Cardinal-designate Ivan Dias of Bombay

In India, Signs of Hope Amid the Persecutions

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- India´s newest cardinal-to-be finds great hope amid the sufferings of the Church in his land.

«A brilliant future lies before the Church in India,» Cardinal-designate Ivan Dias, archbishop of Bombay, said in an interview. «Persecutions are a presage of a great new flourishing.»

The 65-year-old archbishop will be made a cardinal at the consistory Wednesday at the Vatican. His diocese, one of the most important in a country of 1 billion souls, has 550,000 Catholics. He spoke with the news agency Fides about the Church in India.

Q: What does the cardinal´s hat add to your life?

Archbishop Dias: Being elevated to the College of Cardinals strengthens my commitment: it opens a new chapter in my priestly ministry which is the greatest of all honors or titles. This honor comes to confirm me in the pastoral service to which the Lord has called me.

Q: What is the situation of the Catholic community in your Archdiocese of Bombay?

Archbishop Dias: Bombay is the largest diocese in India. We have a fervent and vibrant laity. The main challenge is to deepen knowledge of the faith and faith life, as the Second Vatican Council taught us.

We have just concluded a synod in the archdiocese which highlighted the need to encourage the laity to take a more active part in the life and mission of the Church. This is the major commitment now, for me and for the archdiocese.

Q: What are the difficulties?

Archbishop Dias: The greatest difficulty for our Catholics is to find the courage to speak about the faith to others, to announce the Good News. Our people are very devout: 75 of the 114 parishes in the archdiocese have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during the day, with a good attendance of faithful, and daily Mass is well attended.

But with regards evangelization, greater efforts are needed. We have a number of associations and social centers, but every Christian must learn to reach out to the poor: To follow the example of Mother Teresa must be a service common to all.

Q: How do you see the future of the Church in India?

Archbishop Dias: I am convinced that a brilliant future awaits the Catholic Church in this country. And the Holy Father said this during his last visit two years ago: He told us that in the third millennium a major role will be played by the Church in Asia and Indian Catholics have a special place in the Asian Church.

I think that persecutions are to be expected. The Church has always suffered, particularly before a great flourishing. These vexations are a presage of a new springtime for the Church in the years ahead.

The continued reports of violence against Christians do not make me lose hope: I know that from evil the Lord will draw good.

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