I was reviewing documents of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) tonight when I received word that Pope Francis, in a surprise move pulled Indian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil out of retirement and appointed him to look after a diocese in northeastern India.
I’ve not been around long enough, so I can remember this happening only once when retired Bishop Francisco Claver was appointed to head Bontoc-Lagawe.
Watch out, retired prelates! We’ll never know what Pope Francis has in store for us.
In congratulating Archbishop Thomas, the prelate who for a long time led the FABC Office of Evangelization , and who coined the phrase “whispering the Gospel to the soul of Asia…” , I share here excerpts from my interview with him last year shortly after Benedict XVI announced he was stepping down as pope.
The US bishops’ Catholic News Service (CNS) published the report that quoted some of his remarks. Here is the brief of the full report sent to their clients. Here is Catholic Universe reprint of the story that appeared in a host of other publications.
Read the raw version of the interview excerpts below and tell me. Prophetic?
NJ Viehland: What are qualities, attitudes or particular traits or skills that the next pope must have to shepherd the Church though the rest of this post-modern era?
Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil: This is a question for which I can have no answer. The pope is a pope for me, whatever his nationality, character or competence. He is the Vicar of Christ.
But I can say what the world needs today. A violence-ridden world cries for a reconciling agency, force or inspiration in our times: an energy that will bring together nations, civilizations, cultures, traditions, societies, and communities that are in tense relationships; perceptions, philosophies, ideologies, and theological perspectives that are in opposition; one-sided conclusions of sciences and irresponsible ventures of technologies that are on a collision course.
Every insight is valuable for humanity, every school of thought has something to offer, everything that emerges in a context does so by the compulsions of history. They correct and complete each other in the processes of interaction and by the force of history. A holistic and integrative view is soothing.
Asians understand very well that things that seem contradictory can be brought into harmony, an undertaking in which Asians themselves have failed. That is where the power of the Gospel comes in, for Christ brings all things together. It is the mission of the Church to make this possible.
Even though I may not have phrased my idea in the ideal way, I long for a vision of this type emerging in Christian thought. It will be under the leadership of the new Pope that such things can take shape ensuring a hope-filled future for humanity.