Indian archbishop says his country must help re-evangelize Europe

By David Kerr

Vatican City, Sep 22, 2011 / 06:15 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Delhi says it is time for Indian Catholics to further help re-evangelize Europe.

Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi, India

“We are very much concerned because it was missionaries from Europe that brought the good news to continents like Asia and Africa,” said Archbishop Vincent Concessao in an interview with CNA.

“There’s no doubt they made tremendous sacrifice to share their knowledge with us and today it looks like it’s our turn to visit them.”

Archbishop Concessao was in Rome for the Indian bishop’s 2011 “ad limina” visit to update the Pope and the Vatican on the health of the Church in India.

He said the issue of the re-Christianizing Europe emerged during discussions with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace about the amount of private Indian wealth deposited in Swiss bank accounts to avoid paying taxes in India. It is a practice Archbishop Concessao described as “immoral,” “unjust” and “depriving the country of what it could do for the poor in India.”

“We asked if the Church could talk to a Catholic country like Switzerland and see how they can help justice be done so that the money can go back and be utilized for the development of our country,” explained Archbishop Concessao.

“We were told they would try. But the big question is: How Catholic are these countries in their practice?”

The conclusion reached by the Indian bishops, said Archbishop Concessao, was that Europe is bankrupt “as regards to moral values which are so important to the Catholic Church.”

This means that “while the Holy Father keeps on harping on about the value of life, on morality, on dignity, and human rights,” this is not necessarily reflected “in terms of the behavior of the people in Europe,” he said.

Hence the increasing need, he said, for Indian Catholics to help re-evangelize the continent which helped to bring Christianity to India. Indeed, Archbishop Concessao’s predecessors as archbishop this century have included men from Wales and Ireland.

“There are already missionaries from India – priests and religious – working and offering pastoral services” in Europe, he explained.

“And it looks like now even the basic Catholic philosophy of life has to be re-communicated to the West in the present context.”

While Catholicism accounts for less than 2 percent of India’s population, that figure still constitutes over 17 million Catholics, a number that is more than three times the amount of Catholics in the United Kingdom.

Archbisop Concessao says their ad limina visit to Rome was a real reminder of the missionary nature of the universal Church.

“We’ve seen thousands of people coming from over the world here and the Holy Father is really the center of attraction,” he said.

“People listening to him, wanting to see him and it is itself a wonderful experience of the holy, Catholic, apostolic church of Christ.”