Father Nigel Barrett: Being Indian and Christian don't contradict each other

Feb 10, 2018, 09:03 IST | Gaurav Sarkar

On Thursday, India's Catholic Bishops conference elected the Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswal Gracias, 74, as the new president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), at a gathering held in Bangalore

Cardinal Oswald Gracias and Father Nigel Barrett
Cardinal Oswald Gracias and Father Nigel Barrett

On Thursday, India's Catholic Bishops conference elected the Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswal Gracias, 74, as the new president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), at a gathering held in Bangalore.

The Cardinal's elevation comes at a time when right-wing fundamentalism is on the rise in the country. However, according to Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, the situation is different in Mumbai.

Can't label as right-wing
He says the removal of several crosses by the BMC and cases of desecration of holy crosses in the past year cannot be labelled as right wing. "The removal of crosses by the BMC has nothing to do with fundamentalists," he pointed out, adding, "As for the desecration of crosses, we do not know who has done it yet. Therefore, we are not going to write them off as right wing acts. We have appealed to the police to investigate and take action."

This is also been a time when there have been reports of fundamentalist Hindu outfits are advocating against Christmas. But Father Barret says we should be rooted in our identity as Indians, "The Indian church has to look at itself and see how we can best be a Church that reflects the Indian ethos. The Cardinal himself had earlier made a statement about being an 'Indian Catholic Church'."

"The context [for that] is that we have to be rooted in our identity as Indians and our approach should be towards development of the nation. That's always been our focal point and it is what we have been doing over the years. We need to bring out a greater sense of our Indian-ness without losing our identity. Being Indian and being Christian do not contradict each other."

Not feeling alienated
He concludes, "We, as a community, aren't looking at serving our own self-interests. The Christian community is one that has always looked at being contributing members of the country. We truly believe we need to have a clean and corruption-free India. We need to have good governance. These are all things that are not politically aligned with any individual party, and this is a position the Church holds on these things. We are aligned with the national thought and hence, don't have a feeling of alienation."

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