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MUMBAI, India – Cardinal Charles Bo, the head of the federation of the bishops’ conferences of Asia, has called Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay a “compassionate shepherd” to mark the Indian prelate’s silver jubilee.
Gracias was consecrated the auxiliary bishop of Bombay on Sept. 16, 1997, by then-Archbishop Ivan Cornelius Dias, who was later made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II. Gracias later succeeded him as Archbishop of Bombay in 2006, and was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
Bo, the archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar, is currently the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, a position Gracias held from 2011-2018.
“The church in Asia is at the threshold of confronting the challenges of the third millennium. The Asian church is challenged to become a missionary church, proclaiming a Jesus who was born in Asia,” Bo continued.
“This daunting task was undertaken by this visionary cardinal [Gracias], when he became the president of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). Much of the robust systems and process of the FABC were fortified during his time. The evolution of the identity and mission of the Asian church has been shepherded by this far-sighted mystic,” he said.
In comments to Crux, Bo spoke of his admiration for his Indian colleague.
“The Episcopal Jubilee of our very dearest Cardinal Oswald Gracias brings forth a cascade of gratitude,” he said.
“The joy of living at the same time as our multi-faceted, highly talented shepherd is a gift. The church in Asia owes a debt of gratitude to this untiring foot soldier of Christ,” he continued.
“God called him to shoulder great responsibilities both at the Indian subcontinent and Asian continent level. Men with lesser talents and faith would have collapsed under the burden of that twin responsibility,” Bo said.
“Like a battle-hardened soldier, he steered all responsibilities with the compassionate compass. His sincerity, erudite scholarship and engaging social skills elevated him to many responsibilities, including the portals of the Vatican. Pope Francis, the prophet of modern times, trusted him with robust responsibilities,” he said.
Bo was referring to Francis appointing Gracias to the Council of Cardinals, the small group chosen to advise the pope on the governance of the church, especially with the reform of the Roman Curia. The pontiff also selected Gracias to help organize the Vatican clerical abuse summit in 2019.
Yet in his remarks, the Myanmar cardinal marked that Gracias is a true shepherd to his people.
“True to the image of a Good Shepherd, as radiated by our Lord Jesus, our dear cardinal is an affectionate shepherd, in whose portals the poor and the rich, the mighty and the simple, are showered with the same warm welcome. In every human being he sees the image of God and treats all with admirable equitable affection,” Bo said.
He noted that the church in Myanmar was “blessed with Gracias’s presence” when the Indian cardinal was appointed as the papal delegate for the 2014 jubilee marking the 500th anniversary of the church’s arrival in the country.
“The mutual love that shined through that sacred pilgrimage is etched in our people’s memory. His visit was for the first time, the world got a glimpse of the long hidden, little flock,” he said.
The cardinal said Gracias’s visit to Myanmar “paved the way” for Pope Francis’s historic visit to the country in 2017.
“It was my extraordinary grace to know this great man, edified by his simplicity, admiring his great theological mind, his ability to live a simple life in a simple abode. I had the chance and the challenge to follow him as the FABC President. I realized soon, how lightly he shouldered great responsibilities, mentoring junior bishops, strengthening the various units,” Bo said.
“Despite his heavy responsibilities, His Eminence remains an ‘all weather’ friend and guide, filling my heart with great love and gratitude. May the Kind Lord continue to nurture our compassionate shepherd with many more years of blessings,” he concluded.