Archbishop's Message

My dear brothers & sisters,


Is there a special time in the liturgical calendar of the Church calling us to share generously our resources with the poor and needy? We would certainly say it’s Christmas, and we are right because it begins there, but it doesn’t stop there. What began at Christmas with the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ finds its fulfillment in his suffering, death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This great mystery of our redemption we celebrate during the Season of Lent which we usher in on Ash Wednesday and bring to culmination on Easter Sunday. This year the two dates are, March 6 and April 21.

It is the Season of Lent with its message of joyful self-denial, costly discipleship and glorious new life of Easter that invites us to generously contribute for the “Campaign against Hunger and Disease” of the Church in India always spearheaded by Caritas India. The work of this social organization of the Church in India may be a drop in the ocean but, however small that drop may be, it counts because drops make the ocean.

The theme for 2019 is “Nutrition I Our Right: Unite for a Healthy India”. The explanatory note says: “Malnutrition is a painful and disgraceful scourge on humanity. Despite producing sufficient to feed her citizens, India continues to be one of the highest-ranking countries in the world for the number of children and anemic women suffering from malnutrition. The country has unacceptably high levels of malnutrition with 38.4% of children stunted and 35.8% of children underweight… Malnutrition is a debilitating condition that weakens a child’s immune system and raises mortality rates of children from common diseases. Malnutrition as an outcome of abject poverty and inequality does irreversible damage to both individuals and society and increases the disease burden on families and governments”.

The reason for this sad state of affairs is human callousness, selfishness and greed that make us indifferent to the plight of the poor, the downtrodden, the marginalised. To be indifferent to the sufferings of the poor is to pave one’s way to eternal damnation as Our Lord so powerfully narrates in the parable “The Rich Man and Lazarus” (Lk. 16: 19-31). The rich man was condemned to eternal torments not because his wealth was ill-gotten but he was indifferent to the plight of poor Lazarus lying outside his door and who “desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores” (v. 21). Sometimes when we hold power, wealth, positions and security here on earth we think we have achieved the ultimate; our earthly position intoxicates us and we foolishly fail to realize that earthly glory is passing; we forget eternity. Our Lord has clearly taught that in eternity “many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Mt. 19: 30). Therefore his words of truth to us: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6: 19-21).

Many opportunities will be provided to us during the days of Lent to ponder on God’s Word which leads to eternal life and conversion of heart which, in other words we call “repentance” i.e. returning to the Lord with all our heart and soul, body and mind because we have recognized the moment of grace. The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ always leads us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Mt. 6: 33), to know the truth that “will make you free” (Jn. 8: 32), to live by the “wisdom from above” (James 3: 16).

Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit the first Christians understood the wisdom of the Cross and Resurrection when they began to be of “one heart and soul”, and “no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common”, when “with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4: 32-33). And the immediate result was: “There was not a needy person among them” (v.34). The greatest proof that Christ has redeemed us from the clutches of the Evil One is our becoming more and more selfless and altruistic, and less and less selfish, individualistic, greedy and acquisitive.

When we generously share our resources to lift up those who are poor and needy we work to realize God’s kingdom here on earth as envisioned by Our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to give us life and “life in all its fullness” (Jn. 10:10). Therefore, there cannot be fullness of life when some people are hungry, malnourished and prey to sickness and disease due to poverty and hunger and others enjoy the goods and luxuries of life. The Church has the mission to play a catalyzing and mobilizing role in human society so that communities express sufficient humanity and solidarity to feed the poor and the hungry.

The compassion of Christ has to be relived and experienced in everyone’s life in order to wipe out the blot of hunger and malnutrition in society. Malnutrition is a dehumanization of “God’s image and likeness” (cf. Gen. 1:26) and clear sign that sin rules the hearts of people; but Christ has conquered sin and death and given us new life so that we are freed of all bondages to build up a society where we care for one another in love and share our resources to ensure proper nourishment, health and opportunities to all. We are happy that the United Nations has pledged to free the world from hunger by 2030 by achieving food security and improved nutrition to the poor and needy. This will be a great step forward in building a world firmly established on egalitarian principles of profound humanity.

Explaining the theme Caritas India firmly believes that the “fight against malnutrition and hunger can succeed only with a multi-sectoral strategy covering agriculture, social protection, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition-sensitive health care, education, nutrition interventions and initiatives that enable the empowerment of women and balanced physical growth of infants and children”. This is a common endeavour not only of the government but of all citizens in which civil society “needs to double its commitment to help communities participate more meaningfully in improving the functionality of public health and nutrition systems and make the duty bearers truly accountable”.

Moreover, the primary nourishment and sustenance function in the society is held by the family. Hence “food and nutrition security arrangements must start at home” which means families “need to produce food as much as they can and as locally and healthily as they can”. Therefore, “education on hygienic and healthy food should start at home along with the lessons on personal hygiene”.

The Lenten “Campaign against Hunger and Disease” calls for common efforts and immense human solidarity in understanding the problems and finding solutions to them. In the Church the Holy Eucharist always stands as the centre of the Church’s life and mission because it is the memorial of our redemption in Christ and the mission he has entrusted to the Church. Precisely because of our faith in Christ, the Eucharist stands for the communion we share in the Holy Trinity and our communion with each other. It is the sacrament par excellence of our love, solidarity and care for one another as the first Christian community has shown. The Eucharist embodies the Life, Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Pentecost – commonly called the Paschal Mystery. In this mystery we celebrate the salvation of the world and how we have been transferred from the kingdom of sin, darkness and death to the kingdom of truth, light and life.

The famous ecumenical document (1982) called “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” (BEM) puts it beautifully:

“The eucharist embraces all aspects of life. It is a representative act of thanksgiving and offering on behalf of the whole world. The Eucharistic celebration demands reconciliation and sharing among all those regarded as brothers and sisters in the one family of God and is a constant challenge in the search for appropriate relationships in social, economic and political life (Mt. 5;23f; 1Cor. 10:16f.; 1Cor. 11: 20-22; Gal. 3;28). All kinds of injustice, racism, separation and lack of freedom are radically challenged when we share in the body and blood of Christ…The eucharist shows us that our behaviour is inconsistent in face of the reconciling presence of God in human history: we are placed under continual judgement by the persistence of unjust relationships of all kinds in our society, the manifold divisions on account of human pride, material interest and power politics and, above all, the obstinacy of unjustifiable confessional oppositions within the body of Christ.” (No.20).

United in the Eucharist let us join Caritas India’s Lenten Campaign 2019 against hunger and disease and express our solidarity and commitment to wipe out malnutrition and to ensure adequate nutritious and healthy food for all our sisters and brothers of our country.

The Archdiocese of Delhi, through Chetanalaya, is specifically focusing on “fight against cancer” in 2019. We wish to adopt 5 villages in the Mewat district of Haryana, where the incidence of cancer is on the rise.

May this Lent 2019 be a spiritually rich and joyful journey with the Lord to know him and the power of his resurrection.

Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi