In India, the Church Is Coming of Age

Impact Goes Far Beyond the Numbers, Says Archbishop of Bombay

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RIMINI, Italy, AUG. 20, 2002 ( The Catholic Church’s influence in India is far greater than its share of the population, the archbishop of Bombay says.

Cardinal Ivan Dias made his comments in this coastal city where he is attending the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples.

Although missionary work has been going on for two millennium in India — St. Thomas the Apostle is considered its first evangelizer — Christians number only 23 million among a population of more than 1 billion. Catholics total 18 million.

«Our presence goes well beyond the numbers,» the cardinal said. «We offer 20% of school education, 10% of all programs for the illiterate and health programs, 25% of all projects for widows and orphans, 30% of all available structures for lepers and AIDS patients.»

«In my diocese alone, Bombay, we have 150 schools and university colleges in which 400,000 pupils study,» Cardinal Dias observed.

«Given these percentages, it is easy to understand that the majority of students are not Christian. In fact, it is increasingly frequent that the highest state offices are held by people who have studied in Catholic schools,» he continued.

The cardinal said that India has just over 20,000 priests and 81,600 women religious.

India has the largest number of candidates for the priesthood. It has 10,537 diocesan and religious students of philosophy and theology, a figure far higher than that of the United States (5,109), Italy (6,433), Spain (2,728), Mexico (7,059) and Brazil (8,831).

«In my diocese — the largest of India — we have 115 parishes, and in 80 of them there is perpetual eucharistic adoration from 5 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. In six churches we also have all-night adoration,» the cardinal continued.

Asked about Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s process of beatification, Cardinal Dias said: «For India, for Albania, and for the whole world, Mother Teresa is already a saint.»

«As regards the canonical process, it is advancing rapidly. She will soon be proclaimed ‘venerable,'» he concluded.

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