Bp Kannikadass William Antony, Diocese of Mysore
When will your Episcopal ordination take place?
It is scheduled for the 27th of February.
What motto have you chosen?
I have taken a phrase from the Consecratory prayer of Lk 19:22 as my motto – Given Up for You.
What motivated you to choose it?
God the Father has given up His Son to us for redeeming all mankind, and the Son has given Himself to us. He has called every minister in the Church to be given up for the ministry. So I am motivated that way to be given up myself, my time, my energy and my life and all that I have to God and His people.
In other words, you offer yourself as a sacrifice?
Yes, I am prepared to accept the will of God in my life for the good of the people.
That means you surrender your life for the people of God?
I will surrender myself totally, all that I am.
What are the priorities that you have for Mysore diocese?
Mysore diocese is one of the oldest dioceses. Surely, a lot of good things have been done by all the bishops and priests of the diocese in the past. I just carry on their good work. Greater attention will surely be given to the pastoral aspect whereby people are to be taken care of sacramentally. The whole body of priests, religious and bishops are there to take care of the people. If not us, who will take care or them?
What is the Catholic population of Mysore?
It should be more than one lakh.
How many priests and religious do you have there?
We have 132 diocesan priests and a little over 50 religious priests.
In social, cultural and educational terms, how would you describe the people of God in your diocese?
Our Catholics belong to various ethnic groups. People here have different histories socially, culturally and linguistically. Their backgrounds are different, because good many of them have settled from neighbouring places; yet, we are united in diversity. I always feel this diversity is not a threat. It is a very rich heritage God has given us so that we support and encourage each other to grow further.
Looking from a Catholic point of view, what is it that is most needed in the life of the people of God in your diocese?
We also have very poor people in our diocese. We need to give maximum support to their education. Once our people belonging to all ethnic or other groups are educated, I think that will greatly help their advancement.
As one of the leaders of the Indian Church, how do you see the spread of religious fanaticism?
When compared to other dioceses, especially of the North India, Mysore diocese so far hasn’t had any major problem because of it. Ours is an established diocese, and all are very friendly with us. We are blessed with 136 educational institutions, and so, naturally, through the children of other religious groups who study in them, we have established a good rapport and relationship with everybody. Still, recently some minor issues came up here and there. But, since it has become a nationwide problem, the Church should take a united stand against it. We are often concerned solely about our diocese, our parish and our people. May be, we all need to stand together and support each other in solving this issue, especially through our prayers and participation.
How do you see Hindutva, as a threat or as a possibility?
Hindutva need not be a threat, because all Hindus are not bad. There are wonderful people who are by life Christians, whether Hindus and Muslims. Through the values they uphold in life, they are a wonderful model for others. Someone practising Hindu religion or culture is not a threat, but when it comes to fundamental ideology, then perhaps they don’t respect others.
Do you think that we have something to learn from Hindu tradition, culture, and heritage?
Surely, ours is a multi religious and ethnic nation. Throughout our history, several Hindus have contributed to Christian ideology, philosophy, culture and literature. Similarly, we have also several Christians who have contributed towards the social character, where religion is not taken in a negative way. We have a very good example for it in Amalorpavadass of Anjali Ashram, who Indianised the celebration of the liturgy. What he was trying to promote may not be fully compatible with our Catholic ideologies, but it still has had some influence.
Do you think that the spirit of inculturation that was driven by Amalorpavadass is continued in that way in the Church now?
We don’t see it happening much.
Why is it so?
We don’t know why. Perhaps the followers of Amalorpavadass have not made a serious attempt in that direction. Be that as it may, we are all working in India, staying in India, and some way we have the Indian influence. But, at any cost, we cannot forget the Catholic ideology, theology or philosophy, because, basically, we have Catholic roots.
The European culture is sort of a symbiosis of Greek culture and Christian faith. Christian philosophy and Christian theology initiated by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have borrowed its conceptual frame from Plato or Aristotle. Do you think that, that possibility is completely lost here or are we open to that kind of assimilation and symbiosis of faith with culture?
Surely, faith becomes more impactful and result oriented when they go hand in hand. After all, what we call evangelization or mission work is introducing Jesus and the gospel to non-Christians. They will surely understand it better when it is presented in accordance with the culture of the place.
Which means we must be more inculturated, using more aspects of Indian culture?
Not exactly, because the Indian Catholic Church has its own background and history, which we should not forget. But, at the same time, in the North the lifestyle of bishops, priests and religious has been culturally adapted. They are one with the people, one with the cultures, and so they are able to make a greater impact and have a wide reach.
Christianity is very much a sort of humanism that embraces every tribe, caste, religion. Don’t you think the Indian ethos is very much caste-ridden and devoid of the humanism paradigm?
Yeah, but not everywhere. In Karnataka, the Church is not affected much in that way. I am not that aware of these things. I have read and heard about caste issues that have become unmanageable because of some limitations.
But Karnataka also has an awful lot of temple prostitutes?
Not all over Karnataka. It is restricted to certain parts of Karnataka.
But isn’t it a damnable situation where women are thrown out by society into an inhuman practice?
Yeah, may be.
We live now in a market economy. How does that market system, globalization and consumer culture affect the Catholic community?
Mysore is a simple, small and traditional place where these things are not a real concern. Perhaps, that cultural attitude is prevalent in metropolitan cities and towns.
That means you are free from such problems?
Yes, because it’s a geographical area where simple people live.
We live in a world where there is lot of fundamentalism, religion fanaticism and terrorism. How do you look at it as a modern Catholic?
Christ came to this world, lived and died for every one of mankind. Pope Francis is the right example for us now in today’s context. He has a very broad and beautiful heart.
You have read the Gospel, have prayed and meditated on the life of Christ. What is in the life of Christ that is most endearing to you, most sacred for you and more beloved for you?
There can nothing more endearing than the thought that Christ came down and gave Himself to us. You can’t think of a grater expression of love. That is the most beautiful thing for me.
You are a man of prayer; why do you pray and what for do you pray?
I always pray to God not just for myself but for everyone so that there may be more peace and fraternity. We have lost those values because of selfishness. When there is peace and fraternity, we can build a beautiful world around us.
What about your family?
I have my parents, who are very old. I am the only son, and I have one sister.
Please share your educational career and priestly services?
I have completed Bachelor’s degree in Education, Masters in Canon Law at St Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bangalore and Masters in Christianity (MA) at University of Mysore. After my ordination I served as the Assistant Parish Priest of St Thomas Church, Thomayarpalaya, and Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Martalli, as parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Gundulpet, Holy Family, Hinkal, and St Joseph’s Cathedral (St Philomena’s Church), Mysore. I have also served as Financial Administrator and Chancellor of the Diocese of Mysore for 6 years. Currently I am the Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Church, Jayalakshmipuram, and Public Relations Officer of the same diocese. I am also the Secretary and Correspondent of the Mysore Diocesan Educational Society, which administers 128 institutions in 4 districts of Mysore, Mandya, Kodagu and Chamarajanaga.