Archbishop's Message

My dear brothers & sisters,


In his Urbi et Orbi Easter message on April 12, in the midst of the raging COVID-19 global pandemic which is severely testing the whole of humanity, Pope Francis has spoken precisely of what Easter means to humankind: “Christ, my hope is risen”! The Church’s proclamation of faith springs up like a new flame in the night and echoes throughout the world: ‘Jesus Christ is risen; He is truly risen. Alleluia!’. What does this mean? It means that heaven is opened for us in Christ; we have hope.
The Pope warns us that the Resurrection of Christ is not a magic formula to make all problems vanish. Instead it is “victory of love over the root of evil, a victory that does not ‘by-pass’ suffering and death, but passes THROUGH THEM, opening a path in the abyss, transforming evil into good: this is the unique hallmark of the power of God”. It can never be forgotten that the Risen Lord is the Crucified One who bears in his body the indelible wounds which are “windows of hope”. Therefore the Pope calls on humanity to gaze on the Crucified and Risen Lord so that he may “heal the wounds of our afflicted humanity”. This Good News of hope the Church transmits to the whole world as a message that goes from heart to heart and becomes a “contagion of hope”, in the midst of the contagion of hopelessness and despair spread by the COVID-19 disease.
There are four words that are particularly underlined in the message: indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness. These are not the words we want to hear at this time; in fact “we want to ban these words forever”. They prevail when fear and death overwhelm us and “when we do not let the Lord Jesus triumph in our hearts and lives”; but Christ, who has defeated death and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, dispels the darkness of our suffering and leads us to the light of his glorious day that knows no end.
The Pope offers a profound reflection on each of those four words in the light of the Resurrection:
1. This is not a time for indifference. Why? Because the whole world is suffering and we all need to be united in facing the pandemic. Our special focus should be on the poor, those living on the peripheries, the refugees, the migrant labourers, the homeless. We should never abandon these, our most vulnerable brothers and sisters living in the cities and peripheries of every part of the world. The Pope calls on the rich nations to relax the international sanctions on the poorer countries and even write off their debts completely in the present circumstances so that they are able to provide adequate support to their citizens and ensure the basic necessities to them.
2. This is not a time for self-centredness. Why? Because the challenge we are facing is shared by all; it does not make distinction between persons. What the Pope calls for is solidarity, i.e., the overcoming of rivalries among nations and the regaining of the sense of being one family, as it happened in Europe after World War II. The opposite is selfishness, which is the temptation to “return to the past at the risk of severely damaging the peaceful coexistence and development of future generations”.
3. This is not a time for division. Why? Because the vast amounts of money that are spent on the sale and purchase of weapons should actually be used for the welfare of the people and to save lives. Therefore the Pope is appealing for “an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world”, praying that the Risen Lord, who is our peace, may enlighten all who have responsibility in conflicts to come to this decision courageously.
He is appealing for the end of the war in Syria which has caused such great bloodshed; the cessation of the conflict in Yemen and the hostilities in Iraq and Lebanon; the resumption of dialogue between Israel and Palestine to find a stable solution for a lasting peace; the end of the sufferings of the people who live in the eastern regions of Ukraine and an end to the terrorist attacks carried out against innocent people in different African countries.
4. This is not a time for forgetfulness. Why? Because the COVID-19 crisis should not make us forget the many other humanitarian crises affecting the peoples of Asia and Africa, causing much suffering. There are thousands of refugees and migrants displaced due to wars, drought and famine and so many among them are children who are living in unbearable conditions.
In the light of these reflections on indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness offered by Pope Francis to the whole of humanity what does Easter mean to us individually? The Risen Lord’s first words of greeting to his frightened disciples are, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20: 19), and the next words are, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22). Do these two words, ‘Peace’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ have anything to tell us of the mystery of the “newness of life” (Rom. 6: 4) in Christ which is ours through Baptism and of which we are called to be witnesses?
Here I would like to refer to a beautiful reflection by Joyce Rupp in her book Open the Door: A Journey to the True Self (ATC Publications, Bangalore, 2008, pp. 160-162):
“I am convinced that peace among nations will not happen until there is true peace within the hearts of individuals. Within my own life a stronger peace has gradually taken root, mostly due to my commitment to daily, personal meditation. When I open the door of my heart and spend time with the Holy One, I become aware of what thwarts my effort to be peaceful… Becoming aware of my inner conflicts sometimes occasions a brutal recognition and uncompromising verdict of needing to change my ways. Learning about peace is one thing. Putting peace into practice by changing attitudes and actions is quite another. If unrest, nonforgiveness, dissension, apathy, or discontent reside in me, the scent of this will be on each breath I take. Discordance will contaminate each part of my life”.
Her suggestions for peace to abide in our hearts and in our world:
Place merciful peace on our lips when words of prejudice, gossip, shame, and blame are eager to be there.
Draw forth humility from our heart when our ego seeks to triumph over and trounce the victims of our self-righteous superiority.
Voice open, non-defensive dialogue when the loud anger and unfair accusations of others attempt to topple us with their ferocity.
Work nonviolently for the active pursuit of peace when others opt for waging the aggression of war.
Set to rest what screams for revenge. Bid farewell to what drains away kindness. Ease out old grudges, remnants of resentment, and any remainders of jealousy.
Sift through the rubble of former battles with anyone. Sort out and discard the decomposed rot. Find what is salvageable. Save what benefits a growthful love.
Resist attempts to mend what is beyond repair. Let go of what was but can be no more. Move on without reluctance or self-doubt.
Free what trembles with fear. Embrace what longs for acceptance. Forego anxiety and worry, which steal peace from the soul and add to inner turbulence.
Resist the desire to grasp. Have only what is essential for life.
So, today bring peace with you to every creature, to solitary corners and crowded streets, to each hostility and every anxiety. Most of all, embrace confidently the bountiful peace of Indwelling Love so your presence in the world becomes one of healing love.
According to her a peace-bringer is also a hope-bringer. Each opening of the door to our heart provides an opportunity to strengthen our hope. Each inward journey restores our belief in our inherent goodness and not to give up on the possibility of our innate love to outgrow ego-centricity and overt disregard for others. Therefore hope does not cause us to run away from what we experience or to deny it, rather it gives us a reason to embrace what we experience and go forward with assurance. It does not mean that everything will turn out the way we want but it will lead us to the celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy. That is why we sing “Alleluia’ at Easter.

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