06/08/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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New bishop of Pune to build a missionary Church for the poor and for religions

by Nirmala Carvalho
Monsignor Dabre joined his new diocese on Sunday. His priorities include a dialogue between religions and cultures, aid for the poor and concern for the young. For him the Church is called to meet the “challenges of our time.” Priests and lay people must “understand the real nature of our faith.”
Pune (AsiaNews) – Mgr Thomas Dabre (pictured), the new bishop of Pune, wants to build his mission by promoting inter-faith and intercultural dialogue, provide aid to charities and the poor but above all help the clergy and the laity “understand the real nature of our faith.”

Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, four Archbishops and six bishops from various dioceses in the western region, took part in the installation ceremony at St Patrick’s Cathedral yesterday. Thousands of believers from the diocese of Vasai were also present.

“I feel privileged to be bishop of Pune, a diocese so rich in culture” with “a long tradition of culture” that “has made a significant contribution to the history of modern India,” the new bishop told AsiaNews.

Located in the State of Maharashtra, the city of Pune is 150 km east of Mumbai. It is home to the Jnana Deep Vidyapeeth (JDV), the Pontifical Institute of philosophy and Religion, which trains the country’s churchmen.

Mgr Dabre is a graduate of the institute and also taught there. He is also quite conscious of its importance in the life of the Indian Church.

“Our academic institutes should not be insular,” he said. “They must be open to civil society. Our studies and academic pursuits must equip us to respond to situations around us, so in this regard, I will encourage them to think, study and teach in a manner suitable to give an answer to our times” which should also meet “the needs and challenges of globalisation and the society around us.”

As a member of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, the bishop of Pune is aware that “many of the conflicts in today’s society, regions and world communities are sadly due to religious tensions arising out of misunderstanding and misinformation, which unfortunately [. . .] give rise to situations of intolerance, [. . .] violence” and fundamentalism.

For this reason, “inter-religious dialogue and inculturation are a urgent need in today’s India and a pastoral priority for the Church, especially at a time when anti-Christian violence is sweeping across several regions of the country.”

For Mgr Dabre “building bridges of understanding and tolerance among the country’s various religious communities” is one of the main tasks the JDV and the faithful in his diocese must undertake. Young people must become “agents of change”.

For the young the prelate envisages an educational approach “that includes the integration of an inter-religious component in every aspect of education.”

Indeed “dialogue is not [just] a word for it means” a place like Pune with “its rich heritage” serving as “an important centre for social and religious reform movements.”

Helping the poor and the weakest segments of society are also part of his priorities.

“A large part of the population in the diocese lives in rural areas and the Church plays an important role in their development and integration in society,” the bishop said.

“Our schools are open to children of every creed and our educational activities are geared towards helping the marginalised and the poor lead a life of dignity and without discrimination,” he added.

Notwithstanding the role of the Church’s charitable and educational institutions, priests and lay people are the main players in inter-religious and intercultural dialogue.

For Mgr Dabre focusing on the mission is a must for priests. This is why “they receive a continuing education that can help them understand the real nature of our faith.

For the bishop the year Benedict XVI has dedicated to priests “is an incredible gift because sadly today there are many misunderstandings within the Church.”

Lay people and priests must be helped to “appreciate and love the faith and be able to communicate it to our people. Only this way can we see families, society and our entire diocese transformed.”

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