A fortnight ago I got messages from the Vicar General and Sannybhai JESA Secretariat, New Delhi, on the Holy Father inviting everyone to participate in Saturday 7th September 2013 evening vigil, with fasting and prayer “for peace in Syria, in the Middle East and in the whole world.”
The VG and Sannybhai must be complimented on spreading Pope’s message on world peace. Sannybhai wrote: “The world is aghast at the development in Syria. War clouds are looming large thanks to the US’s ‘irresistible’ temptation to launch a military attack on Syria. Unfortunately the world is yet to have a taste of the PEACE that Jesus promised. Let us spend the next couple of days for prayer and action that the countries, especially America, will learn to tread the path of peace.”
Let’s examine excerpts from the Pope’s passionate message: “Also for peace in our hearts, because peace begins in the heart,” he said. “I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.”
Syria is a global concern today. Using chemical bomb to eliminate innocents within the country is certainly a crime against humanity. But this has not been proved conclusively. Also even if chemical weapons are found in King Assad’s arsenal, it would be seen that the very countries viz. USA, UK and France which are raising a hue and cry over Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, are the ones who made a huge fortune by supplying these weapons!
USA’s plan to attack Assad’s Government would be use of violence to fight violence. This cannot bring peace but only destruction. The world has seen enough of USA’s Dadagiri in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The call of Obama to use Military force against Assad Government is another example of inflicting pain and suffering among the innocent people to boost its sagging economy through arms sale, warfare, destruction and big contracts for rebuilding. So the whole buildup is actually a big commercial venture of a cartel of super powers! For the time being though Obama is holding the reins of his warhorses under pressure from the world, particularly Pope Francis’ unequivocal call to all for peace.
The Holy Father’s concern for Syria by calling a day of fast and prayer has been much applauded by all peace loving countries. Even the grand mufti of Damascus, who thanked the pope for his initiative in a letter earlier this week, invited Muslims to join the fast in solidarity. The Pope spent five hours on 7th September evening in prayer in St. Peter’s prayer, surrounded by 100,000 people, and followed by millions around the world.
For the moment, there has been no expansion of the Syrian civil war. Some are seeing that as an answer to prayer.
While talking of USA’s Dadagiri we must look at ourselves in our country India – at our Bishops, parish priests, school and college principals. The CEO-like way they behave leaves much to be desired. They simply get intoxicated by power and position and forget they are caretakers and not owners; that they are ordained to serve and not crowned as kings. This is evident from the utterances of John Dayal at the annual general meeting of All India Catholic Union (AICU) and the two-day Laity Assembly in Kolkata in August 2013. He said Anger is brewing among the Catholic laity in India that bishops, both individually and collectively, have chosen not to respond to laypeople’s various appeals over the years. They are now considering a direct appeal to the pope if the CBCI – the Catholic Bishops Conference of India – does not listen. AICU leaders felt that in many dioceses, even basic provisos of the Code of Canon Law have not been observed, on transparency, governance, participation of the people, implementation of Vatican II provisions on diocesan and Parish Finance Committees. It is believed that clergy and hierarchy discourage participation by the laity, whom they see as a challenge to vested interests.
The laity also feels aggrieved that the church leadership keeps them out of the management of missionary schools, colleges and other structures in spite of well-qualified lay people. Lay involvement is much higher in most other countries. In India the bishops and clergy spend too much time on administrative affairs and too less on pastoral care.
But CBCI is harder than the wall of China. One John Dayal cannot make an impact until and unless all the Laity leaders across India shout in unison not only in once-a-year-conference and press release but repeatedly at every opportunity. This will be quite a daunting task as most of the lay leaders are handpicked by the Clergy based on the hallmark of sycophancy.
In Calcutta Archdiocese so many petitions seeking dialogue have been swept under the carpet. There is no attempt to address a parish problem in the very beginning as many parish priests consider their parishes their fiefdom caring two hoots about Vatican II mandate on transparent and accountable parishes by implementation of PPCs and PFCs. They hire and fire staff at will, break elected lay units and replace these with units manned by handpicked persons, many a time the same person heading several units. They even use strongmen. Intimation to the Archbishop, CBCI and the Nuncio, appears to be banging one’s head against a wall. They do not even have the minimum decency to acknowledge receipt of petitions or reply to emails.
The Pope’s prayer “Also for peace in our hearts, because peace begins in the heart,” is pertinent and is to be respected. But can there be peace in our hearts when the message of peace is not translated into action in our local situations of conflict and misunderstanding between church authorities and common folk? What world peace are we talking of?
ISAAC HAROLD GOMES Kolkata