Bishop-elect Poised to Help the Poor
BUXAR, India, FEB. 3, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Two features are striking in the new Indian diocese of Buxar: All the faithful are "untouchables" and, consequently, the essence of pastoral activity will be service.
Located in the northeastern state of Bihar, the new diocese, the 155th in the country, results from the division of the Archdiocese of Patna, of which it will be suffragan.
Benedict XVI, who established the diocese in December, designated as its new bishop Father William D’Souza, 60, who has been provincial superior of the Jesuits and a parish priest in Itarhi.
The AsiaNews agency described Buxar as a "100% Dalit" diocese. Therefore, it will be entirely dedicated to the material and spiritual well-being of the casteless. The Dalits, or untouchables, have endured centuries of subjugation by the peoples of higher castes.
"I am happy to lead this community," said Bishop-elect D’Souza, 59. "Dalit Christians have given me much more than I can offer them. Their love, honesty and transparency in their affection and commitment to the Church are immense."
The bishop-elect chose as his diocese’s motto "Not to Be Served, but to Serve," to embody the spirit of devotion to the Dalit community.
This is the mission of every pastoral, educational and social ministry," he explained.
The Jesuit described the Dalits’ suffering as "unspeakable," being "exploited by everyone."
"My mission here is to tell them that they are created in God’s image and thus possess human dignity," he said.
The new diocese is "rural-based without many facilities," the bishop-elect observed. "We have mission stations, and medical dispensaries in the remotest rural outposts, no big hospitals or even colleges, but only primary schools."
"Our main efforts will be on empowering Dalit Christians and promoting their development" and "strengthening their faith and nourishing their respect and personal dignity," which is "a fundamental need here," he noted.
The Diocese of Buxar includes four districts: Buxar, Bhojpur, Bhabua and Rohtas. Catholics number about 16,000 out of a total population of 5.7 million.
The first missionaries arrived in the area in the 18th century. The diocese has 13 parishes and 22 priests (eight diocesan and 14 religious) and 63 women religious. Dedicated to "Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help," the present parish church of Buxar will serve as the diocese’s cathedral, confirmed the Holy See.
"Holy Mary will be by my side all along my ministry," said Father D’Souza, who will be officially installed as bishop on March 25, feast of the Annunciation.
Father D’Souza said he is committed to equal rights for Dalit Christians. "This group, which is ostracized by others, suffers from illiteracy and poverty," he told AsiaNews. "Their situation is a major social, political and economic problem."
In this connection, special attention will be given to the education of girls and young women.
"We have to intensify our balwadis [baby-sitting] facilities," he said, "so that the school-aged girls are not deprived of an education in order to look after infants at home."