Archbishop Felix Machado - A Champion of Inter-religious Dialogue

April 15, 2008
Pictures by Deepak D’Souza

Rev Dr Felix Machado, who was ordained as the Archbishop of Nasik recently on 8th March 2008, was in the Infant Jesus Parish, Dombivli on Sunday 6th April 2008,  for the twin purpose of the blessing and inauguration of the newly built shrine of Infant Jesus in the Church compound  and administering the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Before blessing the small shrine of Infant Jesus, Dr Felix Machado narrated his experience of visiting the original Infant Jesus Shrine at Prague in Bohemia in the Czech Republic. He is also the Archbishop of Nasik which has the famous Infant Jesus Shrine, a pilgrimage centre to Christians from different parts of India.

At the beginning of the liturgical service, Fr Peter D’Cunha, the Parish Priest of the Infant Jesus Church, Dombivli, welcomed Dr Felix Machado and Rev Fr Barthol Machado, Dean of the Thane Deanery. During the solemn service 70 candidates were administered the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation by Archbishop Dr Felix Machado.

A brief felicitation programme for the Archbishop was arranged immediately after the liturgical service. Fr Peter D’Cunha felicitated Dr Felix Machado in traditional Indian custom by offering him  shawl, coconut and a flower bouquet. Similarly, Fr Tony Robinson, Assistant Parish Priest felicitated the Dean, Rev  Fr Barthol Machado.

As I had to deliver the felicitation address, I had to do certain amount of research and found out quite interesting facts about Rev Dr Felix Machado. What struck me most was the fact that he has a deep understanding of the principles and philosophy of different religious faiths and  as the Under-secretary at the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue at Vatican, he tried to promote inter-religious dialogue and harmony.

The diocese of Nasik comprising of Nasik, Jalgaon, Nandurbar and Ahmednagar districts was formed out of the Poona Diocese during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II in 1987. After the resignation of its first Jesuit Bishop, Thomas Bhalerao on 31st March 2007 on ground of ill-health, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Dr Felix Machado, who was the Under-secretary at the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue at Vatican, as the next Archbishop of Nasik.

Rev Dr Felix Machado’s journey to priesthood and later to the eminent positions of the Monsignor and presently the Archbishop of Nasik has been quite commendable. Born on 6th June 1948 at Vasai, Rev Dr Felix Machado had his initial education in Marathi schools. Later, he joined St Pius X College, Goregaon where he studied philosophy.  After graduating from St Pius X College in 1970, he pursued higher education in Marathi literature from the Mumbai University.  In 1973, he went to Lyons in France for further studies in theology and was ordained a priest in 1976. Soon after, he returned to his own parish in Vasai to serve as a priest.

As Rev Dr Machado was keen to pursue further academic studies, he proceeded to the United States for his doctorate in comparative religions. He acquired Ph.D. degree from the Fordham University in New York in 1984. His doctoral thesis was on the ‘Jnaneshvari’, a commentary on the ‘Bhagavad-Gita’ by Sant Jnaneshvar, a prominent thirteenth century Bhakti Saint from Maharashtra.

Realizing his keen interest in Hindu philosophy and religious traditions, the superiors of Dr Felix Machado encouraged him to read most of the Hindu scriptures and Marathi Bhakti literature from Sant Ramdas and Gora Kumbhar to Muktabai and Sant Eknath. It was perhaps this skill of being able to understand other sub-continental religions better that saw him being called to the Vatican to join the Asia desk in 1993. Following the publication of his doctoral thesis in the form of a book in 1998, Dr Felix Machado was appointed by Pope John Paul II as the Under-secretary at the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue at Vatican.

The knowledge of various religious traditions enabled Dr Felix Machado to contribute as a professor in various institutions in Mumbai and abroad. In Mumbai he taught at St Pius X College and K.J. Somaiya Sanskrit Peetham. He also delivered scholarly lectures at Hofstra University in Hempstead (USA), Regina Mundi Pontifical Institute and Auxilium University in Rome.

Rev Dr Felix Machado is proficient in many languages especially English, French, Italian and Marathi. He has written over one-hundred articles in these languages on theology and philosophy in various Indian and foreign journals.

His deep knowledge in comparative religious studies was one of the chief reasons to Rev Dr Machado’s participation in a number of national and international seminars and conferences. In many of these conferences he was invited to present key-note addresses. Recently, he delivered key-note address at the ‘World Peace Congress 2008’ on the “Role of Youth in Promoting the Culture of Peace in the World”- a UNESCO Chair Programme that was held at Pune from 30th January to 2nd February 2008.

As the champion of inter-religious dialogue and harmony, Dr Felix Machado has won both national and international recognition for his pioneering work. At the National Inter-faith Harmony Conference held in August 2005, Dr Felix Machado was felicitated in recognition of his contribution in promoting inter-faith harmony at international level.

Realizing the need to understand the essential teachings of other faiths, Rev Dr Felix Machado was instrumental in persuading Catholic priests and nuns to learn about other religions. He is of the opinion that it is necessary to understand and convey the beliefs of each religion correctly.

The solemn consecration ceremony of Rev Dr Felix Machado at Nasik on 8th March 2008 was attended by around 10,000 people including Archbishops, bishops priests, nuns and religious leaders of various faiths. As Dr Felix Machado was the Under-secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue before his appointment as the Archbishop of Nasik,  he invited  Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist religious leaders in the city of Nasik to join him and give a novel touch to his Episcopal Ordination.

His Lordship Oswald Cardinal Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai conducted the consecration liturgy assisted by Bishop Valerian D’Souza of Poona and Bishop Emiratus Bhalerao of Nasik.

In spite of his great achievements and high position, Rev Dr Felix Machado is the personification of simplicity and humility, the traits that he had developed because of his deep roots in the Indian culture and traditions.

While speaking to the Confirmation candidates Dr Machado pointed out the dangers that the youth face in modern society and asked them to be strong in their faith. “While trying to achieve the higher goals in life, keep your feet firmly on the ground”, he said. This is very much true in the case of Dr Felix Machado himself. Coming from a simple and humble family from Vasai, his elevation to the position of Under-Secretary at the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue at Vatican and presently as the Archbishop of Nasik is no mean achievement.

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By Dr Eugene D’Souza, Dombivli
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Comment on this article

  • Lisa Palmieri-Billig, Rome

    Sun, Dec 01 2013

    Archbishop Machado is a wonderful person. We had a lovely conversation at the Religions for Peace 9th Global Assembly in Vienna last week, and I will be referring to him in an article of mine to be published in tomorrow.
    Thank you for this interview!
    LP-B Rome, November 30, 2013
    PS I would enjoy receiving your publication regularly.

  • Theresa Schaefer wife of Bill Schaefer, New York, USA

    Fri, May 23 2008

    I am blessed to say I know Arch Bishop Machado personally and want to express my joy in knowing he is an instrument in bringing Gods love and presence to people... God Bless you ArchB Machado

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