Father Ajay Kumar Sabhasundar defends His Doctoral Thesis

What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? (116, 12) With joy and profound gratitude to God, I am happy to invite you for the defense of my doctoral thesis on the 19th of June(Friday) at John Paul II Institute in Lateran University at 16.00 p.m. Thank you for your love and friendship; prayers and encouragement. Looking forward to your presence,

Yours Lovingly,

Fr. Ajay Kumar Sabhasundar

Collegium Lateranese

Viale Alessandrino, 675


Indian Salesians Address Asian Diplomats

C. M. Paul, SDB
ROME, Italy – The Gregorian Foundation and the “Jacques Maritain” International Institute organized a two-week Course for Diplomats of Asian Countries with the theme “The Catholic Church and the International Policy of the Holy See.” Thirty two diplomats from 16 Asian countries took part in the sessions held in Rome and Turin, 11-23 May.
The diplomats came from Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

India, China and Pakistan miss out
The ones who failed to respond to the invitation were the giants of the continent: India and China. Pakistan wasn’t present either. But the organizers – led by Jesuit Fr Franco Imoda, the previous rector of the Gregorian – maintain that they are satisfied nonetheless.
Indian diplomat’s absence for the course could be due to the change of guard. The new Indian Ambassador to the Holy See, Mrs. Chitra Narayanan presented her credentials to the Holy Father only on 29 May.
In Asia, where Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Shintoism, or Islam are dominant, Christianity (Catholicism) is by and large regarded as “foreign,” so Christians (Catholics) are in the minority, with some notable exceptions. In Japan, for instance, the proportion of Catholics consistently stays a bit below 0.5% of the population. Yet Japan could be the first Asian country to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1942. (Vatican started to send a Nuncio to Tokyo in 1919, 23 years prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations).

Indian Salesians Make Three Contributions
Two Indian professors from Salesian University Rome (UPS) Philosophy Faculty presented papers. While former Dean and senior professor Dr Scaria Thuruthiyil (INN) presented two papers entitled: The Engagement of the Catholic Church for Education (13 May in Rome) and The Catholic Church and Inter-religious Dialogue with Hinduism (19 May, Turin), Faculty Secretary and professor Dr. Joshtrom Kureethadam (INH) was among a panel of three speakers on “The Corporate Social responsibility and the Environmental Problems.”
This is the third course held for diplomats. First two courses were held for diplomats from Mediterranean and Middle East countries as well as African countries.

Vatican: A Moral and Intellectual World Power
The Japanese ambassador to the Holy See H.E. Mr Kagefumi Ueno credits Vatican to be a moral and intellectual world power equipped with the best network for the diffusion of messages and power of information. In Rome since 2006, he is an eminent Buddhist thinker of Shintoist education.
“We wish to introduce the various aspects of the Catholic Church, such as: the international legal status of the Vatican City; the ways in which the various organization of the episcopate throughout the world and at the level of the local Churches; the diplomatic activity of the Nunciatures; the humanitarian and diplomatic action of the Holy See in favour of peace; ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue; representation at the international organizations; and relations with the Asian world,” explains secretary General of J. Maritain International Institute Dr. Roberto Papini.

First Indian Jury Member at Intl Catholic Film Fest

By Paul Cheruthottupuram

NIEPOKALANOW, Poland – An Indian Salesian became the first Indian Jury member at the only surviving International Catholic Film Festival in the world. The Niepokalanow festival held its 24th uninterrupted screening, May 15-17, some 45 km west of Warsaw, capital of Poland. Fr C.M. Paul from Kolkata, a former member of Govt. of India`s Central Board of Film Certification (Kolkata) and former two term Signis-India president was part of the nine-member international jury.

“Traditionally the members of our International Jury in Niepokalanow are representatives of Signis Belarus and Signis Russia. Few years ago, Maria Cech from Germany visited us few times,“ says founder member and current vice-president of the festival Mr. Zygmunt Gutowski.
“It was excellent cooperation with Signis World office bearers like Fr Henk Hoekstra, Eichenberger, Molhant and Peter Malone,“ says Gutowski recalling the long term association with OCIC and Signis cooperation and awards during last 12 years (till 2006).
Incidentally, a short feature film entitled The Cash Book  by a group of Kolkata youth received the Signis-Award at Niepokalanow in 2005.

The only Catholic Film Festival
There were 169 films at the festival from 21 countries representing the five continents. Of these, the Festival selection committee short listed 18 outstanding films for the finals. Besides feature film, other categories awarded were: documentary, educational, television and amateur films. The festival also featured multimedia, radio and YouTube productions.
The festival had its genesis in the heydays of Solidarnosc (Solidarity) the national resistance movement against the Polish Communist Regime, in 1985. A group of activists formed the Catholic Film Association of Poland as a cultural forum.
“Initially we wanted the Salesian Warsaw province to host the film festival, but several factors did not permit it,“ says Fr. Gregorio Jaskot of Warsaw, one of the founding members of the Niepokalanow festival and currently Assistant Economer of the UPS-Rome province.
The festival started under the guise of a spiritual retreat in the Franciscan (OFM Conv.) monastery at Niepokalanow, the national shrine of Mary Immaculate and the headquarters of the Militia Immaculate (Army of the Immaculate).
The Franciscan monastery at Niepokalanow (City of the Immaculate) was founded by St Maxmilliam Kolbe in 1927.
After the fall of Communism, Poland had its first democratically elected government in 1989.

Hindu Production Wins at Catholic Film Fest
“I am a Hindu and I have a lot of faith in Mother Mary. It [film] was made after much hard work and patience of 10 long years. Without seeking any financial help from anybody I produced it with my own funds,“ says film producer Kamalakar Rao after submitting the film Our Lady of Lourdes to the Niepokalanow festival.
The 95 minute film by the Sripriya International, Hyderabad production by director V.R. Gopinath tells the story of Bernadette Soubirous, a young village girl, to whom Our Lady appeared in 1858 at Lourdes (France).
Incidentally, the film produced in English language with locations in Kerala, Ireland and Lourdes has an international cast.
The film was screened at Lourdes, last year, during celebrations marking 150th anniversary of the apparitions.
The film is dubbed into French, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Telugu.

Doctoral Thesis on Adivasi Liberation Theology

By Francis Hembrom, SDB

ROME, Italy – An Adivasi priest from Northeast India defended a doctoral thesis on Adivasi Liberation Theology at the Urban University on May 20, 2009. Fr. Hippoletus Toppo of Tezpur Diocese defended his thesis entitled “Towards an Adivasi Liberative Theology: A Critique of Liberative Praxis with Special Reference to S. Rayan, S. Kappen and M. M. Thomas.”

“The Thesis is hoped to be a major contribution to the growing consciousness of “setting themselves free from the age-old oppression,” says his guide, Professor Gronchi Maurizio. Following Christ the Liberator who came to liberate humanity from every form of oppression, Hippo dares to look at the plight of the Adivasis of Assam and proposes a theory of Liberation that could truly bring them the liberation they long for. It is a follow up of his Master level thesis (Human Promotion of Assam Adivasis in the Light of Ecclesia in Asia) from the same University. Some 60 Indians, especially from Northeast India, turned up for the defence held at the Urban University’s Newman Hall. The university is under the Prefect of the Pontifical Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples headed by Ivan Cardinal Dias, former Metropolitan Archbishop of Mumbai.

Liberative vision of the Magisterium
The thesis critically explores the relevance and the problems of liberative praxis particularly in the Latin American context and in the theological reflections of three prominent Indian theologians (S. Rayan, S. Kappen and M.M. Thomas). Fr. Toppo examines the two instructions Libertatis Nuntius and Libertatis Concientia, and identifies the relevance, the tasks and the challenges of the Christian praxis of liberation in the Adivasi context. Dr. Toppo further asks: How can the situations of marginalization, the prior experience of the transforming power of the Gospel in and through Lieven’s liberative missiological approach, the dynamism of the liberative spirit in the Adivasi antyodaya (awakening), the subaltern movements, the life-affirming traditional socio-religious and cultural values, become relevant points of departure for an Adivasi Liberative Theology? Answering such questions the thesis proposes creative critical interventions which would bring about an integral liberation to the Adivasis and a contribution towards religious harmony, eco-sensitivity, global solidarity and praxis-based interreligious and inter-ecclesial dialogue of collaboration.

The term ‘Adivasi’
In generic sense, the term ‘Adivasi’ in Hindi, means ‘tribal’. In Sanskrit adi means original and vasi means inhabitant – meaning the original inhabitants. However in course of time the term ‘Adivasi’ has gained specific popular connotation – signifying such tribes as Kharias, Mundas, Oraons, Santals and a few other tribes of North India, particularly centring on the Chotanagpur plateau, the original habitat of the Adivasis. Hence, they are also called Chotanagpuri Adivasis to distinguish them from other tribals in India.

The history of the socio-political liberation of Adivasis dates back to the times of the famous Belgian Jesuit, Fr. Constantine Lievens who spearheaded in Chotanagpur, a movement of liberation from the oppressive and enslaving zamindari (land lords) system under the British. The Adivasis of Assam migrated from the Chotanagpur region in the second half of the 19th century when the British tea planters brought them as cheap labour force in the Assam Tea Estates.

The community is in a state of flux with growing political consciousness, socio-cultural assertiveness and greater educational awareness. It is the right time for Church to take up a major leadership role in their liberation.