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Bishop Raphy bids farewell to Varanasi
Update on:28-Nov-2013

Varanasi: Bishop Raphy Manjaly bid farewell to Varanasi diocese on Thursday, after serving the northern Indian diocese that covers Hinduism’s most sacred city for six and a half years. The 55-year-old prelate is scheduled to take charge of neighbouring Allahabad diocese on December 3.

Bishop Manjaly was only 48 when he replaced Varanasi’s first prelate, Bishop Patrick D’Souza who served the diocese since 1970. In a recent interview with Matters India reporter, Indian Missionary Society Father Ajesh Thomas, Bishop Manjaly shared his experience in Varanasi and his plans for his new assignment.

MATTERS INDIA: Why are you being transferred to Allahabad?

BISHOP RAPHY MANJALY: Basically, the transfer is not my decision. It is the superiors who decide. I personally do not know why I am being transferred. But from people, priests and others, I hear that the diocese of Allahabad wants a bishop, who has experience as a bishop and who knows the priests and the diocese of Allahabad. Probably these reasons may have caused the superiors to appoint me as the bishop of Allahabad.

How was your work as the bishop of Varanasi?

I personally believe that people and priests should evaluate my work. Whatever I say can only be subjective. But I say my efforts in Varanasi were to build on the foundations laid by my predecessor Bishop Patrick D’ Souza, and to introduce new things wherever it was required. The basic thrust of my ministry has been to strengthen the faith of priests, religious and faithful, mainly to set a spiritual tone or spiritual atmosphere. That has been the thrust. It does not mean that I concentrated only on those tasks. There were other works also. Nevertheless, I would say my primary concern was to strengthen the faith and to help the people to be more spiritual.

What were the challenges you faced?

Well, first of all, it was not easy to step into the shoes of a great bishop like Patrick D’Souza who guided this diocese for the past 37 years. People tended to compare me with him. Right in the beginning I told them Bishop Patrick was a great bishop, a genius, and he has got his own strengths. I am totally a different person and I have my strength and my own ways of doing things. But still I would say there were comparisons. Secondly it was a new diocese for me. I was a priest of Agra archdiocese and my exposure outside the diocese was the diocese of Allahabad. So to get the confidence of the people, the priests and the religious was a challenge, and to study a new diocese and to know the people and start working was a challenge definitely.

Varanasi is the holiest city of Hindus. What is the role of the Church in such a place?

The Church’s primary role is to preach the good news. That has not changed in the beginning. The only thing is that it gets more and more contextualized and the values are always perennial. Gospels contain perpetual values. The Church’s role is to see the areas of convergence and work together with them for the well-being of society, and the people. At the same time one need not compromise on one’s principles and convictions. I suppose, what is required is to be authentic and meet them (Hindus) sincerely, accept the differences and work together. I feel there are areas where we can work together by removing prejudices and building understanding. Leaders have this understanding and ability to corporate and percolate down to simple people.

There has been a call to give Varanasi a status like the Vatican City. Do you support such a move?

Vatican became a state for historical reasons. It is part of history. It evolved and circumstances contributed to Vatican becoming a state. If Varanasi is trying to do it, it will be something an afterthought or to say something which will be done by human considerations. But I am not against it. I would say the circumstances leading to these two things are different, one is historical evolution as the circumstances contributed and the other is, one tries to compare and do something like the other. These are two different things. If it is possible, it can be done and I am for it. I am just pointing out the difference.

What are your plans for Allahabad? What is the assessment of the situation of the Church there?

I have not made any big plan as such but I do believe that certain structures have to be built up wherever they are lacking and there is need to be more pastoral in our approach in every station, in every institution. We need to be people friendly and have basic simplicity.

You are going to a diocese whose earlier bishop was removed in a controversial situation? How do you plan to heal the wounds there, if any, among the faithful and others?

Well, I do not know of any deep wounds caused to the faithful and priests, but what I would like to do is to listen to the people. Enter into conversation, listen to them and find out the difficulties faced by people, priests, and religious and after ascertaining the fact and knowing the situation I would like to understand them, and to be of help whichever the way possible. Definitely, I would like to be for them a shepherd, someone who understands them, someone who cares for them, and someone who loves them. That is the message I want to send across.

The Church in Uttar Pradesh is very miniscule, although it has the oldest diocese of northern India (Agra). What are the challenges the Church faces in the most populous state in India?

The Church in general has been institutional. By and large institutionalization has taken place. We need to become more people friendly and pastoral and get back to, as Vatican II said, knowing people’s joys and sorrows. By being close to them and by experiencing what they go through, we should make polices and plans that will be of help for them.

Another challenge would be globalization. Market economy and the gap between the rich and the poor is the result of this. So we need to educate people about the powers that are at work in society and help them not to fall into the trap of advertisements and mechanism of the multinationals and market forces, because they keep advertizing and creating unnecessary needs and propagating false doctrines. Thus it is a challenge.

Fundamentalism is another challenge and the Church has a role to unite people. We should appreciate our rich tradition and culture and the religious tolerance of our people towards believers of other faiths. These are the things I would exhort.

How are you going to implement some of the instructions of Pope Francis, especially regarding poverty and support to justice and peace?

Well, regarding poverty, it has to begin with simple lifestyle removing from my life and life of my people all that is superfluous, all that is unnecessary, and also to develop a culture of caring and sharing. Of course the first step is to build this awareness. Second is to motivate people towards that goal. Third would be to tak


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