Roman Catholic Diocese of Chingleput

Bishop's Speaks

Dear Fathers / Brothers / Sisters and my dear Lay Brethren,

The Holy Father Pope Francis has dedicated the Sunday before the solemnity of Christ the king (17 th November this year) to the Poor in the World. It is a day not merely to remember the poor but to commit ourselves to the cause of the poor. The Holy Father wants us to recognize our serious responsibility of empowering the poor who are living with us. The world today acknowledges and admires Pope Francis as a leader who has genuine love and deep concern towards the poor and the marginalized. There is hardly any world leader who has not paid glowing tributes to the compassionate shepherd of the Catholic Church. This loving and compassionate pastor makes a fervent appeal to all of us to work for the promotion and liberation of our less fortunate brethren. But we must remember that this is not just a fraternal exhortation.

Our responsibility towards the poor is deeply rooted in our Christian faith. The Holy Father says emphatically in Evangelii Gaudium that “Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members”. (EG.186) Again in the same apostolic exhortation Pope Francis says with such force and clarity that “the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one. God shows the poor ‘his first mercy’. This divine preference has consequences for the faith life of all Christians, since we are all called to have ‘this mind which was in Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 2:5)”

We are therefore called to imitate Jesus our good shepherd who came to give life.... life in abundance to the poor, the marginalized and the excluded. (Jn.10:10)

we are also challenged to lay down our lives, if necessary, to help the poor live with respect and human dignity. (Jn 10:11,15) Priests and religious must recognize that their ministry of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being. They should not pretend that their only job is to prepare souls for heaven. (EG.182) Responsibility for the promotion of the poor is not restricted only to priests and religious but as the Pope says every individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the Poor. (EG.187)

I wish to affirm here that Promotion of the poor does not consist in charitable works. Doling out money and materials will not liberate the poor. We need to join them in their struggle for justice and equality. In this context I wish to draw your attention to the invitation of the CBCI to manifest our concern and solidarity with the Dalit Christians as they continue their long and painful struggle for justice and equality. The Second Sunday in November (10th Nov) is to be observed as Dalit Liberation Sunday. My dear brothers and sisters let not these special days meander into mere listless observances. Let them motivate us to commit ourselves to the cause of the poor, the emancipation and empowerment of Dalits.

Let the poor, the marginalized, the excluded, the oppressed and the Dalits be brought from the outermost fringes of the society to the center of the society. If the Kingdom of God is the central message of the Gospel, then the poor must become the center of the Church and the center of the new Social Order. Let me end with the words of Pope Francis. “The Poor are at the Centre of the Gospel, at the heart of the Gospel. If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we can not understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.” (Mass with Bishops, Priests, Religious - Manila, Philippines, January 15, 2015).
God Bless your Ministry!


+ Most Rev. Dr. A. Neethinathan
   Bishop of Chingleput

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