Pics: Dayanand Kukkaje
Daijiworld Media Network – Mangaluru (SB)
Mangaluru, Jul 16: Pope Francis appointed Dr Peter Paul Saldanha as the new Bishop of Mangaluru Diocese on July 3. The new Bishop will take charge on September 15 and present bishop Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza will become Emeritus Bishop of Mangaluru. On the occasion of stepping down from 22 years of service to the one of the prominent dioceses of India, Dr Aloysius spoke in an exclusive interview to Editor-in-chief Walter Nandalike on Daijiworld 24x7 channel.
Excerpts of the interview:
1. As the Bishop, you served Mangaluru diocese for 22 years. Now at the moment of retirement, do you feel any work which you desired, has not been implemented?
Nothing! I was chosen by Christ to lead his people. With a responsibility of serving the people, I took charge as a Bishop. In my entire lordship I have given importance to the programmes and projects which are very essential to the community. I am happy that all projects have been implemented and nothing is kept pending.
2. During your tenure, Udupi diocese came into existence. Did you feel a sense of relief as there was too much of burden or did you feel that diocese lost an important part?
No. There was a demand from the people, who were living in the parishes of Udupi district, for a diocese. We also agreed with them as it was challenging to give attention to the needs of believers. However, I have never ignored the people even though it was difficult, but instead took it as a challenge and served them by putting maximum efforts. After the new diocese was formed, people have developed in all spheres.
3. Mangaluru is one of the richest dioceses in India. It has the capacity to adopt some special regions as mission centres. First it adopted Bidar as its mission center. Now ‘Same’ in Tanzania has been adopted. Why an international region was selected when there are many places in India which have more scope for mission work?
The ‘Same’ mission started because of the request on the Bishop of Same. He had visited our diocese and described the situation of the believers of ‘Same’. He said in Same, Catholics are very few in numbers and without proper religious leadership. they were leaving the faith and joining other groups. So we showed interest towards ‘Same’ with the intention of sharing our faith with the people of 'Same'.
4. How you intend to spend your retirement life?
I want to spend my retired life in prayer and adoration.
5. There are allegations against you that you did not speak publicly when the issues such as church attack, Jeppu compound issue, Kulshekar scam took place. Any comments?
I have spoken wherever my opinion was needed. I tried to find solutions to these issues. In Kulshekar issue we are waiting for the commission report from Rome. In Jeppu Compound issue, I have taken necessary steps. In connection with this issue, few have spread rumours that after the retirement, Bishop will reside in a Rs 17 crore worth bungalow. It is my request to them to show me where is that bungalow situated? I want to see it. The allegations also was made that Jeppu Compound does not belong to the Bishop. We have challenged them to prove their allegation. Now the matter is in court. I hope they have faith in the court.
6. Do you feel sad that these allegations surfaced especially during the time of your retirement?
Christ also has passed through the same situation. They tried to defame him by false allegations. I am a follower of Christ. We should accept these things with spirit of faith. It will only strengthen our faith and trust in God. So I believe the allegations on me which arise at the time of my retirement are an opportunity to strengthen my faith and witness the eternal love of God.
7. Recently our former MLA J.R Lobo had given a public statement that the construction of churches worth crores should not be encouraged. What are your comments?
There is nothing wrong in his statement. I agree with him. Our main motto is to strengthen the faith of believers. Churches are the part of believer’s life. If there is a necessity of a church, then we should build it. The decision of constructing a new church purely comes from members, parish council, and not from diocese. We are only giving approval for the project after a detailed evaluation. Of course we cannot compare the cost of construction to the prices ten years back.
Nowadays construction has become very costly and same time our church buildings should be of good quality and should last for a long time. So automatically crores of rupees are needed.
8. Now there is huge decrease in gulf income. The numbers of priests who are visiting gulf counties for collection have decreased. Can we assume that the church constructions are slowing down?
Like I have said earlier, the church constructions are only undertaken on the basis of its necessity and demand of parishioners. Nowadays, priests also have become more careful on these matters.
9. Recent days the Catholic community is getting more funds from government. Are you satisfied with this?
Yes. It is happening only because our leaders are involved in government and various governmental departments. Government is providing funds for repairing the old churches, construction of cemeteries and its compounds.
10. Recently Pope said the sermon in holy mass should not cross the limit of 10 minutes. What is your say on this?
The sermon depends upon the readings. Not on the time. Priests should preach what people need, according to readings .So sometimes it will be more than ten minutes. Sometimes it may be less.
11. You did your higher studies in Cannon Law. As per current trend what changes we can see in church and cannon law?
Church and cannon law have not changed. It is only updated. But there are no changes in the matters of faith and belief. Nowadays lay people are getting more importance in church and its administration. Along with the clergy, every member is getting a responsibility in church.
12. The number of divorce cases is on the increase in Mangaluru diocese. Do you believe it is an alarm in family life?
Yes, in the recent years divorce cases have increased in the diocese. We are putting all efforts to unite the couples who have differences in family life. We have implemented several measures to decrease the divorce cases. Our family life centre is working on this seriously.
13. There is an opinion that it is easier to get divorce from court than from church. Have you faced any pressure on this?
Never. Church does not fall for pressure. It follows its rules and law. Actually there is no divorce for those who are married after understanding each other.
14. Do you think the Catholic flow to other Christian churches has stopped?
There was a time when our Catholic members did join other groups. But with the formation of Small Christian Communities (SCC), the flow has stopped. The other groups also have stopped recruiting our members to their groups. Because of SCC every catholic family felt there is someone who cares for them. SCC has played a vital role in strengthening the Catholic principles at the grassroots.
15. There is general opinion that today's generation is not showing any interest in priesthood. How you tried to solve this issue?
Yes. Nowadays, the young generation is not showing interest in becoming religious persons. The main reason is parents are not encouraging their children on this. We have many religious congregations and youths are joining these congregations. So we cannot say there are no vocations in diocese.
16. Back then, did you ever think you will become a Bishop?
No. I was surprised when then Bishop late Basil D’Souza called me to his chamber and gave me the letter which he received from Vatican. It took minutes for me to believe my appointment. I never thought I will become a Bishop.
17. Once there was news that Mangaluru Diocese will become an archdiocese soon. But later the matter closed silently. Actually, Mangaluru has all eligibility to become an archdiocese. Any comments?
What you heard is correct. We have put some efforts on it. But we have not received an order or permission from Rome.
18. Have you faced any pressure in Dakshina Kannada district?
I always say that we should pray for good government and good governance. Many times I have appealed to people for the same. This does not mean there is pressure.
19. Dakshina Kannada is known as communal sensitive region. Here Christians are always giving preference for peace. Despite this, some are targeting a few with false allegations. How do you think the allegations come on community?
We feel sad when allegations come on us at the time of doing right things and good work. We are serving the society without any discrimination. Nowhere are we encouraging conversion nor are we entertaining it. But still some are saying we are doing conversion. The people who are putting false allegations on us have their own agenda. We have nothing to do with them.
20. After a 22 years lordship now you are becoming Bishop emeritus. What is your message to new Bishop and believers?
I will pray to the Almighty to give strength to the new Bishop to lead people as per the teachings of Christ. Same time he should bring the people of all religions together and put efforts to build harmony and peace in society.
Believers should live in faith and not make any compromise on it. They should follow Christ in their life by loving each other. Forgiveness is another important thing they have to remember in their life. The peaceful behaviour with other religions makes them ambassadors of Christ. It will help building a peaceful society.