MUMBAI, India  — Cardinal Oswald Gracias spent Easter morning celebrating Mass for the retired priests of the Archdiocese of Bombay, telling them “Thank you very much, dear Fathers! God bless you!”

It is a tradition which the cardinal has carried out since he was appointed Archbishop of Bombay in 2006: Every Christmas and Easter he presides at Mass at the Diocesan Clergy Home in Bandra West, Mumbai.

“We are grateful for all that you have done and for all that you have given to the Archdiocese over years,” Gracias told the priests.

“I am personally aware of the great dedication, commitment and generosity with which you priests have selflessly served our people, in spite of the numerous challenges involved,” the cardinal said.

“I have fond memories of working with each one of you dear fathers, in your various ministries in the Archdiocese,” he continued, “Now, you fathers have a new apostolate, … the apostolate of prayer and of rest.”

Also present in the congregation were relatives of the clergy priests, volunteers, collaborators, and also the community of Pious Sister Disciples of the Divine Master, who take care of the priests.

Many were visibly moved when the cardinal bent down to distribute the Eucharist to priests who were now in wheelchairs.

“Not just on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, but many times during the year, Cardinal Oswald visits the retired priests, to spend time with them and has accurate updates of each priest’s health issues,” said Father Fritzgerald Fernandes, the administrator of the facility.

The cardinal said Lent was a season to promote a culture of mercy, and Easter is a season to promote a culture of gratitude and tenderness.

Gracias told Crux about his affection for “our retired priests in the Clergy Home who have spent decades labouring in the Lord’s vineyard with love and single-mindedness.

“From here emanates strength, faithfulness, tranquillity, peace, and wisdom,” the cardinal said.

“Now in their new apostates with their health issues and challenges, they are most effective in their mission to bring God to souls and souls to God, even confined to the infirmary, and through their sufferings, our retired priests, are powerful witnesses of God’s Love through their redemptive sufferings – shared with Christ’s Passion,” Gracias said.  

“This is a wonderful gift which does so much good for me and gives strength to me and bears the fruit of holiness for the Archdiocese of Bombay, the Church in India and to the Universal Church.”

In 2009, Gracias inaugurated the Year of Priests proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI at the Clergy Home.

He said he chose the facility for three reasons:

“Firstly, to show them our affection, our appreciation for their priestly ministry so faithfully carried out for so many years—it is as a gift to them; secondly, for their apostleship of prayer which makes our senior priests a power house of prayer for the Church in India and the Universal Church; and finally because our retired priests have a wealth of wisdom that stems from their pastoral ministry and experience—their graces will shine on all our presbyterium all over.”