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St. Albert's College
Archdiocese of Verapoly, Kochin (Kerala, India)
Sunday, 25 June 2006


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

1. It is with great joy and deep emotion that today I find myself in your midst, in this blessed land where, since the time of the Apostles, the seed of the Gospel has borne so much fruit.

I am most grateful to your esteemed Archbishop, His Grace the Most Reverend Daniel Acharuparambil, for his fraternal words of welcome, and I greet him most warmly. I also greet His Grace the Most Reverend Pedro López Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio to India, and the other Bishops present. My greetings extend to the priests, to the men and women religious and to all of you who are participating in this important day for the Church, offering the precious gift of your faith and your love.

My respectful and cordial greetings to Honorable Mayor Prof. Mercy Williams, Respected District Collector A. P. M. Mohammed Hanish, Honorable Judges, civil and police authorities.

Finally, I greet the beloved mother of Archbishop Francis Assisi, Mrs. Elizabeth Chullikatt and family.

To everyone gathered here I bring the cordial greetings and the Apostolic Blessing of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who, in appointing Monsignor Francis Assisi Chullikatt Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio, wanted to show a sign of special honour for the Catholic Church in India.

2. Today, it is a singular privilege for me to be able to impose hands, together with your Archbishop and the Apostolic Nuncio, on the head of Monsignor Francis Assisi Chullikatt, a beloved son of this land, who thus enters into the College of Bishops, as a Successor of the Apostles, in order to carry out the mission of Apostolic Nuncio.

The service that Monsignor Chullikatt has carried out in the Representations of the Holy See in Honduras, in various countries of southern Africa, in the Philippines, at the United Nations in New York and, finally, in the Secretariat of State in the Vatican, have all demonstrated his preparation for even more demanding missions. Wherever he has been, he has shown great dedication, admirable competence, an apostolic spirit and an always inspiring human tact for which everybody looks upon him as a friend and a brother. It is for these reasons that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has now chosen him and entrusted to him the mission of Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and to Iraq:  two countries of utmost importance on the international scene, but even more so for the attention which the Holy See dedicates to them.

3. The Kingdom of Jordan distinguishes itself in the Middle East for peaceful coexistence between Muslims, who make up the great majority of the population, and Christians. The land of Jordan is holy on account of the places sanctified by the presence of Our Lord during his earthly life. The task of the Apostolic Nuncio will be to foster the climate of inter-religious peace and to give every possible assistance to the Catholic communities, so that the Christian roots in that Land may continue to flourish and bear fruit.

The Republic of Iraq finds itself afflicted by war and daily shaken by terrorist attacks. It, too, is a biblical land, and boasts the place of origin of Abraham, our father in faith; and the Christians, although they are a small minority, have been present there since the Apostolic times. Here, the Apostolic Nuncio has his habitual residence, in the capital Baghdad, and from him the Catholic communities are awaiting support in their witness to the faith. He will have to be for all the bearer of a hope and a love that must nourish seeds of peace, stronger than any sign of hatred and stronger than any violence.

4. It is for this most important and difficult mission that Monsignor Chullikatt is today ordained Bishop. He becomes the titular Bishop of Ostra and as Apostolic Nuncio he will have the dignity of an Archbishop.

Each bishop is a living centre of the unity of the Church; and the Apostolic Nuncio, precisely because he is a Bishop, can carry out, with the force of particular charisms, his primary task of strengthening the bonds between the Apostolic See and particular Churches (cf. canon 364), so that the Church can be both a symbol and an instrument of the unity of the whole human family (Lumen gentium, 9). It is precisely as Bishop that he will be particularly able to represent the Pope and the Catholic Church in the countries to which he is accredited, and also before the civil Authorities, in order to work for the freedom of the Church itself and to promote the collaboration of her institutions and those of the State in the service to the human person.

5. The Word of God which we have just heard spoke about this service to the human person, a service of truth and of love.

5.1. The prophet Isaiah spoke to us of the Spirit of the Lord, which brings glad tidings to the poor and binds the wounds of broken hearts. The Papal Representative, even if he is not directly involved in the pastoral work of the other Bishops and priests, knows that he must work so that the Church can carry out her primary mission, namely, that of making known the closeness of Christ to men and women in need, not only spiritual need but material as well.

5.2. Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, gives witness to the fact that his preaching never sprung from deceit or trickery, and that he was never guilty of flattery or greed under any pretext; rather, he always acted as a mother who nourishes and cares for her own children. I do not know if this can be said in general even of diplomats, or even of us men of the Church... Certainly, however, this is the charge given to Papal Representatives:  they must be Ambassadors in truth and in love.

5.3. Finally, the Gospel reminded us of the conferral of the pastoral mandate to Peter, a conferral that took place only on the basis of a triple confirmation of his love for Christ. From the faithful love for Christ - Do you love me? - to the solicitous love for his flock - Feed my sheep. There is, in reality, only one love, just as the double commandment to love God and neighbour is one. Here is the secret force that must sustain the Apostolic Nuncio, just like each Bishop, in his service - a service that often takes him down dry paths, or even in desert places - I mean the deserts of humanity - or in dangerous situations. But love knows no fear.

6. Animated by this spirit Monsignor Chullikatt begins his new and important mission as Representative of the Pope. But not only this:  he is also your Representative. He is a gift that your Church, rich in holiness, gives to the Universal Church. As he has always done throughout his priestly service, Monsignor Chullikatt will bring honour to your land, to India, a great country of thousand year traditions of civilization and wisdom:  he will bring honour to your land, to Kerala, which in India is the source of Christian light. Accompany him, therefore, always with your love and your prayers.

7. Dear Monsignor Chullikatt:  at the beginning of this new phase in your life, you have chosen as the motto of your ministry as Bishop and as Apostolic Nuncio the words "Fidei in Virtute", "By the power of faith". Faith is so strong that it moves mountains and works miracles. This is the teaching of the Lord (cf. Mt 21: 21); in reality, it should not really amaze us, because faith unites us to the power of God, who created heaven and earth, God who knows the thoughts and the ways of men and women, God who guides history, God who with the cross of Christ helps us to carry, indeed, transforms all of our crosses, and with his death has conquered death. May the Spirit of the Lord, which the entire Church today invokes upon you and which is transmitted to you by the imposition of the hands of the consecrating Bishops, fill you with his gifts and by the power of faith make rich in love your mission as Apostolic Nuncio.