Pope asks Cardinal Gracias to continue as Bombay archbishop

Mumbai, Jan 28, 2020: Church leaders in India have welcomed Pope Francis asking Cardinal Oswald Gracias to continue as the Bombay archdiocese. ““It is good news. We welcome the cardinal’s extension as the Archbishop of Bombay,” Bishop Allwyn D’Silva told Matters India on January 28, responding to the Pope’s decision.

Cardinal Gracias had on November 30, 2019, submitted to the Pope in person his resignation from the archbishop’s post as he was to complete 75 years on December 24 the same year. A letter from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to Cardinal Gracias says the “Holy Father has asked you to continue ‘donec aliter provideatur (until other provision is made).”

The congregation’s December 6 letter expresses its gratitude to the cardinal for what he is doing for the service of the Church in Mumbai, in India and the Universal Church. “Permit me to add my own personal esteem and affection,” said Cardinal Filoni Fernando, prefect of the Vatican congregation.

Bishop D’Silva, one of the auxiliaries of Bombay archdiocese, says people in Mumbai had expected the extension because of the cardinal’s caliber, knowledge, and experience of Church affairs both in India and the Universal Church.

The environmentalist-turned prelate hailed the cardinal as “an effective spiritual leader, who is respected across the political spectrum in India and abroad. Gracias has guided the church in India with courage and prudence.”

Cardinal Gracias is one of the six advisers of Pope Francis. He is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, which is scheduled to hold it biennial plenary meeting in Bengaluru mid February. The cardinal is eligible for another term as the head of the Indian Catholic Church as he continues as the Bombay archbishop. Until a year ago, he was the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

Gracias Gracias was born in Mumbai to Jervis and Aduzinda Gracias of Goan origins. He completed his school studies at St. Michael’s School in Mahim and joined Jesuit-managed St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. After a year, he entered the Seminary of St. Pius X in Bombay, for his philosophy and theology studies. He was ordained a priest for Bombay archdiocese by Cardinal Valerian Gracias (no relation) on December 20, 1970. From 1971 to 1976, he served as chancellor and secretary to Jesuit Bishop Joseph Rodericks of Jamshedpur. He then went to Rome to study at the Pontifical Urbaniana University from where he obtained a doctorate in canon law, and a diploma in jurisprudence. On his return to Mumbai, he was named chancellor, judge of the metropolitan tribunal, and judicial vicar. He served as the chancellor of the archdiocese during 1982-1988. He also served as a visiting professor to the seminaries of Bombay, Poona, and Bangalore, as well as serving as president of the Canon Law Society of India.

Pope John Paul II appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay on June 28, 1997. He was named the Archbishop of Agra on September 7, 2000, and Archbishop of Bombay on October 14, 2006. He served as secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, and its president of the Conference of Catholic Bishop in India (Latin rite). Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal on October 17, 2007.