Portrait: Cardinal Ivan Dias, new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the peoples

Source: FSSPX News


On May 20, Benedict XVI appointed the Indian cardinal, Ivan Dias prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the peoples. Aged 70, and archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Dias succeeds to 63-year old Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, who has been appointed archbishop of Naples, his native town. This is the second appointment to the charge of prefect of a congregation which has been made by Benedict XVI since his election. The first appointment was that of the American cardinal, William Joseph Levada at the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 13, 2005.

Ivan Dias was made cardinal by John Paul II, during the February 21, 2001 consistory. Ordained a priest in Bombay, in 1958, he was appointed archbishop in 1996. In the Vatican, for quite some time already, there had been persistent rumor about the replacement of Cardinal Sepe at  the head of this important congregation, which has authority over 39% of the dioceses in the Catholic Church.

Ivan Dias was born on April 14, 1936 in Bandra, near Bombay, India. He began his ministry in Bombay, but soon left for Rome, in 1961 to study canonical law at the Lateran Pontifical University. In 1964, the Vatican State Department called upon his help to prepare the journey of Paul VI to Bombay, on the occasion of the International Eucharistic Congress. This journey was a turning point in his life.

Ivan Dias remained at the service of the Holy See for more than thirty years. He is polyglot – he knows the rudiments of 15 languages, and speaks 8 others fluently -, he was first secretary of nunciature in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Indonesia, Madagascar, La Réunion, the Comoros and Maurice, from 1965 to 1973. Then he was recalled to Rome as head of the section of the State Department, which was more particularly specialized for the Soviet Union, the Baltic States, Belarus, the Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, China, Vietnam as well as 12 African countries including Rwanda and Burundi. On November 8, 1996, John Paul II appointed him archbishop of Bombay. So, he went back to India, where he was closely confronted with dialogue with Muslims and Hindus. He has the reputation of not sparing himself in spite of a delicate health. He may be diabetic.

Cardinal Dias, was close to Mother Teresa, and appreciated by John Paul II. He is known for his stand in favor of the declaration Dominus Jesus from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which he is a member. Thus, according to the February 1st edition of Church of Asia (n° 302) during a plenary meeting of the Conference of Catholic Bishops which gathered the 140 members of the Indian hierarchy in Chennai in Southern India, on January 18, 2000, he had expressed his concern over “the theological disorder and confusion” as well as over “out of control inculturation” at work in the intellectual circles of the Catholic community of the country. “We must make sure”, he had specified,  “that the freedom of research and expression which Indian theologians enjoy do not degenerate into laxity”. On that occasion, he had publicly expressed his regret that some Indian theologians were reticent to accept pontifical declarations concerning the unicity of Christ and the universality of the salvation He brought. The recent visits to Indian seminaries, he noted, brought into relief the attempts made by some theologians to place Christ on a par with the founders of other religions, - the teaching given in some houses of formation of religious congregations go even as far as to question the dogmas of the Church. Without naming him, the archbishop of Bombay had cited the example of a Jesuit Father who taught that Christ was equally present in the Eucharist and in “cowpat”. He had then compared this theological deviation to what had happened in the West shortly after Vatican II

When we read such statements, we are all the more surprised to learn that Cardinal Dias received this year three Indian seminarians who had left the seminary of Bombay in 2003 to join the SSPX seminary in Goulburn, Australia, because of the errors he himself had denounced. You may judge from the testimony of one of these seminarians which was published in the Newsletter of the district of Asia (July-December 2003) : “A French Jesuit priest, Fr. Le Saux (now Swami Shilananda) has built a church resembling a temple at Sinnar, in Nashik, in which he has made a seemingly tabernacle to the form of Shivalingam (sexual organ of Shiva) with a serpent on top, and below, the female sexual organ, that is the fertility cult of the Hindus. He places the Blessed Sacrament inside the Shivalingam. He is dressed in saffron robes like an Indian sage. He is looked up to as a model of an Indian priest. In one of the parishes in Bombay, during Easter, the Liturgical Committee used cow’s urine for the ’Asperges’ (as used by the Hindus for purificatory rites)."

When he received the three seminarians who had left the seminary of Goulburn to go back again to the seminary of Bombay, Cardinal Dias declared in the diocesan weekly of Bombay The Examiner of March 25, 2006 : “I deem it opportune to inform the faithful of the diocese that the Lefebvrites and their Masses – though they are valid like those of some other non-Catholic Christian communities – are not in full communion with the Holy See." After Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos had been informed of the return of the seminarians, Cardinal Dias received from the president of the Ecclesia Dei commission the following words of encouragement dated February 24, 2006:

"(…) I especially appreciated the memoranda by these seminarians which you enclosed with your letter. I rejoice that they responded to the grace of a return to the fullness of the Catholic faith and of life in India. I am most pleased to know that Your Eminence gave them a paternal welcome into the Catholic Church and I pray that their experience makes them appreciate even more the importance of being in full communion with the Successor of Peter. The testimonies of these seminarians give reason to the serious concern about the separatist mentality which they knew in the seminary of Goulburn, and which they eventually had the grace to reject. I sincerely hope that it will be possible to safeguard their vocation. Their testimony could be a strong apologetic argument in favor of Catholic unity (…)"



-       It is worth noting the difference between this letter of Cardinal Hoyos where he speaks of a “return to the plenitude of the Catholic faith”, of  worrisome  “separatist mentality”…and his declaration of November 13, 2005, three months earlier, on the Italian TV channel Canal 5: “We are not confronted to a heresy. We cannot say in correct, exact and precise terms that there is a schism. There is, in the fact of consecrating without a pontifical mandate, a schismatic attitude. They are inside the Church. There is only this that there is lacking a full, more perfect, fuller communion, because communion does exist”.