By Robin Gomes
The Indian Diocese of Dharmapuri is planning a pastoral plan and is working for the spiritual and material welfare of the faithful. Bishop Lawrence Pius Dorairaj of Dharmapuri, in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state, spoke about his jurisdiction to Vatican News, while on his “ad limina” visit to Rome.
A bishop in charge of a diocese is required to make an “ad limina” visit to Rome every 5 years or so, to report to the Vatican dicasteries and the Pope on the state of his jurisdiction.
Bishop Dorairaj said that if Pope Francis were to ask him about something beautiful about his diocese, he would tell him that his faithful were strong in their faith despite their poverty. These people are very grateful for all the help, especially financial, that receive from the Church.
The 65-year bishop said that poverty is a big problem of his people in Dharmapuri, where drought has exacerbated the situation. The region does not receive much rain, but this year it has been particularly hard on them with wells drying up and alternatives methods to get enough water have not been very fruitful.
Another anxiety of Dharmapuri Diocese as well as of Christians in India is the rise of religious fundamentalism in the country. He pointed out that with the pro-Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heading the government for a second term, Christians don’t feel very comfortable. He said they have a lot of anxieties about the way their freedom will be limited or taken away.
In Dharmapuri Diocese, Hindus are a majority and there are also many Muslims. Bishop Dorairaj, who is in-charge of inter-religious dialogue for the Tamil Nadu Bishops' Council (TNBC), said that they occasionally come together, especially on the occasion religious festivals. But he lamented that they don’t get together often enough.
One such gathering, the bishop said, was after the suicide terror bomb attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, April 21, this year. Representatives of various faiths came together for a meaningful prayer service and condolence meeting. Apart from these occasions, Christians are not very much in relationship with the people of other faiths.
Bishop Dorairaj also spoke about his plans for his diocese. For the past few years, he said, they have been working hard on forming a pastoral plan for the diocese based on the 2013 recommendations of the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ of India (CCBI), which is the Latin-rite bishops of the country. The state of Tamil Nadu, he said, already has a pastoral plan for the region but Dharmapuri Diocese is planning its own specific pastoral plan. This is the most important task at hand, along with the spiritual and material rejuvenation of the diocese.
Bishop Dorairaj was part of a group of 54 bishops from the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Telengana, as well as the Union Territory of Puducherry, who were on their “ad limina” visit. They were the second batch of Indian bishops who were received by Pope Francis on 17 September.