For years the new bishop worked with the city’s prisons. He has been active in the social field as well as human rights and environmental protection. Maharashtra’s state capital has nine penitentiaries, and 90 per cent of the inmates are waiting for trial.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Archdiocese of Mumbai (Maharashtra) has a new auxiliary bishop, Mgr Allwyn D'Silva, 68, head of the Mumbai chapter of the Prison Ministry India (PMI).
For years he has been involved in social affairs, human rights and environmental protection; hence his episcopal motto, he told AsiaNews, is’ Care of Creation’.
He believes that his ordination is a recognition by the Catholic Church of the "importance of environmental issues and justice. It is also a recognition for the work he has done in favour of the marginalised and on the environment in Asia.”
Born on 20 April 1948, he was ordained priest on 19 April 1975, and elevated to the status of auxiliary bishop last Saturday (28 January).
Mgr D'Silva believes that his appointment is "a great challenge, especially since Pope Francis has set very high standards for us bishops when he said that we must be shepherds with the smell of sheep."
The bishop is the current secretary of the Climate Change desk at the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), and will remain in office until the end of 2017. For more than 20 years, he has dealt with social justice, in particular with respect to prison inmates.
Mgr D'Silva explained that the PMI Mumbai was established in 2001, noting that the city has nine penitentiaries and the prison population has unique traits. Convicts crowd facilities outside Mumbai, whereas 90 of inmates in the city are still under trial.
This is a colonial legacy whereby defendants are held in detention before trail. Although still innocent until proven guilty, they are deprived of their liberty.
The MPI Mumbai is staffed by volunteers who deal with legal aid and prisoner rehabilitation. They receive regular visits from other PMI members who organise health care treatment and dental visits.
Inmates take part in cultural events, games and shows, and receive various kinds of professional training: from tailoring to painting, from teaching embroidery techniques to arts and flower arrangements.
Volunteers provide courses in computer science, cooking and foreign languages. Inmates are involved in singing competitions, music, dance and writing. Some of them have written articles that are then published in the Examiner, a weekly published by the archdiocese.
As for their spiritual care, a Mass is celebrated each Sunday in every prison. Except for the Dadar facility, prison authorities allow Christmas and Easter celebrations such as Christmas carols, the Stations of the Cross during Holy Week, and exchange gifts between inmates and staff during holidays. (NC)