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India's Religious elect new chief

New CRI head urges renewed commitment to helping the poor

Fr. V. M. Thomas, the new CRI chief Fr. V. M. Thomas, the new CRI chief
  • C. M. Paul, Kolkata
  • India
  • November 1, 2012
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A Salesian priest was elected as the new president of  the Conference of Religious India (CRI) during its national assembly that ended yesterday.

Father V. M. Thomas took the opportunity as the new head of more than 125,000 Catholic Religious to urge them to recommit to the mission of serving the poor.

"Those who need the most today get the least, and those who need the least get the most, even from the Church," he said.

The 61-year-old priest was speaking at Kolkata airport yesterday, on his way back from the CRI meeting with about 550 delegates in Hyderabad.

Making a strong appeal to members for a commitment to the marginalized, the priest insisted that "we include the excluded and give our best to the least."

He also encouraged members to live "our life as our proclamation."

Quoting the New Testament parable of  "new wine in new wineskins," he called upon those who are "relishing the old wine" to wake up to the fast changing realities of today.

Fr. Thomas, a human resource development consultant, has been training people for the Indian Administrative Service for years. He  is known as a passionate youth worker and ardent educationalist.

"Quality education and opportunities for the poor in education and job-oriented skills training with competence and commitment... is the mission of the Religious today," he said.

Born in the southern state of Kerala in 1951, he has lived in northeastern India, mostly in Assam, since 1962. He now resides in Guwahati province.

He graduated from Harvard with a degree in education and has been on the Faculty of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie for the past 18 years.

As new head of the CRI, he is responsible for a total of 334 religious congregations and 822 major superiors, representing India's Catholic Religious brothers, priests and nuns.

Most of the schools, hospitals, social service centers and other institutions of the Catholic Church are managed by this group.

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