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Historic Mission Congress Held in Mumbai

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MUMBAI, OCT. 15: (George Plathottam sdb): India's first ever Mission Congress on the theme 'Let Your Light Shine', christened Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav was inaugurated by Vatican Ambassador to India and representative of Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana at the St. Pius College, Goregaon, Mumbai. About 1500 delegates, including more than 100 bishops, hundreds of priests and nuns, and lay leaders from the 160 dioceses of India are attending the Congress. Mumbai's 49-year old spacious St. Pius Seminary in Goregaon wore a festive look with tastefully decorated conference venue, illuminations, colorful exhibition pandals, spacious food court and several stalls. The four-day event includes talks, sharing faith stories and experiences of new and creative ways of ministries in the church in India as well as liturgical celebrations and prayers in the three different rites in India, groups sharing, discussions, exhibitions and cultural programmes. President of the Congress Cardinal Oswald Gracias said the event drew inspiration from the late Pope John II who called for continental Mission Congresses. The 50 delegates from India who attended the Asian Mission Congress in Thailand felt that India should organize a similar event for the whole country. The purpose of the Congress, Cardinal Oswald said, "is to joyfully share our faith in Jesus Christ, to express the joy of believing in Him, to exchange our experiences, and to inspire others to continue to work in the spirit of the Gospel. It is hoped that as a result of this Congress, the participants and the whole Church in India will have a deeper awareness of what it means to be a Christian, a greater consciousness of our calling, and a more sincere commitment to live as Christians." Preparations for the event began over a year ago with Fr. Vijay Shantiraj as the national Secretary and Bishop Agnelo Gracias of Mumbai as the chairman of the local organising committee. Several volunteers from the parishes of Mumbai have been working tirelessly to host the delegates and to ensure the smooth conduct of the event. Inaugural Event The Mission Congress opened with the carrying of the Bible in procession by representatives of the three ritual churches, Fr. Vijay Shantiraj, Fr. JustinVettukallel and Fr. John Berchmans. The chief guest and heads of the three Churches lit the lamp amid chanting of hymns on the theme of light. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai as host and President of the Mission Congress welcomed the delegates to the city of Mumbai for the four-day event. The Church in India, he noted is having its first Mission Congress, and history is being made. He said each of the participants in the Congress is a very special delegate of their diocese. He hoped that the Congress would provide them very fruitful, graceful days and give to each one "a deeper understanding of our mission as disciples of Christ." Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil calls to bear courageous witness to Christ President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India and head of the Syro-Malabar Church, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil called the delegates of the first Indian Mission Congress to bear courageous witness to Christ as there is no other substitute for happiness than the Good News of Christ. Speaking at the inaugural session of the Indian Mission Congress, Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav, Cardinal Vithayathil said the event drew inspiration from the Asian Mission Congress held in Thailand in 2006, and is the fruit of collaboration of all the three ritual churches in India. Such collaboration, he said, augurs well for the church in India. Stressing the need to be courageous witnesses of Christ today, he said, no amount of wealth or pleasure in this world can give deep and lasting joy which Christ gives. He drew attention to ills like terrorism, fundamentalism and atheism that plague the world today. Christ and his message are the fundamental answers to the ills that afflict the world. Calling for a courageous witness and proclamation of Christ and his message, he emphasized that the one who has discovered the treasure of Christ cannot keep it to oneself but is compelled from within to communicate it to others. He highlighted the importance of the media in the proclamation of this message, but underlined the need for Christians to become not only messengers but the message by authentic discipleship of Christ. He said neither Jesus Christ, nor the Catholic Church, force anybody to be converted. But he emphasized the need for rejecting intolerance of other's faith. This is a special mission: Archbishop Quintana "The Church's mission is to spread hope continuously. This is a special mission. The Church works not to assert power or dominion but to seek only to place ourselves at the service of humanity, especially the poor," reasoned Archbishop Pedro Lopez Qunitana. "The best way of evangelization is to tell the story of Jesus. The roll of the laity is important. We are invited to be the light, to tell everybody of Jesus, especially those who are ignorant of Christ," Archbishop Quintana added. Christ's Message is for the whole world: Mar Cleemis Jesus Christ's message is one of peace and love for the whole people and not meant for any particular ethnic, linguistic or regional group, said Major Archbishop Moran Mar Baselios Mar Cleemis, Catholicos, head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church in India, in his message at the inaugural session of the Indian Mission Congress, Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav. The Church in India is small in comparison with other religious groups but the service it extends to all sections of the people, particularly its commitment to the poor are a major contribution to the nation, he said. He called on the 1500 delegates of the Mission Congress to build a culture of peace, tolerance and love and march together with members of all other Christian churches and religions in living the love of God. He paid tributes to the Christian brothers and sisters in Orissa who were brutally attacked for their Christian faith. He also lauded the efforts of Archbishop Cheenath of Cuttack, Bhubhaneshwar for his courageous witness in the face of persecution.

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