Event celebrates new Asian Cardinals, honours a veteran Cardinal
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
The Indian Bishops' Conference hosted a celebration in honour of the six new Asian Cardinals on Tuesday evening, at a venue near St Peter's Basilica. Cardinal Oswald Gracias led the celebration and was joined by many newly-created Cardinals, both from Asia and elsewhere, as well as many veteran Cardinals.
In opening remarks, and on behalf of his fellow newly-created Asian Cardinals, Cardinal Philip Neri, Archbishop of Goa, thanked Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of the Episcopal Conference of India, for having arranged the event. He continued saying that all six new cardinals “count on prayers of all present” so that they might rise to the challenges of their new ministry.
Cardinal Gracias - Silver and Golden Jubilee
His remarks then focused on Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who celebrates both the golden jubilee of his priesthood and the silver jubilee of his episcopal ordination. “He is a wonderful human person”, Cardinal Neri said, “endowed with exceptional qualities of mind and heart. A Christian who has learned to anchor his life in Christ, A bishop who continues to proclaim his faith in Christ enthusiastically according to his motto ‘To reconcile all things in Christ’ “.
Cardinal Neri then reflected that Cardinal Oswald has been a model shepherd capable of “sustaining the people of God in their life of faith and on the way of holiness”. Everything he has done as an “expert in Canon Law, his expertise as a priest, as a chancellor, as an auxiliary, as Archbishop and Cardinal” has been to serve the Church. In each of these positions, Cardinal Oswald “has made a unique and singular contribution to the life and mission of the Church”.
Presentation of Called to Serve: Cardinal Oswald Gracias
Nigel Fernandes, CEO of Asian Trading Corporation, presented Called To Serve: Cardinal Oswald Gracias, a new book chronicling Cardinal Oswald’s life. He is witness to the fact that Cardinal Oswald “had to be convinced to publish the book”. The book Mr. Fernandes said, covers the Cardinal’s early life, seminary life, even some “crushes he had”, and offices he has held. “There are still so many things left uncovered", Mr. Fernandes continued, "to the point that I wondered if we had done him justice in the book”.
Cardinal Gracias - one of the most significant bishops in the Church
Also on hand for the event was newly-created Cardinal Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship. It is an “honour and joy to be associated with this event this evening to praise a very great man and a very fine priest, a gentleman and a scholar”, Cardinal Roche said. He then went on to praise the Bishops' Conference of India which, he said, is “very special”. “When you meet the bishops from India, they have a twinkle in their eye, and a spring in their step”. But specifically of Cardinal Gracias, Cardinal Roche said, “You know you are making a friend for life in meeting Oswald Gracias. You know he is interested in you straight way. He has a very large and good heart. A heart like the Lord himself. He is one of the most significant bishops in the Church”.
Cardinal Gracias looks to the future
Cardinal Gracias shared that he himself can hardly believe he has spent fifty years as a priest and twenty-five as a bishop. Rather than looking back on what he has done, the Cardinal says he still sees so much yet to do. His hope is that with the upcoming General Conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference, the entire Church in Asia will take a step forward in responding to their call to serve. “Every baptized person is called to spend themselves for the Church”, Cardinal Gracias said.
He confirmed Mr. Fernandes' remark that at first, he was against the book project chronicling his life. “They convinced me”, he said, “saying that it was for the good of the Church in India”.
In speaking about Pope Francis, Cardinal Gracias reflected on the fact that “the Church faces many challenges all over.
Cardinal Gracias then concluded his remarks saying he is proud of India’s two new Cardinals as well as all six new Asian Cardinals. In thanking his brother cardinals for attending the event and expressing their “support and encouragement”, he said, “we need it, we need one another as brothers. We belong to the same family”.
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