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Message of Bishop Emeritus

I am immensely happy to know that the Episcopal baton has been passed on to Rev. Fr. Visuvasam Selvaraj to be my successor as the Bishop of Port Blair. I do not understand why the appointment had to take almost two and a half years. It surprises me, but I know that our God is a God of surprises!! Besides, it has often been said that the 'wheels of the Catholic Church grind but very slowly!!! 'But, thank God, grind they do!! And so the diocese of Port Blair has, thanks to the Lord and Mother Mary, graduated from a Diocesan Administrator to a full-fledged bishop, with the appointment of Rev. Fr. Visuvasam Selvaraj, as the bishop. I had been waiting for the dawning of this day, and I am glad it has, with this much-awaited announcement by the Holy Father.

The second big reason of my happiness is that one of our own diocesan priests has become the new bishop of Port Blair. It certainly means that the local Church of Port Blair has come of age. It was way back in 1965 that the Society of Pilar had taken over the pastoral responsibility of the Mission of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Society kept sending priests there to cater to the pastoral and other needs of the people of God on those remote islands.The lot had fallen upon me, too, and I was sent to the Andaman Islands, and I worked there from 1971 till 1976. After 20 years of the good, hard and praise-worthy work of the Pilar fathers in this distant and difficult mission territory, the Holy Father Pope John Paul ll and the other concerned Authorities of the Universal Church, finally, deemed the Mission fit to be raised to the status, of a diocese. The new diocese was erected in 1984, and I was appointed the bishop, in spite of my unworthiness. I took over the reins of the diocese on the 20th of January,1985.

In my short-sightedness and lack of experience, at that point of time, I had thought to myself that I would be able to train local clergy, resign my Office of Bishop, hand over the diocese to one of them, and walk out, in a matter of 10-15 years. I was convinced that this should be my mission as Bishop and the mission of the Society of Pilar--training the local diocesan clergy, and handing over the diocese into their hands,as soon as we found them ready. This is still my conviction. And, hence the second big reason for my happiness, at the appointment of a local diocesan priest as the bishop. However,contrary to my thinking and expectations, this has taken 34 years, much longer than I had thought. But it has, finally, happened, and I rejoice.

My third reason for rejoicing on this occasion is that the lot has fallen on Rev. Fr. Visuvasam Selvaraj to be the bishop of Port Blair. In my humble opinion, he has good qualities of mind and heart and a good concern for the flock of Jesus. He has acquired a good pastoral as well as administrative experience, having worked along with me for quite some years. Wherever he was posted, he has given a good account of himself. The last responsibility entrusted to him was that he was unanimously elected to be Administrator of the diocese, by the diocesan Consultors, according to the norms of Canon Law. And he went about taking care of the diocese in a praise-worthy manner.

I wish Rev. Fr. Selvaraj the very best of everything, and pray for abundant blessings upon him, of the Good Shepherd Jesus, who has chosen him to tend His flock in these remote islands. May Mother Mary, the Star of the Sea, the Patroness of the diocese, stand by him, illumining his path and protecting him at all times. And may the Church in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, under the leadership of her new Shepherd, truly be what she is called and chosen to be -- the light to the people, LUMEN GENTIUM.

Most Rev. Alex Dias sfx.
Emeritus Bishop of Port Blair