Returning home from his recent visit to India, the envoy to Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor speaks to the Sunday programme about retracing the papal path, 25 years on from Pope John Paul II’s historic visit.
The call from the Vatican
“To my surprise I got a phone call from the Vatican saying that Pope Benedict would be grateful if I were able to represent him in the celebrations commemorating 25 years since the great visit of Pope John Paul in 1986.
“He wanted an English speaking Cardinal to represent him.”
First time in India
“It’s the most fascinating country. What struck me most was the respect for religion.”
Pope John Paul II’s apostolic journey
“John Paul’s visit had a huge impact at the time… I spoke mostly on the themes he had spoken on himself. I spoke on the family; young people, tribal issues, the Holy Eucharist and inter-religious dialogue.”
Impact of that visit today
25 years ago, Pope John Paul II said to the Indian Catholic Church – ‘you are a very tiny minority, but you are important – you have a very special part to play in this country with its myriad number of religions.’
Today Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor says that “the Catholic Church in India is confident, strong and vibrant.”
The impact of a diverse religious environment on the Catholic Church in India
“It may mean that the Catholic Church in its customs; in its liturgy, in the way it expresses itself is perhaps more definitive of its distinctiveness, even though also it is very Indian. Wherever I went I was garlanded and the crowds were enormously enthusiastic. It was very moving.”
Following in Pope John Paul II’s footsteps
“What struck me was what an extraordinary brave and courageous man he was.
“I was in India for 10 days and was very tired at the end of it. Pope John Paul went all over the world with huge crowds – proclaiming his belief in Jesus Christ – an apostle of the Gospel. I remember him saying that I want to be in every country; in every home. He was an extraordinary man.
“My visit made me reflect that he was also a man with enormous faith; enormous stamina to undergo these great visits, but also an apostle who wished to put his belief before the world.”
Beatification of Pope John Paul II
“Five years since his death; I don’t think it’s too early. Pope John Paul II should be beatified; his life was so courageous, so holy. He was such an example to the world.”