Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru (SB)
Mangaluru, Jul 19: The newly pointed bishop Dr Peter Paul Saldanha is all set to take charge as the head of Mangaluru diocese on September 15. Prior to his appointment as bishop by Pope Francis on July 3, he served as the faculty at Pontifical Urban University, Rome. In an exclusive interview with Daijiworld 24x7 channel, Dr Peter Paul Saldanha speaks to Editor-in-Chief Walter Nandalike on his views and plans to develop the diocese.
1. Now you have been appointed as the bishop of Mangaluru diocese. Looking back, how do you remember your childhood? What is the inspiration behind your priesthood?
I was born in Aikala village which is near to Kirem. My parents are Lazarus Saldanha and Eliza Menezes. I am the fourth of their nine children. We had a strong religious atmosphere in our home. I was accompanied by my sister for catechism class prior to my first communion held at Kirem church. The atmosphere of church attracted me towards to the religious life. I was the only person from my home to carry flowers for the novena of nativity feast and walk three kilometres daily to attend mass. However, my parents had an important role to play. We never missed prayer at our home.
My father had a business of Palmyra palm powder. People from various parts of the district visited our home to purchase the powder. During my free time, I too helped him in production of the powder. He always kept advising me on transparency, quality and clean business. His business ethics inspired me a lot.
Fr Abhundius, who was our parish priest during my childhood, is my inspiration. His sincerity, strict religious life and simplicity made me think about joining priesthood. Later, when I completed my SSLC, I met him and told my desire to join seminary. He encouraged me to do the same.
2. After ordination you served at many parishes in the diocese. Did you ever think that you will become a bishop?
Some of the priests were telling me that one day, I will become a bishop. I think they found something special in me and commented like that. I heard from my uncle that once bishop Raymond told him, “In future one of your family members will sit on this chair.” But I never took it seriously. Now after getting the appointment from Vatican, I feel it was a prophecy made by bishop Raymond.
3. What was your reaction when you were appointed as the bishop?
I was summoned by Cardinal Filoni one day and I went to his chamber. He started to explain about Mangaluru diocese. I told him Mangaluru is my diocese and I know about it. Then he said, ‘ We at Urban University will be losing you. Holy Father has appointed you as a bishop of Mangaluru and is waiting for your opinion,’. I thought it’s a plan of God. I should obey him. There itself I confirmed to the Cardinal “I am ready”.
4. Today’s world completely depends upon the use of technology. But Mangaluru diocese is far behind on using the technology. Nowadays communication is very important. To keep a close touch with believers, can we expect something special on this in your tenure?
Yes. My PhD itself is based on ‘Revelation and self-communication of God’ Communication is very essential in this current world. Though it is not very easy to set up a platform for communication at diocese level at once, people can keep in touch with me as I am using WhatsApp. With a prior appointment, they can meet me without any hesitation. I am ready to hear all.
5. The efforts of priests to nurture Konkani language are always appreciated. They are the real saviours of this language. Do you have any special plans to serve Konkani?
We already have our own Konkani weekly ‘Raknno’. We should encourage more young writers to write in Konkani. At the same time, I have a plan to research into cultural symbols used in the communication of our local culture. It is a form of communication using the symbols from our traditional, cultural and ancient heritage. However, a lot of study, research and planning need to go into this.
6. Catholic youth are not much interested in the teachings of church. On the other hand, divorces are increasing rapidly. What steps you will take address these issues?
I have experience of working in family life centre. Based on that, I can understand the issues clearly and in a better way. I participated in last synod held at Vatican which was mainly called to discuss the family life of Catholics. I will address both issues on priority and definitely will try to find a solution.
7. As per some recent surveys, Mangaluru is in top position for ill treating of elderly people. What is your say on this?
In his ten commandments, God says honour your mother and father. So we Catholics should follow it without fail. It is our responsibility to serve our parents in their old age. In foreign countries parents don’t depend on children for care and support during their old age. There they have security and facilities from government. But in our land we cannot expect such facilities from our government for our elderly parents. We should care for them with high respect. There is no point in shedding tears after their death. Bible says, if we care for our elderly parents, we will get infinite blessings.
8. What are the challenges you face when you take over as the religious head of the diocese?
To construct a bridge between the communities is a major challenge. Our district is well known for harmony. But due to few people, the entire atmosphere is getting dirty. The incidents of hatred are always highlighted. We have to take steps to highlight good things done by other communities. We should not forget to appreciate the good deeds done by the members of other religion. Definitely I will work on this.
9. Earlier there was a demand for archdiocese. Do you have any plans on making Mangaluru an archdiocese?
No. I don’t have complete knowledge on it. It is a huge procedure. It is not in the hands of a single bishop. Many dioceses should come together and take decision on it.
10. Any date finalized for consecration?
We have formed a committee for it and the date is not definitive. The consecration will be held at Rosario Cathedral. We need three bishops as consecrators. So we are looking at the schedules of the other bishops. After consultation with them, we will announce the date officially.
11. As the new bishop of Mangaluru what is your message to Daijiworld viewers and readers?
We all are children of God. We should live in peace and harmony. We should not engage in any conflicts within or outside the community. Faith and hope make us a complete human. So let’s concentrate on these matters. I am also a human and need proper guidance from believers and well-wishers of the church. My office will be always open to all for suggestions and guidance. Thank You.