A government minister welcomes Pope John Paul II to India on Nov. 5, 1999. That was the pope’s second visit to the country, the first being in 1986.
A senior Vatican delegate has urged the Church in India to persevere in its work among the poor while maintaining dialogue with the country’s various cultures and religions. “Don’t be afraid. Be courageous,” Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor told a symposium yesterday on the social teachings of Pope John Paul II in New Delhi. The former head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales is in India representing Pope Benedict XVI at the Indian Church’s commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s first visit to India. The celebrations began on Feb. 1, the day the late pope arrived in India in 1986. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, retired archbishop of Westminster, is to visit Ranchi, Kolkata, Cochin and Mumbai before returning to Rome on Feb. 11. He urged Christians in India to face down persecution as Pope John Paul II had shown how to live the faith in a hostile environment. He recalled once asking the pope whether persecution helped the Church. “He said yes,” the cardinal added. The cardinal also urged the gathering to “swim against the stream.” Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said the Church organized the 10-day celebrations to recall the visit of “a holy man who came on a pilgrimage of peace and as a friend of India.” The cardinal said the central theme of the pope’s message in India was the dignity of humans. The pope had asked Indians to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich, “a message that is relevant even today,” Cardinal Gracias said. Pope John Paul II is to be beatified on May 1, making him a “blessed.” The title is given to martyrs and other Christians to whom a miracle has been officially attributed, thus bringing them closer to sainthood. Related report Pope moves John Paul II’s canonization case forward