MUMBAI, India – One of India’s most prominent Catholic leaders has said Blessed Pope Paul VI’s document reaffirming the Church’s teaching against artificial birth control is a “great gift to the Church.”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Bombay archbishop who is also president of India’s bishops’ conference, spoke about the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae at an archdiocesan clergy day on July 26.

Speaking to Crux on the sidelines of the event, he said the document proclaimed “the inalienable and inviolable Christian values of life, marriage and the family.”

“Fifty years ago, in issuing his encyclical Humanae Vitae, Blessed Paul VI reaffirmed these timeless truths,” Gracias said.

He said he sees elements of the consequences of the contraceptive culture, including “the lessening of respect of men for women and the breakdown in healthy family relationships.”

“We should invest more in marriage preparation and prepare couples for marriage and to enrich the marriages of those already married. There are many couples seeking the truth about what the Church teaches, and they embrace the sacred call to a sacramental marriage,” the cardinal said.

During the meeting, he told his priests to be “pioneers of the new civilization of love.”

Gracias invited the clergy to be “open to life … through our service to the poorest of the poor, those in our urban peripheries, to the families struggling with alcoholism and joblessness, the destitute and the abandoned.”

“Be open to life, and serve to give dignity to every human life, protect the unborn and the elderly, victims of human trafficking, the lonely and the migrants, safety of girl child and women. The Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Bombay and India stands unwavering and affirmed in her decision to embrace and uphold life, embrace, nurture, and defend and uplift the gift of life, every life,” he said.

Gracias also spoke of the invitation given to him by the family of Paul VI and the Diocese of Brescia to visit the late pontiff’s home 50 years after the papal voyage to India for the 1964 Eucharistic Congress.

“It was a deeply moving encounter, being in the home of this great prophet for our times,” the cardinal said.

“I celebrated Mass for the diocese on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross on September 14, 2015. Being present in the diocese was a link between the Church in India and the Universal Church, to be in the home and the diocese of the Blessed Paul VI, who courageously proclaimed the authentic and true meaning of married love in Humanae Vitae,” Gracas said.

On Aug.3, the cardinal called on the priests of the diocese to spend an hour in adoration, “prayerfully reflecting upon this encyclical, and being open to life.”