News No harm in backtracking on citizenship law: Cardinal Gracias

No harm in backtracking on citizenship law: Cardinal Gracias

There is no harm in backtracking if the government thinks it has erred in amending citizenship laws, says Cardinal Oswald Gracias, head of the Catholic Church in India.

“Religion should never be made a dividing factor,” asserted the cardinal when asked about the political turmoil in India over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) and the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

However, the prelate disapproved people indulging in violence to get their voices heard. “Violence is not right. A continuous discussion must take place,” the Bombay archbishop told friends and well-wishers who on December 24 greeted him on his 75th birthday.

Cardinal Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and an adviser of Pope Francis, says he is “very keen” on inter-religious dialogue between people of different faiths. “This will knock off any prejudices and eventually help to understand and appreciate each other. I want the Catholic community to be at the forefront of this… to build bridges,” he added.

The Indian Church leader termed the love for the nation as an important trait of citizens. “If we truly feel strongly about India, then we must work for the country, to the point of being ready to sacrifice for it,” the cardinal asserted.

To foster patriotism, the cardinal suggests people engage in reflection and exchange of ideas. “Reading and knowing the thoughts of others helps one’s own thoughts to mature and conceptualize a better India, in which everyone is like one big family. This is what should be our priority,” Cardinal Gracias explained.

He urged students protesting against the CAA to come forward and discuss their difficulties with the authorities. “The government should be willing to engage. The government wants a better India, and if after reflection, they feel that they have made some mistake, then there is no harm in backtracking. We need to look at the larger picture,” he added.

The cardinal celebrated his birthday at the Archbishop’s House in Colaba amid followers, friends, well-wishers and parishioners.

After the blessing ceremony in the courtyard at 12 noon, some friends of the cardinalsaid a few words inside the main hall. This was followed by a chorus of “Happy birthday to you” while the cardinal cut the cake, and some fun activities and games between staffers.

Speaking to Mid-Day amid the celebrations, Cardinal Gracias stressed the importance of having an inter-religious dialogue, and the responsibilities that come with being “men of service.”

“I have held multiple offices (he is also the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India) and I have realized that it is important to be men of service and have faith in God, no matter which religion you belong to,” he said.

“There are many challenges…in some circumstances, one might be pressured to do the wrong thing, but in these cases, it is even more important to do what is right. If you appease people, then you will repent later.”

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