April 1st, 2020
Your Eminence, Your Beatitude, Your Grace, Your Lordship,
We are fast approaching Holy Week. The lockdown has not slowed down our efforts for the spiritual and pastoral welfare of our people. I do hope all of you are well. Please be extremely careful about having minimal contact with outsiders and maintaining social distancing even at home; and do advise others also to do so. This is of critical importance for your safety, for the good of our dioceses/eparchies and for the Church in India.
This communication is regarding the liturgical services of Holy Week. The Congregations for Divine Cult and for the Oriental Churches have sent directives. Our CCBI President has given us guidelines for the Latin dioceses. To help you, I could share with you what I have directed in the Archdiocese of Bombay regarding the Holy Week Services. You might find it useful for your own diocese/eparchy. Some of us have been live streaming the Eucharist; this is most useful and much appreciated. It is being done all over the world. The Holy See has recommended it, commenting that in this way our people can be spiritually united with us.
Relief Efforts: I am sure all our dioceses are assisting the distressed in different ways. This is much appreciated. Thank you! This is the moment of need for true Gospel witness. I have written to the Prime Minister assuring the Government of our assistance in tackling this crisis. Two days back the Prime Minister interacted via video link with Caritas India and CHAI and expressed his appreciation of help from the Christian community.
As the crisis becomes more acute, the Government will need institutional and personnel assistance both for quarantining patients and for medical treatment. Our hospitals are already examining how they can respond to this need. Local authorities might approach you for institutional space. The Government has indicated the present need for more community kitchens. You can see how you could organise this during the lockdown and perhaps even after. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable and so are daily labourers at construction sites.
Caritas India is doing its best to organise and coordinate assistance. Bp Sebastian Kallupura and Fr. Paul Moonjely have been in contact with our diocesan Caritas units. It is foreseen that the situation could last much longer than originally thought. After some time we would probably need to appeal for donations.
In view of the uncertain situation and the need of the Bishops to be in their own dioceses/eparchies and with the people at this critical moment, the CBCI Standing Committee Meeting scheduled for April/May 2020 is postponed. No future date has been fixed. We might be able to combine it with the September Meeting. Just for information: Our FABC Plenary Meeting scheduled for November 2020 is also postponed.
Wishing you a Spirit-filled Holy Week and united in prayer, I remain
Yours fraternally in Christ,
Oswald Cardinal Gracias
Archbishop of Bombay President,
Catholic Bishops Conference of India