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Health & faith diocese focus
Priests look beyond education in hills

Darjeeling, Nov. 14: Health and other social sectors would be the focus of the Darjeeling diocese, not education, its vicar-general father Felix Baretto said on the first day of golden jubilee celebrations.

“It is for the pastoral council to decide but it (the focus) definitely won’t be education. The educational phase for the diocese is probably over as we have covered all levels in the field. We now need to focus on other aspects such as health, social sector or even strengthen faith in the region,” he said.

For the Darjeeling diocese it was a big day because today’s Mass was led by the Vatican’s ambassador to India and Nepal, archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, at the St Joseph’s School ground here.

Roman Catholics have scripted a success story in the education system in the hills by setting up more than 50 institutions.

The Mass today was part of the three-day Yesu Krist Mahotsav that will end on Friday.

Terming the celebration a “historical and joyful occasion”, archbishop Pennacchio told the gathering: “… faith, to be alive and true, needs to be shared with others, to be announced to everybody, to be witnessed and proclaimed without fear.”

The Darjeeling diocese was established on August 8, 1962, but Catholic missionaries had been working across the region since the arrival of Irish Loreto Sisters in 1846.

When the Diocesan Pastoral Council sits in Darjeeling in January next year to review the 50 years of work and plan the next 50 years, the educationists are expected to look into other sectors.

“The Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy clearly mentions that after every 50 years, one should be joyous and review the years. The Diocesan Pastoral Council will sit in January next year for a review and to plan the next 50 years,” Father Baretto said.

The book states that the celebration of the jubilee year should start by blowing the ram’s horn. But in the absence of the horn in Darjeeling, the golden jubilee celebration was launched last year by blowing a traditional instrument called naumati baja.

The 46-member pastoral council, which is headed by the bishop of Darjeeling diocese, Stephen Lepcha, will come out with a plan for the next 50 years after two days of deliberations.

“We cannot hold the meetings immediately as most of the priests are now busy in their institutions. The moment schools close for the winter vacation, the Christmas season will set in. That is why we have decided to hold the meeting in January,” Father Baretto said.

During the celebrations today, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leaders Ramesh Allay, who is also the deputy chief executive of the GTA, general secretary Roshan Giri and Darjeeling MLA Trilok Dewan were felicitated in the presence of archbishop Pennacchio.

Father Alex Gurung of the diocese said: “It has been a truly rewarding day for all the Catholics as we see the Pope’s presence through the attendance of archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio.”