Mumbai (AsiaNews) - India has a "rich religious and cultural heritage", which the Church must preserve and promote by educating people to avoid tensions and conflicts, seeking instead union with others. His Beatitude George Alencherry, major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabar Church, welcomes his appointment as cardinal on 18 February when Benedict XVI gave the biretta, ring and title to 22 new prelates. John Tong, bishop of Hong Kong, was the other Asian to be elevated. Here is the exclusive interview with the new Indian prelate to AsiaNews.
Your Eminence, with your nomination, India gets a sixth cardinal. How important is Benedict XVI's choice for your country and Asia?
India is a great country with a rich religious and cultural heritage. Asia covers a vast area of the world and each tradition is important. With its Christian vision, the Church must united peoples and cultures to contribute together to the betterment of humanity.
What do you think about the growing radicalisation of Indian society?
It is essential that we observe movements in society to educate people and give them a correct direction. Disappointments and disagreements create problems in people. Resentment arises out of injustice and inequality and this creates situations of conflict and tension. Extremists must be viewed carefully. We advise people to respond to the extreme views with caution.
What are the concerns and challenges for the Church in India?
One consequences of globalisation is the growing gap between rich and poor. The Church in India cannot eliminate globalisation, but through its educational and social services, in conjunction with the government and NGOs, it can limit its negative effects.
The Indian church must boost its work to build the nation. We can do this by reinforcing harmony within the community and interfaith dialogue, working for unity between different cultures, helping the poor, marginalised, the oppressed and women develop, and protect and defend religious freedom.
Do you have a message for the AsiaNews campaign demanding the release of three bishops and six priests who have been missing for several years without Beijing providing any news about them?
Through its work as a missionary agency, AsiaNews provides a great service to the countries, peoples and cultures of Asia. I fully support your cause. When people are unjustly imprisoned, we must fight for their freedom.
The 32nd Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) opened yesterday in Bangalore. Some 180 bishops from the country’s three Catholic rites are meeting to discuss ‘The Response of the Church in India to Present Day Challenges’. CBCI President Card Baselios Cleemis noted that most Hindus are secular. Mgr Mepamparampil agrees, “but there is certainly an aggressive minority among them” who want to obtain “dominant positions in the country.” Hence, “We should invite a vigorous debate among intellectuals about the danger of surrendering the future of the country to the aggressive elements in society.”
The Syro-Malabar Synod of Bishops issued a note for the clergy, saying that yoga is beneficial for the body and the mind, but should not to be confused with spirituality. The practice is compulsory in Indian schools, but is often used to promote “a Hindu lifestyle."