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Address of Bishop Peter Paul Saldanha to the Priests

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Grateful to God for choosing me to lead this great diocese of Mangalore as the Vicar of Christ and successor of the apostles, I humbly stand before you recognizing the abundant Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Sincerely saying, I, in no way, merit to be placed as the head and shepherd of the flock of Christ in this local Church; since he has chosen me in spite of my fragility and weaknesses, I consider it as a sheer work of grace, for which I have chosen the motto from St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, “To the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph 1, 6), that my life and my action be wholly a song to sing the praise of the glorious grace of God, as St Paul says: “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2, 8)

I am grateful to you, brother priests, for your contribution towards the great success of the Consecration ceremony. Many of you have rendered service in the ten committees and in the coordination. Almost all of you have contributed the financial support for the function. I thank you for the same.

1. Explanation of the Motto:
While narrating the great mystery of God revealed to him, St Paul insists at least thrice in the prologue of the letter to the Ephesians (Eph 1, 3-10), that God has called all of us to be the praise of His glory or the praise of His glorious grace. Unfolding the great plan of God he says that God, “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love. He destined us for adoption as His children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, that He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Eph 1, 4-6) God has chosen each one of us “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Rom 8, 29)

Our heavenly Father’s overflowing love and abundant mercy is the reason why we are present here on earth. The Father chooses us to be “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Cor 4, 1), and predestines us to be His sons and daughters in His beloved Son. The degree of our glorification will correspond to the degree we conform ourselves to the Image of His Crucified Son, as symbolized by the Cross.

Therefore, all that we do should emerge from the gratitude for the unconditional and gratuitous love God has shown us and the pastoral ministry should aim at concretizing the great plan of God in our particular Church. The pastors are called to lead all people into the Paschal Mystery, that is, to make them experience the tenderness of Christ, Crucified and Risen and the love of the Father, in the Hoy Spirit. Thus, the prophetic, pastoral and priestly service must spring from our being rooted in the mystery of Christ.

In planning and executing the threefold ministry, the inspiration is from Pope Francis who invites the whole Church for a missionary and pastoral conversion. Here, we underline that the particular Church is made in the image of the universal Church (cf. LG, 23) and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is concretely found in every particular Church (CD 11). This mutual interiority between the universal Church and the particular Church helps us to make the teachings given for the universal
church concretely applied to the local Church.

The images in the shield represent the four documents given by Pope Francis.

The Crucifix: indicates that we are called to be conformed to the Crucified Christ.

Open Bible: Represents the Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium): that is, to know Jesus Christ and to speak to others of our friendship with him. “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel”, by the encounter with Christ (Benedict XVI).

Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary: Indicate God, rich in mercy, as taught in Misericordiae Vultus. Jesus Christ is the Face of Father’s mercy; Mary is the Mother of Mercy. These two hearts palpitate for each one of us and they are very attentive to our prayers. Daily consecration to these Hearts makes us holy. Bread and Chalice in the Heart of Jesus represent the Eucharist and Priesthood. All the spiritual goods available help us to promote the culture of Mercy.

Holy Family: Represents all families and we are called to protect, strengthen, and sanctify families as delineated in Amoris Laetitia, to spread the culture of love.

Green Tree at the Side of the Flowing Waters: Represents the Tree of Life nourished by the waters flowing from the throne of mercy (Rev 22, 1-2). It inspires us to care for our common home as unfolded in Laudato Sí, to make our surroundings green, to promote the culture of life. I wish that we make strenuous efforts to protect our mother earth and take concrete actions in our parishes to plant trees.

2. The Election
Before asking my consent on 27 June 2018, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, presented me a brief summary of the present status of the diocese of Mangalore. He said that the people of Mangalore are learned and there are a lot of educational and medical institutions run both by the diocese and the religious men and women. He also told me that more efforts are needed for the working of the religious harmony with dialogue with people of other faiths. Besides, he insisted that there is a need for giving greater importance to the formation of the Laity and special mention is to be made on the necessity of organizing the ongoing pastoral and theological formation of the priests.

In a letter dated 11 July 2018, the same Cardinal Filoni wrote that the diocese of Mangalore has a long history of Christian life, and this diocese has been a point of reference in India. He has asked me to be impartial in dealing with people, both poor and not so, and be a ‘father’ for all. Once again he reiterated that I should take up the theological and pastoral formation of the Clergy. I assured him that I will take care of the formation of the clergy and the lay faithful as an immediate necessity.

3. Drawing of the Pastoral Plan and On-Going Formation
In this direction, based on the four documents of Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Sì, Misericordiae Vultus and Amoris Laetitia, I desire that we evolve the pastoral plan from the periphery, meeting the priests and religious and laity in their own locality. I request the Vicars Vara to take appointments with me, after the 20th October for the same. Today, I request you to volunteer or suggest names to be the members of the planning committee. (Following names were suggested: Frs, Joachim Fernandes, J.B. Saldanha, Joseph Martis, J.B.Crasta, and Onil D’Souza). We already have a Regional Pastoral Plan which we have to make concrete to our context and situation. There are 18 Commissions which need to be strengthened. We need to look into the inter-connectedness of these commissions and revive those which serve our purpose of involving the people of God in the decision making process.

Two things should guide us certainly in our formation and ministry: discipleship and discipline. Discipleship is a sacred discipline tempered with spirituality. When spirituality decreases piety and religiosity increases. It is normal that devotions and celebrations increase but the outcome is a sense of hollowness at the end of the day. St Paul says in the first Letter to the Corinthians: “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14, 40). Therefore, we must evaluate the pastoral ministry that we have been doing so far and reorient it towards evangelization.

4. A Word of Gratitude and Appreciation
I am grateful that our diocese already has the necessary structures as foreseen by Vatican II and we only have to renew them according to our times. I thank Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza, Msgr Denis Moras Prabhu, the Vicar General, Fr Henry Sequeira, the Chancellor for their immense service to the diocese. I am lucky that I can avail their services and guidance and learn from their wisdom. We have to renew the Council of Priests, the College of Consulters, and the Diocesan Finance Committee. I desire to reconfirm the Parish Pastoral Councils and Diocesan Pastoral Council till they complete their tenure of three years. Dear Fathers, years ago, when I was studying in Rome, Jesuit Fr Julian Fernandes, then Provincial for Asia, told me that the priests of our diocese put their heart and soul in the ministry, a fact cannot be denied. I was immensely happy listening to this comment and this left a lasting impression on me. You are the living testimony of the goodness of the Lord bestowed upon our diocese, for God has given us wonderful priests. We need to strengthen the fraternal spirit in the whole presbyterate. I would strongly recommend the formation of the Union of Apostolate of the Clergy for the spiritual companionship and fraternity, where the older clergy help and support the younger ones and younger clergy in turn learn from their older brothers.

5. The Focus for the Future
Next year, in the month of September, the bishops of India will have the ad limina visits. We have to present the Mission report regarding our diocese by the 31 December 2018. Pope Francis always emphasises that we should have a compassionate heart towards the poor and suffering. In order to identify the really needy families, I request the parish priests to help me in having a socio-economic survey in the parish. We may not be able to go to all the families. But, in each ward one can choose certain samples to have a general idea and also identify those families who really need concrete help. Even our statistics should be updated. With the help of Gurkars and Youth, kindly find out the exact number of catholic families and persons that live in our diocesan territory and their current situation. In order to understand and plan the programme for the formation of the Laity for helping to deepen the faith, we need a faith survey, may be at the level of the parish pastoral council. This can be done even at the beginning of 2019. Laity should be suitably involved in collecting the data of the parish and in discussing the documents and gathering ideas in evolving the pastoral plan.

Special attention should be given to the youth. Many are asking me, what I am going to do for the youth. Many youth are unemployed. Those who do higher studies, leave the country and search for jobs elsewhere. Our community thus becomes poorer because of the lack of trained youth. Job opportunities in the government and in the public sector as well as in the private sectors have to be found out and a good placement should be made possible. We need to motivate many to avail the government facilities in various fields. We know that Christians are not doing enough to get what they are supposed to get from the government. We need experts to guide our youth to tap all the facilities available.

Same thing could be said of finding suitable partner of life in marriage for many of our youth. The struggle is greater for those who work in the fields and those who do small jobs. We need to be concerned about this factor too. If we want the families to be strong, they have to be solidly built up. Unfortunately many of our young men are at a loss.

6. Visits to Varados
I am planning to visit the priests in their varados and thus there will be greater opportunity for interaction to plan the pastoral activity. Priests can also meet me personally. I request the Vicars Vara to take appointments with me. I request you to address me as “Father” when you meet me personally as that is the most beautiful title a Bishop can have, says our beloved Pope Francis.

During public functions, in Konkani, you may call, “Mogacha Govlibapano” and in English, “Dear Bishop” or “Beloved Father”. Further, I do not like to be garlanded with fresh flowers. For the sake of symbolism, one simple bouquet would be enough. Similarly, I strongly discourage the flexes. Let us protect our mother earth.

As far as possible, I would not like to take programmes on Fridays. I would like to dedicate this day for preparations for the pastoral visits and for prayer. St Paul writing to the Ephesians exhorts: “In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all God’s holy people, and for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Eph 6, 18-19) Let us discuss with the
Lord our plans whether they are according to His plans and He will guide us.

What do the people expect from us priests? They expect to see God-orientedness in us. They expect us to be praying and serving. I am sure we are faithful to the Eucharist, the Breviary, Rosary, and Reading of the Word of God. But the lacuna is that, we may do these spiritual activities without becoming really God-oriented. Let each one ask: “Do I really long for God? Do I really long for the Eucharist? Is my life led into the Paschal Mystery?”, that is, towards that detachment that Christ is asking of us?

7. Some Points to Ponder Over
7.1. Supreme Court has authorized the District Collector to examine complaints of all the religious places and charitable institutions with regard to hygiene, assets, access, and accounts and send reports to high courts that can treat them as Public Interest Litigations. The Supreme Court order will apply to all temples, mosques, churches and other religious and charitable institutions in India, and high courts, based on these reports, can pass suitable judicial orders. The above order is going to have serious implications as it also involves examination of proper utilization of offerings and donations. Greater transparency is demanded from each one of us in this regard. Therefore, let us ensure that all books of accounts, records, land documents are kept upto-date at all churches, convents and other institutions.

Pope Francis has been insisting on eradication of corruption because that is cancer eating up the very substance of our society and also the Church. There are now greater chances of being punished for the mistakes of a few. How is the financial management in the diocese? What measures we must take to put order in our house?

7.2. Many of our schools are/have non-performing assets and we have not been able to compete with the others who offer greater facilities to the students. I am convinced that we need to renew our educational policy and Fr Antony Serrao, the Secretary of the CBE, is already taking stock of the situation and we need to study the policies of other religious congregations and chalk out one of our own.

7.3. CBCI has asked the dioceses to form the Committees for receiving complaints regarding sexual abuse of minors and harassment of women both at the level of institutions and at the level of the diocese. Each priest is responsible for what he does. In the US, in many dioceses, each priest signs a declaration that he is responsible before Law for any accusation against him regarding the matter of abuse. We have to act accordingly so that matter be brought under the application of the law of the Church. This has also civil implications of human rights and we cannot plead ignorance.

7.4. Youth for Prayer: The Pope has established the apostolate of prayer among the youth. We are asked to establish these groups of young people and pray for the needs of the Church. The situation of the Catholic Church all over the world is not so pleasant. Prayer is our strength.

Conclusion
Dear brother priests, we are called to act in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ, the head. Our work should be that of Christ. May the Lord help us towards the growth of this diocese and let each one participate in its development. Thanks for your love and collaboration.

I assure you that I will take care of you to the best of my ability and I believe you will do the same towards me. You may call me up to 10 p.m. on phone. In case you are deeply in trouble, sick or in any other eventuality, and no help is available, please call me any hour of the day or night. If I am not available, write a SMS and call any other priest in the Bishop’s House.

I am going to Rome on 27th of this month and I will return by 20th October. I have to settle with the students whom I am guiding the doctoral dissertation and find out the apt guide for them. I have to meet the officials of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and also settle the issues with the university.

In my absence, the Vicar General will take care of the ordinary administration. His name will be made known to you soon. Our bishop Emeritus is visiting SAME diocese and he will return on 27th of this month. He will stay for a few days in the Bishop’s House, and then as you know he will be staying in the Seminary and help in the formation.

Thanking you once again for your love and affection. I request you to guide me with your wisdom and expertise. Please do not be offended if your suggestions were not fully executed. I have to discern the most plausible ways of attending to the issues. We are one Presbyterium, sharing in the one priesthood of Christ. We are brothers. As we protect our brothers at home, so also let us protect and support one another.

Thank you and God bless you

+ Bishop Peter Paul Saldanha

 

 

 

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