Bishop Anthony Sharma, Nepal’s first bishop who oversaw sharp Church growth, died last week aged 78.
Bishop Sharma had been undergoing treatment for brain cancer in Kathmandu, according to the Apostolic Vicariate of Nepal.
“Bishop Sharma worked during the royal regime and later witnessed the political upheaval when Nepal was declared a republic. He witnessed the change of Nepal from a Hindu country to a secular state,” said Fr Silas Bogati, vicar general.
Bishop Sharma, born in India to Nepalese Hindu parents, was ordained a priest by the Jesuits in Darjeeling, India, in 1968. In 1984 he was appointed Nepal’s first Jesuit superior. St John Paul II appointed him prefect of Nepal in 1996, and he was ordained a bishop in 2007. He retired in 2014.
Bishop Sharma was close to the royal family and as a seminarian in the 1960s taught former King Gyanendra and his brother, the late King Birendra Shah, at Jesuit-run St Joseph’s College in Darjeeling.
He used his contacts to get the government to allow the Nepal Catholic Society to register as an officially recognised body in 1993, giving Catholics a sense of belonging to a homeland where they were once seen as pariahs, reported Ucanews.com.
In 2008 he welcomed the emergence of Nepal as a republic after a special assembly voted to abolish the Himalayan country’s Hindu monarchy and began a process of drawing up a new republican constitution.
The bishop propagated secularism, now enshrined in that constitution, and said: “Secularism does not mean an end of Hinduism or any other religion, but means everyone is free to practice his or her belief in terms of equality with others.”
He told ucanews.com that his mother, who lived her Hindu religion, taught him to respect Christianity.
Fr Bogati called the bishop “a great educator. He had a heart for opening schools and imparting knowledge to Nepali people across the country,” said Fr Bogati.
The bishop helped to establish 23 schools.
In 1990, he founded Caritas Nepal, the social service arm of the Catholic Church in Nepal that has helped thousands of people, especially the poor and marginalised.
Nepal has about 27.8 million people. The Nepal Catholic Directory counts about 8,000 Catholics.
Annulment reforms show kneeling Church, says Pope
As his annulment reforms came into effect last week, Pope Francis said the new norms were intended to help bring healing to failed marriages.
With the release of two papal documents in September, the Pope rewrote a section of canon law with the aim of making the Church’s marriage annulment process quicker, cheaper and more pastoral.
The papal documents, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge”) for the Latin-Rite Church and Mitis et misericors Iesus (“The Meek and Merciful Jesus”) for the Eastern Catholic churches, went into effect on December 8.
The Pope issued a papal order, known as a ‘rescript’, as a reminder and to clarify the finer details. He said the new norms were given to “carry out justice and mercy concerning the truth of the bond of those who experienced the failure of marriage”. The Family Synod on the family expressed “a strong call” for the Church to kneel before “its more fragile children, marked by a love that’s wounded and gone astray” in order to restore confidence and hope, the Pope said.
“The laws that now go into effect aim precisely to show the Church’s closeness to wounded families,” he said.
Mexican dancers celebrate saint
Traditional indigenous dancers known as “concheros” and “chinelos” danced on the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on the feast of St Juan Diego last week. St Juan Diego, recognised a saint 13 years ago, evangelised indigenous populations after Mary appeared before him at Tepeyac Hill – now the site of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the world’s most-visited Marian shrine. His feast day is December 9.
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