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Catholics peeved at priest’s ‘fatwa’ on holding Sunday mass at one church

Approach ambassador to Pope; Pune Bishop says just an effort to build unity among the community.

Written by MANOJ MORE | Pune |
July 12, 2015 12:00:17 am
church, pimpriwad church, pune church, pune church sunday mass, pune sunday mass, fatwa, church fatwa, pune news, india news St Francis Xavier church in Chinchwad.

The Christian community in Pimpri-Chinchwad is up in arms against what they describe as a “fatwa” issued by a church priest to attend Sunday mass at a particular church and not at any other one.

The priest in question, as well as the Pune Bishop, however, said holding the mass at one church was an effort to present a picture of unity among the community and nothing else should be read into it.

A section of the Catholic community, which is also peeved at Pune Bishop for allegedly not acting decisively in the matter, has decided to sport black bands and attend Sunday mass at St Francis Xavier church in protest against the church directives.

church, pimpriwad church, pune church, pune church sunday mass, pune sunday mass, fatwa, church fatwa, pune news, india news Pune Bishop Thomas Dabre has backed the move to hold the Sunday mass for all Catholics in the city at St Francis Xavier church in Chinchwad. The faithful will wear black bands and protest at Sunday mass at the church.

The issue has been brewing for past three months after priest Father S A Louis directed that Sunday mass be held at the newly-built St Francis Xavier church, Chinchwad, and not at St Urusla school premises in Nigdi where it was being held for decades. This has apparently upset nearly 500 faithfuls who had approached different authorities, people’s representatives, Pune Bishop and even the Pope’s ambassador to India to get the order reversed.

The faithful contend that the Sunday mass, which has been held for decades at St Ursula’s premises in Nigdi, should be continued as travelling to Chinchwad was highly inconvenient for the old, infirm and the sick. “Residents of Nigdi-Pradhikaran, Vithalwadi, Dattawadi, Ravet, Appu Ghar have been attending Sunday mass and Sunday school for the past five decades at St Ursula premises. The location of the new church at Nigdi is not convenient for children, the old, the infirm and the sick. Transport facility is not easily available,” said Nelson Fernandes, who is among the faithful “hurt” by the compulsion sought to being imposed upon them.

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“At a time where the Mother Church is opening its arms to encourage the lay participation in church, related worship and other related activities, we are experiencing a step-motherly treatment here in Pune. No one from the church authorities has even bothered to conduct a survey or make an attempt to solve our problems in spite of our pleas, petitions and meetings,” said William Menezes. “It will be a silent protest in the church with the hope that the authorities will understand our plight and re-start the services at the mass centre near our residence.”

William Naidu, a senior activist from the community,” said,”The directives are kind of a fatwa which violates the spirit of Rome. They should be withdrawn in the larger interest of the Christian community. The Bishop should act firmly.”

Fernandes and Menezes said the newly-built church cannot accommodate 1,500 faithful at one time due to lack of space. “During Christmas and New Year celebrations, we had a tough time attending the church. There was also huge parking problem,” they said. Naidu said there were seven priests available in the Chinchwad parish and they can hold mass at different places.

Father Louis, however, said holding mass at one church helps unite the community rather than depicting divisions in our ranks. “It is an effort to present a picture of unity among the community, unity of love, unity of service… When you gather at one place, you share each other’s concerns which helps to create a healthy atmosphere of community feeling,” Louis said.

Complaints of lack of space, transport facility or parking are common everywhere and to all religious activities, he said.

When contacted, Pune Bishop Thomas Dabre said since they (protestors) had approached Pope’s ambassador to the country, they should wait for a decision from the “big court.”

“People themselves have built the church by spending Rs 4 crore for one and all. And the same people are now opposing it, which is difficult to understand. From Nigdi to Chinchwad, it is only two-km distance and not much The Christian community should put up a united a front and send out a strong message to the world. Let’s work together as a big force for peace around us and not divide ourselves in smaller groups,” he said.

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