Address by Cardinal Poupard in Goa
GOA, India, 9 DEC. 2006 (ZENIT)
Here is the text of the keynote
address that Cardinal Paul Poupard gave Nov. 21 to a meeting of
directors of Catholic Cultural Centers in India.
* * *
Gospel Values and Cultures:
The Challenge of Witnessing the Christian Faith in Indian Cultures
Your Excellencies Archbishop Pedro Quintana López,
Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrao,
Reverend Father Tony Lopes,
and dear Sisters and Brothers,
1. I am extremely happy to be here today among you, to preside over this
meeting of the directors of Catholic Cultural Centers in India. May I
start my address with a word of gratitude to Father Tony Lopes, the
superior general of the Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis
Xavier, also called the Society of Pilar, and the members of this
missionary society for their immense generosity to the Pontifical
Council for Culture.
You had already shown us your greatness of heart, by gifting to the Holy
See, the services of your member Father Theodore Mascarenhas. Now by
offering to host this meeting, all at your own cost, you have once again
given us a sign of your extraordinary commitment to the universal Church
and the Church in India. May the Good Lord bless you and your Society.
May it grow and flourish and reap a rich harvest for the Lord.
2. What a delight to be in India, this Ancient land, the land of the
Rishis, the habitat of the gurus, the birthplace of very old religions,
the cradle of ancient civilizations and deep rooted millennial cultures!
The Catholic faith itself in India goes back to apostolic times.
Tradition has it that after the ascension, St. Bartholomew went on a
missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of
Matthew. Eusebius, in the second century after Christ, mentions that
Pantaenus, the master of Origen, while evangelizing India, was told that
the Apostle had preached there before him and had given to his converts
the Gospel of St. Matthew written in Hebrew, which was still treasured
by the Church.
From various sources, and especially from the Apocryphal Acts of St.
Thomas, we know that St. Thomas brought the Gospel to South India and
founded communities of local Christians. So Christianity is very
ancient to India and has taken deep roots here. The coming of the
Portuguese and the missionaries from the West gave a great impetus to
the spread of the faith. But like every other culture in the world,
Indian cultures are subjected to continuous evolution and adaptation.
I recall my beautiful visit to Bangalore, India, over 20 years ago, in
March 1986, to be exact. As the then president of the Secretariat for
Nonbelievers, and president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, I had
the privilege to preside over a consultation on atheism and religious
indifference in India organized by the Commission for Proclamation,
Ecumenism, Dialogue and Social Communications of the Catholic Bishops'
Conference of India. At that time, I had said, "Your country is making
colossal efforts to industrialize and modernize it. India has made
remarkable scientific and technical progress, even in the fields of
nuclear energy and space research."
In Europe, we have been reading about the gigantic strides being made by
this great country. But on my arrival in India I have realized how those
words which I spoke 20 years ago are even more of a reality today. I was
astounded to see how much India's landscape has changed with new
infrastructure rapidly replacing the old one and with visible signs of
development everywhere. Of course, the strides of development and
advancement also bring with it winds of profound change leading to rapid
and intense sociocultural changes.
3. What a joy to be in Goa, the land of sun, sand and song, where the
Catholic faith has been nurtured and cherished over the centuries. The
plethora of churches, chapels, and roadside crosses and altars which we
see around indicate that the Catholic faith has become the very bedrock
of the Goan culture and a part of the Goan daily life. Goa has also been
blessed with the mortal remains of the great Apostle of the East, St.
Francis Xavier, whose example many Goan missionaries have tried to
emulate by engaging in evangelizing work, and has produced its own
saints: the martyrs of Cuncolim, Blessed Joseph Vaz, whose missionary
exploits in Sri Lanka are remembered with gratitude in that country, and
the Venerable Agnelo D'Souza.
Yesterday, I had the honor of presiding over the Eucharistic Celebration
to mark the death of the remarkable Father Agnelo and I saw for myself
the fervor and admiration his devotees have towards him. This land of
great variety, with its many Christian places of worship as well as
temples and tulsis, has a deeply religious ambience. Though the people
of Goa are of different faiths and from different cultural backgrounds,
this tiny land is marked by a peaceful harmony and respect for each
4. It is wonderful to be to be here on this beautiful little hillock of
Pilar which has its own missionary and cultural history. As I was being
driven up the hill yesterday evening I recalled Jesus' words in the
Gospel, "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14). The
Monastery of Pilar dates back to the early 17th century and is a witness
to the contribution of the Spanish Franciscan Missionaries to this part
of the world.
The Society of Pilar ever since it was transferred here in 1891 after
being founded in Agonda, Canacona, has been a worthy inheritor of this
missionary tradition, working today as I am told, in over 25 missionary
dioceses mostly in India and Nepal.
Pilar has a very special cultural importance too. In the words of two of
Goa's renowned historians, this small hill is culturally very
significant. Father Cosme Costa tells us, "Long before Old Goa was the
capital of the Portuguese Empire in the East, the present day Pilar
hillock was part of the city of Govapuri, the erstwhile capital of Goa
from where ancient Goan dynasties, the South Konkan Shilaharas (A.D.
765-1020) and the Goa Kadambas (1050-1345), held sway over vast
territories in Western India. It was connected to the sea through a
5-kilometer-long stone built port."
And according to Nandkumar Kamat, Pilar and the areas surrounding it,
"have seen the footprints of the Neolithic man; the saffron robes of the
Buddhist monks; the rickety ships of the Greeks, Romans, Persians and
Arabs ...; the horses of the Gulf, slaves from Abyssinia; the copper of
Cyprus; the pearls of Ceylon; the silk of Kalyani and the cotton and
sandlewood of Banavas." Given this cultural relevance, it is
therefore significant that this meeting of the directors of the Catholic
Cultural Centers in India is being held here.
5. In this keynote address, I would like to reflect on the closing words
of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, which as I have noted, was according
to tradition the first to be brought to India. The Matthean Gospel ends
on a mountain with Jesus exhorting his disciples with these words: "All
authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that
I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you all the time, to the close
of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20). On reading the words one immediately
notes the strong accent on universality with the repetition of the word
"all" four times in this text which is traditionally called the
The words are crucial if we wish to speak of living the faith and
proclaiming Christ in a multicultural and pluralistic religious country
like India. The Gospel of Matthew itself is the product of a community
that is very much in the minority within the Jewish faith, itself a
marginal religion in the midst of the pluralism and syncretism of the
pagan beliefs characteristic of the then dominant Greco-Roman culture.
The spread of the Gospel throughout the world therefore represents and
is indicative of a process of assimilation and inculturation. On the one
hand, the Gospel shows how Jesus keeps all that is truly Jewish, the
"Law and Prophets" (Matthew 5:17-20; 7:12) in fulfillment of Old
Testament prophecy, proclaiming justice and compassion for the poor and
oppressed as the Jewish prophets also did (Matthew 25:31-46).
But the Gospel of Matthew also includes Jesus' commissioning of his
disciples to move beyond the Jewish world to proclaim the Good News of
the Kingdom of God and the Lord's teachings and thus portrays a new view
of God's people. The number of times the word "all" is used also
emphasizes the four important elements of the text, namely, that Jesus
has been given all authority in heaven and on earth; that the mission he
entrusts to his followers is designed for all nations; that the purpose
of the mission is to spread Jesus' teaching and its observance in its
fullness and, finally, that Jesus will always be with his followers to
assist them when they undertake that mission.
Jesus thus identifies the authority given to him as the source or
foundation of the mission, the people to whom to whom it is to be
directed, its purpose and the person
who is the guarantee of its success.
6. Jesus has been given all authority on heaven and earth. This
authority which comes from the Father (cf. Matthew 21:22-26) is the
source of the mission command. Jesus comes into the world on a mission
from his Father. As the Gospel according to St. John will remind us, it
is an authority that Jesus had from the beginning (John 1:3), but as my
patron saint, the holy Apostle St. Paul will call to mind, Jesus Christ,
"though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a
thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he
humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross"
St. Paul will go on to explain that for this very reason God has highly
exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, to
the extent that, at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven
and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Jesus' authority
therefore is established through his incarnation, passion, death and
resurrection. At the moment of the incarnation, when God's Word takes
flesh, to be like us in all things but sin, God truly enters into the
human family with all its diverse and varied cultures.
In the suffering, passion and death of Jesus, our Divine Savior teaches
us how to deal with the infirmities and imperfections of human cultures.
By his resurrection he ensured that his victory would be an enduring
victory over sin and death, which will lead St. Paul to cry out, "O
death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (1
Corinthians 15:55). As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, said in
his last Easter Vigil homily, "the Resurrection was like an explosion of
light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble
co-penetration of 'dying and becoming.' It ushered in a new dimension of
being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter
too was integrated and through which a new world emerges."
The authority of Jesus through the paschal mystery thus transcends and
supersedes cultures by the very fact that in his earthly life he assumes
human culture and purifies it. Therefore, we can boldly say, "Jesus
Christ is Lord: He possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is far
above all rule and authority and power and dominion, for the Father has
put all things under his feet. Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of
history. In him human history and indeed all creation are 'set forth'
and transcendently fulfilled."
7. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus birth,
death, resurrection and ascension are the unfolding of the divine love
overflowing from the Triune God. Jesus' mission in which the Triune God
is at work, is the same mission that the disciples are asked to carry on
in the name of the same Triune God. The Holy Trinity works in unison in
the creation, redemption and renewal of humanity.
In the beginning, we have the Spirit moving over the face of the waters
and the Father creates the world by speaking the Word, who becomes the
foundation and purpose of every creature (John 1:3). In the creation of
man, again God speaks the Word, and breathes his Spirit into the
nostrils of lifeless man. The incarnation and the paschal mystery which
bring to climax the story of humanity's redemption sees the Triune God
in action: the Father sends the Son, who is conceived by the power of
the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and takes human form.
At the inauguration of his ministry with the baptism at the Jordan, the
Son while being baptized, is proclaimed by the Father to the world, with
the Spirit appearing in the likeness of a Dove (Matthew 3:16-17). In the
scene of the crucifixion, Jesus will cry out to the Father and give up
his Spirit (Matthew 27:50). And when finally Jesus has to return to the
Father, he sends the Spirit at Pentecost. This event permits each one to
listen to the Good News in his own tongue. The Triune God, through the
mission entrusted to the Son therefore enters humanity and consequently
human cultures, to transform them, renew them and sanctify them.
It is this same mission that is assigned to the Church, who is called to
be the "leaven in the dough" (Matthew 13:33) carrying on to humanity the
power of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit to transform and restore
all human cultures that have been affected by sin. The command to go to
all nations implies that all boundaries are surpassed. As "Ad Gentes,"
the decree on the mission activity of the Church explains, "[...] by
manifesting Christ the Church reveals to men the real truth about their
condition and their whole calling, since Christ is the source and model
of that redeemed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity and a
peaceful spirit, to which they all aspire. Christ and the Church, which
bears witness to Him by preaching the Gospel, transcend every
peculiarity of race or nation and therefore cannot be considered foreign
anywhere or to anybody."
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recently on the occasion of the 40th
anniversary of the conciliar decree "Ad Gentes" elucidated, "Today, the
Church is called to embrace new challenges and be ready to enter into
dialogue with different cultures and religions, seeking with every
person of good will to build peaceful coexistence between peoples. Thus,
the area of the 'missio ad gentes' appears to have been considerably
extended and cannot be defined solely on the basis of geographical or
juridical considerations; indeed, the missionary activity of the People
of God is not only intended for non-Christian peoples and distant lands,
but above all for social and cultural contexts and hearts."
In my keynote address to the pan-Asian meeting of the members and
consultors of the Pontifical Council for Culture from Asia and the
presidents of the Commissions for Culture of the national episcopal
conferences, held at Nagasaki, Japan, from 15th to 17th October 2002, I
focused on the aspect of the Trinitarian action of transforming
cultures. I had then said, "Jesus has not left us orphans. He gives us
his Spirit to help us understand what he has taught us. His Spirit
enlightens and empowers the Church and makes us intrepid messengers of
the Gospel. ... 'Christ renews all cultures through the creative power
of the Holy Spirit, the infinite source of beauty, love and truth' ("A
Pastoral approach to Culture," § 39). The Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus
himself. He is the Spirit that beautifies bringing the cosmos out of
chaos; the Spirit that unifies bringing together what is scattered; the
Spirit that vivifies infusing life into what is dead and defunct; the
Spirit that sanctifies rendering all things pleasing to God. He is the
finger of God's right hand putting the final touches of perfection to
The raison d'être of the Church is to be the Body of Christ in the world
in order that the whole world might hear the Gospel and that persons,
lives and cultures may be transformed. By its witness in word and deed
to the living Triune God, the Church works for this transformation, for
the benefit of humanity. The purpose and mission of the Church then, is
to witness to God and the joy of God's gracious good news, so that
peoples to the ends of the earth might know God and might experience his
saving grace in Jesus Christ.
8. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. The mission
entrusted to the Church necessarily consists in teaching all peoples to
observe what Jesus has commanded summed up simply in the 'commandment of
love.' For he taught, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind. ...You shall love your
neighbor as yourself. ... On these two commandments depend all the law
and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).
The commandment of love is two dimensional. In its vertical movement, it
is the love that man shows towards God in response to the love that God
first showed him. God's love spills over to create heaven and earth, and
continues to create and shape the world. Because of the disobedience of
our first parents, who were created as the image and likeness of God,
humanity and human cultures were marred by imperfection, blemish and
deficiency, corrupting what God made good.
The love of God comes through the incarnation of his only Son, Jesus
Christ, to humanity and to its cultures to heal them. God became human
in order to redeem the confusion and destructiveness of human beings. In
this the love of God was made manifest to a humanity that had been
affected by sin and imperfection, and to human cultures that were broken
and blemished, "God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might
live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he
loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (1 John
This love heals and transforms humanity as Jesus declares, "as the
Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my
commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my
Father's Commandments and remain in his love" (John 15: 9-10). Jesus
Christ, whose entire life, but especially his passion and death, stand
as the epitome of complete self-gift, teaches what this love means:
This is best interpreted by the mystery of the Cross, which Jesus
accepts in obedience to the will of his Father. The open stretched arms
on the cross while glorifying the Father, invite humanity into an
embrace of love. The love that Jesus teaches is full of compassion. He
himself is moved with compassion at the sight of the crowds, who were
troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).
This compassion leads him to heal the sick (Matthew 14:14), to feed the
hungry (Matthew 15:32), leads him to console and help the widow of Nain
(Luke 7:11-16). His disciples will be judged at the end on the basis of
being moved by this compassion or not (Matthew 25:31-46).
The self-giving love naturally transcends enmities and racial or social
differences. It breaks the cycle of violence of the law of vengeance
(Matthew 5:38-40). It reveals that "God sent the Son into the world, not
to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him"
(John 3:17, cf. John 12:47). And therefore this love does not hesitate
to approach "sinners" (Matthew 9:10-13, 11:19, 21:31; Mark 2:15-17; Luke
5:30, 7:34) in spite of protests from the "righteous." Being a
self-gift, it essentially involves forgiveness (Matthew 6:12;18:21-35;
Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37; 15; 23:34).
Jesus thus lived and taught a love for the neighbor that went beyond
cultural boundaries, to all peoples including the Gentiles (e.g.,
Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30, Luke 10:25-37, John 4:1-39). He was
recognized as the servant of God who will bring justice and light to all
including the gentiles (Matthew 12:18; Isaiah 42:6).
9. I am with you always, to the close of the age. The mission entrusted
to the Church is essentially the mission of Christ. The Lord and Master,
to whom all authority is given in heaven and earth, and who invites
others to follow him, gives them grace for a new life and asks them to
participate in his mission. He is always present and at work in our
midst as he himself has promised. Christ's relevance for all peoples at
all times is shown forth in his Body, the Church.
For the Lord is present through the Holy Spirit, as he himself said,
"the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach
you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to
you" (John 14:26). Jesus Christ continues to accompany his Church in the
holy Eucharist. As the Servant of God, our beloved Pope John Paul II
told us, "in the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into his body
and blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the
journey, and he enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope.
If, in the presence of this mystery, reason experiences its limits, the
heart, enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the
response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded
10. The Church in India, as elsewhere, is called to live and witness its
faith in Jesus Christ. As I said earlier, India's rich and diverse
cultural heritage offers both a challenge and an opportunity to live and
proclaim the faith in Jesus Christ. It calls for an evangelization of
cultures and the inculturation of the faith.
Let me recall the impressive words written by the Servant of God Pope
John Paul II, "My thoughts turn immediately to the lands of the East, so
rich in religious and philosophical traditions of great antiquity. Among
these lands, India has a special place. ... In India particularly, it is
the duty of Christians now to draw from this rich heritage the elements
compatible with their faith, in order to enrich Christian thought."
The mission of Christ fundamentally involves the evangelization of
cultures. To evangelize cultures, one must first be conscious of the
fact that culture is a human reality to be evangelized. Evangelization
must be understood in its total individual and social meaning. If it is
true that only persons can make an act of faith, be converted, receive
baptism, adore and contemplate God, the act of evangelizing must also
reach the heart of cultures through persons. Faith is called to make a
real impact on all areas of common life. While respecting the proper
autonomy of the order, Christians by their witness incarnate the Gospel
to the point of effectively transforming individual and social behavior.
They thus evangelize the very ethos of their own human community.
Inculturation of the faith is the other side of the coin. In the words
of Pope Paul VI, "the kingdom which the Gospel proclaims is lived by men
who are profoundly linked to a culture, and the building up of the
kingdom cannot avoid borrowing the elements of human culture or
cultures. Though independent of cultures, the Gospel and evangelization
are not necessarily incompatible with them; rather they are capable of
permeating them all without becoming subject to any one of them."
The evangelization of cultures and the inculturation of the Gospel go
hand in hand, in a reciprocal relationship which presupposes constant
discernment in the light of the Gospel, to facilitate the identification
of values and countervalues in a given culture, so as to build on the
former and vigorously combat the latter. In this inseparable pair, the
inculturation of faith and the evangelization of culture, there can be
no hint of syncretism or relativism. "In the face of all the different
and at times contrasting cultures present in the various parts of the
world, inculturation seeks to obey Christ's command to preach the Gospel
to all nations even unto the ends of the earth. Such obedience does not
signify either syncretism or a simple adaptation of the announcement of
the Gospel, but rather the fact the Gospel penetrates the very life of
cultures, becomes incarnate in them, overcoming those cultural elements
that are incompatible with the faith and Christian living and raising
their values to the mystery of salvation which comes from Christ" ("Pastores
Dabo Vobis, 55).
11. I would here like to draw upon the apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia
in Asia" which points out the key areas of Inculturation. Referring to
Asia, the words of the document are definitively relevant to India. In
Christology, it noted that the theologizing is to be carried out with
courage, in faithfulness to the Scriptures and to the Church's
Tradition, in sincere adherence to the magisterium and with an awareness
of pastoral realities.
The document stressed the need to ensure that the liturgy becomes an
ever greater source of nourishment for their peoples through a wise and
effective use of elements drawn from the local cultures. But it reminded
that liturgical inculturation requires more than a focus upon
traditional cultural values, symbols and rituals. There is also a need
to take account of the shifts in consciousness and attitudes caused by
the emerging secularist and consumer cultures which are affecting the
Asian and Indian sense of worship and prayer.
Nor can the specific needs of the poor, migrants, refugees, youth and
women be overlooked in any genuine liturgical inculturation in Asia. The
document directed that an effective biblical apostolate be developed in
order to ensure that the sacred text may be more widely diffused and
more intensively and prayerfully used among the members of the Church in
Asia. The apostolic exhortation stressed that the key aspect of
inculturation upon which the future of the process in large part depends
is the formation of evangelizers. It called for a solid grounding of
seminarians in biblical and patristic studies, so that they acquire a
detailed and firm grasp of the Church's theological and philosophical
On the basis of this preparation, they will then benefit from contact
with Asian philosophical and religious traditions. The Synod Fathers
also encouraged seminary professors and staff to seek a profound
understanding of the elements of spirituality and prayer akin to the
Asian soul, and to involve themselves more deeply in the Asian peoples'
search for a fuller life.
"Ecclesia in Asia" emphasized the need to ensure the proper formation of
seminary staff and expresses a concern for the formation of men and
women in the consecrated life, making it clear that the spirituality and
lifestyle of consecrated persons needs to be sensitive to the religious
and cultural heritage of the people among whom they live and whom they
serve, always presupposing the necessary discernment of what conforms to
the Gospel and what does not.
Finally the document points out that since the inculturation of the
Gospel involves the entire People of God, the role of the laity is of
paramount importance. It is they above all who are called to transform
society, in collaboration with the bishops, clergy and religious, by
infusing the "mind of Christ" into the mentality, customs, laws and
structures of the secular world in which they live.
India has had examples of great man like Roberto De Nobili, St. John de
Britto, Father Camil Burke and others who tried to find ways and means
to inculturate the Gospel in the lands where they evangelized. St. John
de Britto, established himself as an Indian ascetic, a Pandara Suami,
lived as they lived, dressed in saffron cloak and turban, and held
retreats in the wilderness in southern India where interested Indians
could visit him; Robert de Nobili, who within a year of his arrival in
Madura acquired a complete mastery of Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit to the
extent of being able to write in each of these languages and to leave
behind commendable literature in these acquired languages.
De Nobili saw that, to make any impact on a highly sophisticated
culture, he not only had to learn the language but also to find ways of
adapting himself to the way of life of the people. He wrote many
treatises in Tamil, Telegu and Sanskrit. After a lifetime spent in
prayer, study and dialogue, he died, almost blind, in Mylapore in 1656.
Three years later, his principles became official Roman policy
in 1659 the office of Propaganda Fide echoed de Nobili by stating
unequivocally that European missionaries were to take with them not
"France, Spain or Italy, or any part of Europe" but the Faith "which
does not reject or damage any people's rites and customs."
Father Camil Bulke, a Belgian, India's most famous Christian Hindi
scholar, enriched the Hindi and Sanskrit languages by his writings. He
was an authority on the Rama theme and a well-known lexicographer. Thus
in the face of all the different and at times contrasting cultures
present in the various parts of the world, inculturation seeks to obey
Christ's command to preach the Gospel to all nations even unto the ends
of the earth.
Such obedience does not signify either syncretism or a simple adaptation
of the announcement of the Gospel, but rather the fact the Gospel
penetrates the very life of cultures, becomes incarnate in them,
overcoming those cultural elements that are incompatible with the faith
and Christian living and raising their values to the mystery of
salvation which comes from Christ.
12. In a country like India which is home to millennial traditional
cultures and a cradle of World Religions, one cannot but insist on
intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Our Lord Jesus Christ in his
earthly life carried out his mission in constant dialogue with all men
of good will. The aim of this dialogue was to make known to others the
divine love revealed in his person. He was not afraid of talking to
those considered outcastes and sinners in his society (Matthew 9:12) or
to eat with tax collectors like Zaccheus (Luke 19:5), or have social
interactions with religious leaders with whom he often had serious
disagreements, as seen by his dinner at the house of Simon, the Pharisee
He did not hesitate to engage a Samaritan woman in a dialogue which
concludes with her recognizing Jesus as the Christ (John 4:9-29) even
though Samaritans were considered schismatics and heretics by the Jews.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, from the start of his pontificate
has continuously insisted on this dialogue. While addressing the
delegates of other churches and ecclesial communities and leaders of
other religious traditions a day after the inauguration of his
pontificate, he said, "I assure you that the Church wants to continue
building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in
order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole."
Recently, he told the bishops taking part in the formation update
meeting organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples,
"More and more, you are feeling the need to inculturate the Gospel, to
evangelize cultures and to foster a sincere and open dialogue with one
and all in order to build together a more brotherly and supportive
humanity." The Holy Father also cautions, "But this path of
dialogue, while so necessary, must not make us forget our duty to
rethink and to highlight just as forcefully the main and indispensable
aspects of our Christian identity. Moreover, it is essential to keep
clearly in mind that our identity requires strength, clarity and courage
in light of the contradictions of the world in which we live."
Since Vatican Council II, dialogue with all people has been a regular
duty of the universal Church and local churches. One should hold
dialogue with people of culture, followers of other religions and
nonbelievers; dialogue about existential questions: sense of life and
death, inner freedom of man, human problems that have religious
dimensions, and even faith itself.
Dialogue should also concern serious problems of social life: upbringing
of young people, poverty, solidarity, foundations of relationships in
multicultural societies, values and human rights, religious and cultural
pluralism, common good, ethics in economy and politics, beauty, ecology,
biotechnology and bioethics, peace, etc. through an intercultural
dialogue we try to help those who live and suffer, and seek sense and
beauty of life every day. The Catholic Cultural Centers that you
head form part of the grass-roots level of society. You are in constant
dialogue with the common man. Dialogue initiated and promoted by your
Centers can go a long way in proclaiming the unicity and salvific
universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ. This dialogue has to be
however conducted with mutual respect and reciprocity.
13. A witness of life. My dear Brothers and Sisters, once Mahatma Gandhi
affectionately called the Father of the nation by you, was asked by
someone, "What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?" His
reply was, "Christians." Jesus' command is loud and clear: We are to
proclaim him to all nations. If we are to teach others to observe the
commandments which he has taught us, then it is imperative that we teach
by the example of our lives so that no one can again say like Gandhi:
Christians are a hindrance to the spread of the faith in Christ.
The Church represents and continues the life of Christ in the world. As
the Lord himself says, "And now I am no more in the world, but they are
in the world" (John 17:11). Therefore the life of the Church on earth
cannot but be a reflection of the life of Christ. He has asked his
disciples to be the "light" and the "salt" of the earth. This means that
by its very presence the Church proclaims Christ. Witnessing is much
more than just telling others about Christ. That is definitely part of
it, but more than that, it is "being" a witness for him.
The best way to teach others about Christ and to make them desire to
have Jesus in their own lives is to live a consistent, loving,
Christ-centered life amongst them. In a deeply spiritual country like
India, a life of prayer is the first witness to Christ. Jesus himself
has promised us that Wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he
is there among them (Matthew 18:20). A life of prayer accompanied by the
coherence of right living provides evidence to the fact that he is the
vine and we are the branches, the source of all grace without which
nothing fruitful can be achieved.
The spirituality-filled cultures of India breathe the thirst for God and
extol the men of God. Mother Teresa would exhort her listeners, "Keep
the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet
especially your family. Be holy
let us pray." It is from this very union with the Triune God in prayer
that we become instruments of God's love in this world. To quote Mother
Teresa again, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is
sending a love letter to the world."
As Christ was sent by the Father, so is the Church sent by Christ.
Christ came as God's incarnate love. The Church continuing the mission
of Christ is similarly called to be a self-gift. Through his humility,
poverty and lowliness, he could identify himself with the marginalized,
the poor, and the oppressed of society. Walking the way of the cross
which is crowned by the reward of the resurrection, he gave a new
meaning to human misery and suffering.
I would like to encourage the Church in India to continue to be Christ's
compassionate face to the poor, the youth, the indigenous peoples, the
suffering, as it has been so wonderfully doing down through the
centuries. For as Jesus said, "as you did it to one of the least of
these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40). An important
element of our witness of love and life is the concern for social
justice. All our societies and cultures are marred in some way by
division, injustice, exploitation and marginalization.
Here in India, you too face these evils in various forms: the caste
system, even untouchability in some places, child labor, exploitation of
the poor, discrimination against the girl child in some regions of the
country and grave difficulties for ethnic, religious and other
minorities. With globalization which without doubt brings a lot of
progress and development, there is also great danger that the poor and
the marginalized become the victims of this progress.
The Church is not required to be involved directly in politics, as the
Holy Father reminded us in his encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," "Yet at
the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the
fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument
and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice,
which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just
society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the
promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and
will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the
Even in this area you have examples in India. Cardinal Telesphore Toppo,
the first tribal cardinal from Asia told the Asian Mission congress in
Chiang Mai, Thailand, recently how Father Constant Lievens took helped
the tribals in fighting injustice and won over their confidence thus
leading them to Christ. He said, "Lievens taught the people to present
their cases truthfully and honestly, took down the facts and proofs, put
them in contact with trustworthy pleaders, and convinced them that
justice could be obtained. Following his guidance and encouragement,
they began to win their cases. They regained confidence in themselves,
in their rights, in God. ... And so, the people eagerly listened to
Lievens as gradually he also began to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ
the unique and universal Savior, who could liberate, transform and
empower them through baptism in water and the Holy Spirit."
My dear brothers and sisters, the Catholic Cultural Centers which you
head are placed at the heart of humanity. I do not want to dwell much on
these centers because Father Bernard Ardura will give you a talk on
this. But I want to remind you that the Catholic Cultural Centers are
public forums, places where people meet and reflect, study and learn,
exchange ideas and develop the dialogue between faith and cultures. In
the broad context of globalization, they offer Catholics, and anyone
else interested in culture, opportunities for useful contact and
conversation about the world and history, religion, culture and science,
all of which helps to discern those values that can throw new light on
existence and give meaning to life.
Through these centers, you have the ability to touch the very core of
the human person, to dialogue with those belonging to various cultures
and religions so that we may be able to strengthen our faith in Jesus
Christ and may find new ways to witness to this faith. I am looking
forward to listening to your rich experiences and will keenly await your
suggestions so that the input we get here may be helpful not only for
the Church in India but for the whole world.
I think it would be fitting to conclude this talk with the words of one
of your own Indian brothers, Cardinal Ivan Dias, the prefect of the
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, "We must acknowledge and
respect the precious treasures of the cultural and religious heritage
which, like the three Wise Men who adored the child Jesus, all people
carry in their bosom, as also the sincere efforts they are making to
discover Truth by following their respective scriptures and saints as
guiding stars. Just as the Wise Men were restless until they found Jesus
and placed their treasures before him and adored him, so also the
peoples of Asia, with their varied and rich cultures and religious
heritage and traditions, will be restless until they find and adore him
who alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. 'You have made us for
yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You'
 Cfr. Robert P. Gwinn et al., "Bartholomew Saint," in The New
Encyclopaedia Britannica 15, Vol. I, Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica
Inc., 1985, 924; cf. also Roman Martyrology and Roman Breviary.
 A.F.J. Klijn, "The Acts of Thomas : Introduction, Text and
Commentary," Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2003.
 Cosme Costa, The Heritage of Govapuri, Pilar, Goa: Pilar
Publications, 2002, 1-3, 21.
 Nandakumar Kamat, "Gopakapattana through the ages," Seminar Papers,
Goa University and Directorate of Archives, published by BS Shastry,
Panaji, 1987, 266.
 Cf. Pontifical Council for Culture, "A Pastoral Approach to
Culture," Vatican City, 1999.
 Benedict XVI, Homily in the Easter Vigil, April 15, 2006.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 668.
 Second Vatican Council decree "Ad Gentes," § 8.
 Paul Poupard, "Proclamer le Christ aux cultures Asiatiques: promesse
et realization," in Pontifical Council for Culture, "Proclaiming Christ
to Asian Cultures: Promise and Fulfillment," Nagasaki Sunshin Catholic
University, Japan, Oct. 15-17, 2002, Vatican City 2003, 27-47. See also
Pontifical Council for Culture, "Christian Humanism: Illuminating With
the Light of the Gospel the Mosaic of Asian Cultures. Proceedings of the
Convention," Bangkok, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 1999, Bangkok 1999.
 John Paul II, encyclical letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," §62.
 John Paul II, encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio," §72.
 Cf. Paul Poupard, "L'Eglise au défi des Cultures, Inculturation et
Evangélisation," Desclée, Paris, 1989 ; Id. "The Church and Culture:
Challenge and Confrontation," English translation by J.H. Miller, New
Hope, KY, 1994, 22-24.
 Paul VI, apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi," §20.
 Cf. "A Pastoral Approach to Culture," §5.
 John Paul II, postsynodal exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia," §22.
 Cf. "A Pastoral Approach to Culture," §5. Cf. also John Paul II,
postsynodal exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis," §55.
 Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops taking part in the Formation
Update Meeting Organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of
Peoples, Rome, Sept. 23, 2006.
 Benedict XVI, Catechesis in the General Audience, Rome, Oct. 11,
 Cf. P. Poupard, "Mère Teresa, le Christ pour les pauvres," in "La
sainteté au defi de l'histoire. Portrait de six témoins pour le 3ème
millénaire. Conférences de Carême de Notre-Dame de Paris," Presses de la
Renaissance, Paris 2003, pp. 51-93.
 Benedict XVI, encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est," §28.
 Pontifical Council for Culture, "Catholic Cultural Centers," 4th
Edition, Vatican City, 2005; Id., "Guide to Catholic Cultural Centers.
Why? What Are They? What to Do?", Vatican City 2006.
 Cardinal Ivan Dias, homily of the Asian Mission Congress opening
Mass, Oct. 19, 2006.