paul challenge me and at the same time invite me to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Like many and precisely as Paul, I am convinced to have been captivated by Jesus and committed to Jesus. However often times I fail to perceive things as Jesus perceived, approach different issues as Jesus approached, relate with different people as Jesus related and to be concerned as Jesus was concerned and so on. Hence I say that it is both a challenge and an invitation. The social situation at the time of Jesus was more similar to ours today. We are called to respond and act as Jesus responded and acted in his time. It is hard and tough I know. However there is no option other than to have the same mind as in Jesus in order to follow him.
Your Kottar diocese has around 257346 Catholics in a population of 618,318. There were 83,474 Christians belonging to other denominations how will you describe your people, what is the urgent issue that affect them?
While the Christians live in harmony among themselves and with other religions, we witness a gradual development of Hindu religious fundamentalism in our district. It is not an arbitrary one but well planned with sharp teeth by political leaders. Our service to the poor, not based on caste or creed, is interpreted as proselytization.In fact, we witnessed a worst religious riot in 1982 in the district. Secondly, the mega projects like Koodankulam nuclear plants, Enayam Port and Sand mining undertaken by Govt. which affect people’s livelihood and habitat should be taken seriously. Thirdly, we need to give more importance to the concerns of those people who migrate to distant Arab countries and other states in search of job opportunities. So also the unorganized fisher people and labourers at constructions should be taken as one of the priorities.
What will be your priority in your Episcopal ministry?
The priority in my Episcopal ministry will be to work for better humanity. I mean, all may feel “we are God’s own children.”
You have 88 parishes and 42 mission churches served by 208 diocesan and 35 religious priests. They were assisted by 14 religious brothers and 483 nuns belonging to various congregations. Your work will be done mainly by your priests and religious; what type of leadership you wish to employ in your service of episcopacy?
I always believe in dialogue and service. Hence, I will surely strive to work with my brother priests and sisters as one among them. After all we work for the realization of the reign of God. I have always been consultative and dialogical; Hope to continue the same approach.
India as well as the world is facing the crisis of fundamentalism and extremism of war creating refugees, why do you thinks that religious and ethnic fundamentalism on the rise? What do you think the church can do?
It is true that fundamentalism and extremism is on the rise in India and world at large. As people of good will, all of us are much concerned about it. Our Holy Father Francis shows us the way to respond to this precarious phenomenon. The way he approaches and loves the refugees become a big lesson to the world leaders. His concern for the marginalized and downtrodden is a lesson to be learnt. His clarion call for reconciliation among religions, clans and countriesis the need of the hour.
In India Catholic mission work is in a stand still, Christians are persecuted by fundamentalist forces which unfortunately use religion to hate and divide, do you think religions in the world are facing the crisis of fundamentalism including the church? Are religions returning to some sort of paganism?
I do not think so. How would you call someone religious when he believes in violence and terrorism in the name of God than peace in the world? The truly religious, I think, are those who work for peace in the world. Hence, the sense of religiosity, for me, should cross the borders and boundaries to work for a better humanity as God wants.
You are very well educated especially in sacred sciences and also the secretary of the presbyteral council, how is your priestly life and your education helped you to be a Christian minister of the catholic as well as the men and women of the secular world?
To be frank, some of my best friends are Hindus and Muslims. We are different in our religion and worship but never had it affected our friendship or relationship. Carmel Higher Secondary School where I did my schooling at young age gave me such a fine ambience to relate with different types of students and to be exposed to other religions in a healthy way. Later, as parish priest at Enayam in the 1990s, a coastal parish surrounded completely by Muslim community gave me again another amble opportunity to work with them. In fact, some of them keep in touch with me still and particularly Mr. Hameed loves me as his younger brother. It is not because of my higher education but I think it is quite practical to live together as brothers and sisters provided you have open mind and heart. Our parents and neighbours lived in harmony with people of other religionsnot because they are well educated but because they treated others as themselves.
What in the life of Jesus that most captivating you? You are praying man, why do you pray and what for?
That which captivates me in the life of Jesus is his complete openness to the Transcendence, as Karl Rahner holds. He was always open and ready to do the will of His Father. “Not mine but Thy will be done” was his prayer at the point of his death at Gethsemane. His discernment to find God’s will allowed him to see God and his hand in each and every little thing he encountered.