Cardinal Lourdusamy’s Indianness enhanced Church’s catholicity – Hector Welgampola

Duraisamy Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Feb. 5, 1924 - June 2, 2014.  Facebook Profile photo https://www.facebook.com/pages/Duraisamy-Simon-Cardinal-Lourdusamy/176416629127257?fref=photo

Duraisamy Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, Feb. 5, 1924 – June 2, 2014.
Facebook Profile photo https://www.facebook.com/pages/Duraisamy-Simon-Cardinal-Lourdusamy/176416629127257?fref=photo

Hector Welgampola, veteran journalist specializing in Church in Asia, on the eve of the funeral service for Cardinal Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy in Rome, reflects on the contributions of the late cardinal to the development of the Church in Asia and in the world.

Cardinal Lourdusamy, 90, died on Monday in a Rome clinic where he had been hospitalized due to failing health, the Vatican announced. 

Pope Francis in a message issued the same day expressed sadness over the death of the former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches and former Archbishop of Bangalore. The pope will conclude the last rites at St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Cardinal Lourdusamy’s remains will be brought to India for rites and a funeral ceremony that will “most probably take place next Monday (June 9) or Tuesday (June 10) at Pondicherry,” Daijiworld news service in Bangalore reported.

Following is the commentary of Welgampola, who knew the cardinal in the prime of his life:

As we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, it is timely to recall how the Second Vatican Council brought into limelight several new leaders including some recent popes, bishops and theologians. Deceased Cardinal Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy was one of the first Asians among them. He attended the council fresh after episcopal ordination for India’s Vatican, Bangalore archdiocese.

The Tamil bishop was one of the youngest Council Fathers. Yet, he stood out among some 60 Indian participants by pleading for the holistic welfare of God’s poor. Jesuit Father Norman Tanner’s book “The Church in Council” cites how the Indian bishop urged that international aid be more than mere material aid. He said :

     * international support should push for “emotional integration, unity and equality among all poor people.”

Rescuers help villagers evacuate in Provident Villages during Habagat flooding with help from American donors. NJ Viehland Photos.

Rescuers help villagers evacuate in Provident Villages during Habagat flooding with help from American donors. NJ Viehland Photos.

     * He defined aid as “help that comes from the heart and goes to the heart,” the book claimed as if prophetically missioning a mandate for the then unborn Caritas.

Caritas Manila presentation at Manila archdiocese chancery. - NJ Viehland Photos

Caritas Manila presentation at Manila archdiocese chancery. – NJ Viehland Photos

It was a vision he had pushed as editor of the Tamil Catholic weekly of his native diocese, then named Pondicherry.

The young archbishop’s passionate call against discrimination, brought back to my mind what his brother, the late Father Simon Amalorpavadas, had told me about their own difficult path to the priesthood. But the new winds of the council boosted their spirits in their new home diocese in Karnataka. Together the two brothers helped make Bangalore archdiocese a regional venue for Church renewal. They set up the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre. It was a hub of inspiration for all of South Asia. But as Archbishop Lourdusamy continued to be hassled by Bangalore’s unceasing language problems, providence led him where the council beckoned.

Conciliar thinking had already moved Pope Paul VI to reorganize the curia. Some of these innovative trends had already been explained during the 1969 All India Seminar by Archbishop Sergio Pignedoli, secretary of Propaganda Fide. The pope’s energetic emissary was scouting for fresh talent. Before long, this congregation’s responsibilities for the missions were entrusted to three prelates from the Third World – Latin American Cardinal A. Rossi, African Archbishop B. Gantin and Asian Archbishop D. S. Lourdusamy.

As the first Asian to hold curial office, the Indian prelate rose high in the service of the Holy See. After serving over a decade as secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, he was made a cardinal in 1985. A new appointment followed. Cardinal Lourdusamy was appointed prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

The Oriental congregation’s conciliar mandate regarding relations with the Eastern Churches was clear. But the new prefect had to work around the strong native Slavic sentiments of Saint John Paul II. The Vatican’s haste to make inroads into jurisdictions of Orthodox Churches in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse dampened their enthusiasm for dialogue. The temptation to saddle Eastern Churches with Latin-Church discipline was another attitudinal problem. For example, the move to impose the age 75 retirement rule on a Ukranian-Rite bishop became a sore point.

In such a scenario, as head of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Lourdusamy tended to begin from his own home turf. By boosting and upbuilding relations with the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches, he was able to make a unique contribution to the Indian Catholic community. His pioneer move restored the country’s native Syrian Catholic Churches to their rightful place.

Every forward move evokes criticism. Some Latin-Church leaders tended to see his focus on the Syrian Churches as divisiveness to avenge past grievances. Eyes rolled when his friend the Latin-rite Bishop Anthony Padiyara of Ooctamund was invited to return home to head the Syro-Malabar Church. However, it was welcome as a wise move, when the genial Syrian-cum-Latin-experienced prelate was installed later as the first Major Archbishop of that Church.

In a message to the Constitution and Directives of the Missionary Society of Saint Thomas the Apostle, Cardinal Lourdusamy encouraged that Church’s missionary activities. He lived to see the native Church very successfully serve its followers scattered in about a dozen dioceses throughout India in addition to sending missioners to Western countries. That service to the universal Church has been Cardinal Lourdusamy’s enduring legacy.

Before making his peace with the Lord on June 2, the illustrious Indian cardinal lived to see the final approval of canonization process for two more Syrian Church members – Blessed Euphrasia and Blessed Kuriakose Chavara. They would have joined Saints Alphonsa and Garcia to welcome home their compatriot, Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy.

May his moksha (liberation) lead to the plenitude of beatific bliss.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would  work together primarily to produce top quality content. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has dedicated decades of his life as a journalist to serving as Executive Editor of the Bangkok-based Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). He led and mentored what used to be a wide network of correspondents and staff of that agency based around Asia and other continents so they would work together primarily to produce top quality content. Before joining UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring from UCAN Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita.

 

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Why is Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 still missing? – opinion

Aerial search for wreckage from Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in the Australian search zone was called off  April 27 while authorities continue to move to an intensified undersea search in the southern Indian Ocean after a technology company reported its sensor technology has found a plane in the Bay of Bengal, south of Bangladesh.

The plane was carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it vanished on March 8.

Kevin Ashton in his commentary on the struggle to track down the plane compared the operation of more than 50 days to finding a flash drive in the sea. 

This is so, he says, because “while technology for communicating from the ground has advanced rapidly in the last 40 years, technology for communicating from the sky has been stuck in the 1970s.”

To read his full commentary, click on The New York Times, Opinion Pages, April 28, 2014

Retired news editor Hector Welgampola, in Lenten Reflection – Malaysian Flight Disaster, had questioned the inability of authorities to detect the aircraft. “In an age when science is so advanced as to help humans reach outer space and traverse planets, there is no excuse for being ill-equipped to map and master movements in our own airspace and oceans,” Welgampola wrote.

Read Welgampola’s full Lenten Reflection by clicking on Catholic In Asia, April 2, 2014

 

The spiritualities of Bergamo and Wadowice brought sainthood to the papacy (Commentary by Hector Welgampola)

Worship leaders lead some more than 15,000 worshippers in singing praise songs and dancing at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines while waiting for the televised canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on April 26, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Worship leaders lead some more than 15,000 worshippers in singing praise songs and dancing at Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines while waiting for the televised canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in Rome on April 26, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Heavenly bliss is the ultimate goal of all humans. That leads us to the Christian concept of a Communion of Saints. Some religions honor holy persons as saints even in their lifetime. So did the early Christians. In today’s Church, however, sainthood is a posthumous title reserved for holy men and women whose fragrance of sanctity continues to sustain earthly sojourners of the Communion. 

Last weekend, the Church added two popes to the official list of saints for veneration by Catholics worldwide. Way ahead of the dual canonization in the Vatican, the new saints received unprecedented media coverage. Much of it focused on their papal role as John XXIII and John Paul II. Happily, corrective action was promptly taken by Pope Francis. He graciously thanked Catholics of Bergamo, Italy, and Wadowice, Poland, for gifting the two saints to the worldwide Church.

Saint John XXIII was pope for about 5 years of his 84-year-long life. Saint John Paul II was pope for just 27 of his 82-year-long life. Much of the two saints’ contribution, even as popes, was the fruit of their Christian life and service each in his own habitat or mission. When considering their fuller life-witness, one wonders whether they should have been canonized as Saint Angelo Roncalli and Saint Karol Wojtyla. After all, their sainthood owes much to the holiness of life and witness that equipped each of them to grace the papacy as head of the worldwide Church.

For example, the ever-jolly Friar Tuck-style depiction of saint John XXIII often fails to reflect the rustic Roncalli serenity based on deep personal prayer. The “Journal of a Soul,” which puts together diaries and notes Angelo Roncalli wrote from age 14 until his last days, reveals the simple peasant spirituality that laid the foundation for his eventful papacy. “My great book is the crucifix,” he wrote as a simple priest, adding, “the solution of all difficulties is Christ.” He was fond of the private devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus practised by his great-uncle Zaverio Roncalli. “In fact, he was the first person to train me to that practice of religion from which my priestly vocation was to spring,” he wrote later as Pope John.

Even after being named papal representative in Bulgaria, he was ever conscious of the sense of Divine Presence nurtured by his peasant background. He once recalled, “God sees me: our humble grandmothers used to work this motto into their samplers of rustic embroidery; it still hangs on the old walls of our houses and it contains a stern reminder which serves to give a character of decency to all our behaviour.”

Archbishop Roncalli’s diplomatic sojourn in Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece and France exposed him to a wide spectrum of world realities. It served as a providential pastoral preparation for his future task as pope. His political and ecumenical encounters in those countries helped set the agenda for his epochal pontificate. Such moves also set priorities for the charismatic Saint John Paul II’s long pontificate. Those who try to brand the two pontificates using human categories as progressive versus conservative fail to discern the hand of God as evidenced by the bridging roles of the later Pauline and Franciscan pontificates.

Polish Bishop Karol Wojtyla was ordained just one month before Pope John XXIII was elected in October 1958. Enthused by the new pope’s call for an Ecumenical Council, the new Polish bishop was one the first to respond to the pre-conciliar questionnaire sent to the world’s 2,594 bishops. After the death of Pope John, Cardinal Wojtyla supported Pope Paul VI further pursue the policy of Ostopolitik to reach out to Communist countries including the offer of diplomatic relations to Warsaw.

The Johnine-Pauline policy of detante paved the way for the role attributed to Pope John Paul II for the collapse of communism. As much as the socio-political struggle in Poland catalysed his later social teaching, it also tended to restrict his world view. Some Church watchers say that his Polish background made him politically progressive while being doctrinally conservative. Although his Christian humanism as a young poet and playwright had been forward looking, his Polish spirituality had difficulty in coping with post-Christian secularism and resisting curial moves to contain ecumenism and inculturation. In 1995, papal biographer Tad Szulc wrote that Pope John Paul II was “the unchanged spiritual child of wartime Krakow.”

When considered in the context of such ecclesial realities, the sainting of two recent popes has a catechetical value. Whatever critics may have to say about fast-tracking the canonizations, the proximity of their lives in recent history, encourages us to learn to honor the holiness of saints despite their human limitations. Even saints have been human, just like the rest of the pilgrim Church. After all, the flawed experiences of the past would help saints better understand us, just as the Church is expected to.
END

Hector Welgampola has served more than 50 years in Catholic media as editor of the two Colombo-based Catholic weeklies in Sri Lanka, the English-language Messenger and Sinhalese-language Gnanartha Pradeepaya (lamp of wisdom).
He then served as executive editor of UCA News from 1987 until his retirement in 2001. He also compiled the recently published Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.