Bangalore: Demand for Konkani in Liturgy, Separate Konkani Archdiocese
From Our Special Correspondent
Daijiworld Media Network - Bangalore
Bangalore, Jul 20: Allowing space for Konkani in the Liturgy and Holy Eucharistic celebrations in the Archdiocese of Bangalore and other dioceses in Karnataka like Chikmagalur, which has predominant Konkani speaking faithful, as also in other Catholic dioceses of the Latin rite churches in the State and a strong plea for taking steps for the creation of a Konkani Archdiocese comprising all the dioceses in the Konkani speaking areas were some of the main demands put forth before a three-level panel headed by Dr Thomas Menaparampil, Archbishop Emeritus of Guwahati in the Bangalore.
The panel headed by the highly respected Archbishop Menaparampil, comprising Dr Agnelo, Bishop of Mumbai and Dr Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Pune, which has been constituted by the Apostolic Nuncio to India, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, has been in Bangalore four days since July 16 to study the implementation of the three-language formula in the Archdiocese of Bangalore and the establishment of a Regional Seminary for Karnataka in Bangalore.
The grievances of Konkani speaking Catholics in Bangalore were taken up under the banner of the Federation of Konkani Catholic Associations, which has as many as 16 associations of Konkani Catholics in different parts of Bangalore alone and another 11 associations of Konkani Catholics in other districts of Karnataka and several foreign countries in the Middle East, US, UK and Canada. The FKCA team led by its newly elected chairperson Aida D’Cunha and past chairmen Valerian Fernandes and Charles Gomes along with the office-bearers also took up the case of Konkani Catholics of Chikmagalur, Mysore, Shimoga dioceses as also explained the situation in other Catholic dioceses like Mangalore, Karwar, Bellary, Gulbarga and Belgaum as well.
However, the Konkani Prachar Sanchalan President Ronlad (Roy) Castelino and Eric Ozario, Gurkar of Mandd Sobhann, represented the concerns of Konkani Catholics from Mangalore with Chikmagalur district’s Catholic Konkani Rakan Sanchalan Secretary Edward Pinto took up the problems of Konkani Catholics in Chikmagalur diocese and Mysore’s Konkani Christian Association Secretary John William D’Souza took up the case of Konkani Catholics of Mysore diocese as the Konkani speaking faithful in the their respective dioceses had similar concerns as those of the Konkani Catholics in Bangalore.
Greetings with Flowers
The Archbishop Menaparampil’s team, which received written respresentations from the three delegations and gave a patient hearing for 20 minutes against the allotted time of 10 minutes and took meticulous notes, even expressed their pleasant surprise when the FKCA chairperson Aida D’Cunha presented flower bouquets. ''Yours is the first delegation to greet us with flowers," the highly learned Archbishop Emeritus Menaparampil remarked.
Speaking to the Apostolic Nunico’s three-member team on behalf of FKCA, Gabriel Vaz, journalist, made it clear Karnataka accounted for the largest number of Konkani speaking people and the State had more than half the nearly 30 lakh Konkani speaking people spread among different castes and religions like Roman Catholics, Christians belonging to Protestants and other denominations, Hindus, Gowd Saraswat Brahmins, Navayats or Muslims, Kudumbis and even Siddis of African origin.
While Konkani speaking people were predominant in Mangalore and the newly created Udupi dioceses as well Karwar and Chikmagalur dioceses, Mysore, Shimoga, Bangalore and even Belgaum dioceses had substantial numbers of Konkani Catholics. However, Konkani was used in the Liturgy and Eucharistic celebrations in Mangalore, Udupi and Karwar dioceses, all other dioceses had denied any space for Konkani while according primacy to the State’s official language of Kannada.
Discard 3-Language Formula; Allow Other Languages
''Though we are Konkani speaking and love our mother-tongue very much, we have no problems in using Kannada in our day-to-day life. However, we feel happy to use our mother-tongue in our daily prayers and in Liturgy as well as in all Eucharistic celebrations," he said and pointed out that the 3-language formula that was hammered out by the then Archbishop Dr Alphonsus Mathias some 25 years ago, when Kannada protagonists were up in arms against Tamil speaking people, especially after the flaring up of Kannada versus Tamil language row between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, was totally unfair to Konkani speaking people as also faithful belonging to other languages like Malayalam or Telugu as it dictated that only Kannada, Tamil and English be used in the parishes.
''Roughly 30 per cent of the Catholics in Bangalore Archdiocese are Konkani speaking from coastal Karnataka or other parts of the State, who had come to Bangalore in search of jobs, for education or business after the trend of migration to Bombay or the Gulf countries was ersed. When the Kannada Catholics were agitating against Tamil, the Konkani speaking people being multi-lingual and not keen to add to the problems of the Konkani speaking Mangalorean Archbishop, backed the former against the Tamilians, who were considered as outsiders little realizing that it will prove detrimental to them in the long run," Gabriel Vaz explained.
''Konkani speaking Catholics are denied the opportunity to have at least the Sunday obligatory mass in their mother-tongue in parishes in places like Yeshwanthpur, Rajajinagar, Jalahalli, R T Nagar, Viveknagar, Koramangala, Jayanagar etc which had 30 to 50 per cent or even more Konkani speaking people while Kannada speaking Catholics were hardly 20 to 30 per cent with people belonging to Malayalam, Tamil or Telugu accounting for the rest," he said pointing out that the situation had become so much worse as to see the Konkani speaking people being p ented to have Eucharistic celebrations in their mother-tongue during funerals, nuptials and other sacraments and even during the traditional and most important Nativity Feast of Mother Mary. Though some churches allowed Konkani liturgy and masses for the Nativity Feast, there was always resistance from the Kannada speaking people.
Hold Referendum to Ascertain Views of Faithful
He explained that the resistance to Konkani or other languages was confined to a small section of Kannada faithful while majority of the Catholics had no objection as long as they were allowed to use their mother-tongue. The Kannada agitationists were mostly outsiders and even politically affiliated outfits and anti-minority elements with active support and cooperation from some of the Kannada priests, who had ulterior motives of capturing key positions and power within the diocese.
Keeping all these factors into consideration, he said the team should recommend scapping of the impractical, cumbersome and anti-people three-language formula and allow the people to have a say in the choice of the language for the liturgy by holding a parish-wise referendum to assess the views of the people based on the family records maintained in each of the parishes and allow the use of the language if a substantial number of people like 10 or 15 per cent of the total number of families prefer a particular language.
''Let Kannada enjoy the primary place and let the Kannada speaking faithful select the most suitable prime time either in the morning and allow the other linguistic people to mutually decide the timings most convenient to them through dialogue. We want Konkani only in parishes with substantial number of Konkani speaking faithful and have no objection to Kannada, Tamil or Telugu languages being used if substantial number of people were in favour of it," he said.
Regional Seminary Welcome, But Not Linguistic
He also suggested that the Apostolic Team should recommend similar policy to be adopted in all the dioceses across the State rather imposing any rigid single or two or three language formula. This will take care of the problems in Chikmagalur, with 90 per cent of Konkani speaking people but following pro-Kannada single language policy, and Msyore, Shimoga or Belgaum dioceses.
On the issue of setting up of a regional seminary for Karnataka, he said the Konkani speaking people had no objection for a separate seminary as long as it was broad-based and not confined to any one language as the priests being trained were meant to serve all sections of people belonging to different languages. ''The Catholic church need not follow the medium of instruction policy," he said suggesting that it should be governed by the Karnataka Bishops through the Karnataka Region Bishops Council comprising 19 Bishops and the Bishops of Tamil Nadu must not have any say in the seminary in the State just as Bishops from other states were not allowed a say in Tamil Nadu.
Create Konkani Archdiocese
He also advocated the need for a separate Konkani Archdiocese comprising Mangalore, Udupi, Karwar, Chikmagalur, Shimoga and even from parts of Mysore and Belgaum. If the undivided Dakshina Kannada district can have four dioceses of Mangalore, Udupi, Puttur and Belthangady (the last two belonging to the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites), and states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra can have two Archdioceses, it was high time that the predominantly Konkani speaking dioceses be brought under a single Archdiocese rather than being under the control of Bangalore Archdiocese.
Another suggestion made by FKCA was for splitting the Bangalore Archdiocese for administrative convenience and better pastoral care as the present Archdiocese comprising six civil districts from Bangalore urban and rural, Ramanagaram, Chikballapur, Tumkur and Kolar was too large and unwieldy. ''If the diocese is split, it will also partially satisfy the objectives of some of the Kannada priests for grabbing positions of power by fomenting trouble in the Archdiocse by raking up the language issue," he said evoking mild smiles from the three Bishops.
''Don’t Let Konkani Die"
Roy Castelino of the Konkani Prachar Sanchalan and Eric Ozario speaking on behalf of the Catholic Konkan Rakan Sanchalan of Chikmagalur said the rigid application of the 3-language formula in Bangalore Archdiocese had its repercussions in Chikmagalur, Mysore, Shimoga and other dioceses with the adoption of the single language formula or at best use of English language but never Konkani. There were several parishes in these dioceses which had an overwhelming majority of Konkani speaking people, who had to put up with use of Kannada in the Liturgy.
''If a language is blocked out of the liturgy, it may soon fade away from the hearts and minds of people and may eventually die," Eric Ozario said pointing out that Latin was a classic example with even Sanskrit was almost a similar case as it was sought to be restricted only to the Brahminical class.
''Frustrated at the total disregard for their mother-tongue in liturgy, many of the Konkani speaking people were going out of the fold and even embracing breakaway sects or denominations like New Life or Pentecost or even joining Jehovah’s Witnesses," Ozario said and urged the team to be mindful of the larger interest of the church and keeping all its flock together.
''If the State Government gives recognition to Konkani and sets up a separate Academy for the development of Konkani and promotion of its literature and culture, the church should also play a similar pro-active role like the early Christian missionaries who studied the local languages," he added.
Support Konkani, Pray in Konkani
Later, all the leaders of the different Konkani organizations held a meeting at Ashirwad to discuss the future course of action in which Mandd Sonhann President Stany Alvares, leading advocate M P Noronha and Ronald Colaco, President of International Federation of Christian Associations and an ardent well-wisher of Konkani participated.
After discussing various issues, the meeting felt the need for greater interaction to ensure that the momentum generated for developing and promoting Konkani in liturgy should be continued.
''I am second to none in espousing the cause of Konkani and am willing to extend full support. However, we should take care to ensure that we carry all sections of the people with us and should not take steps that might prove detrimental to our religion," Ronald Colaco said and emphasized that all the Konkani Catholics must be exhibit their seriousness and commitment to their mother-tongue by having their personal and family prayers in Konkani besides supporting the efforts of all Konkani activists and organizations.