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‘People and religious priests’ love motivate and challenge my mission,’ says Indian Archbishop

Archbishop Durairaj of Bhopal Archdiocese

In an exclusive interview with Radio Veritas Asia, Bhopal Archbishop Durairaj, SVD, said people's and religious priests' love, support, encouragement, and cooperation motivate and challenge him to do many things in his mission. 

Archbishop Durairaj, speaking to Savari Rayan of Radio Veritas Asia Hindi Service, explained that what motivates him to undertake the mission as a Bishop is the love of people and religious priests. 

“As I continue with different responsibilities. It is the love of the people wherever I go, the love of the people, the support and encouragement, and the cooperation that I get from my priests, religious, and people that motivates me and challenges me to do many more things,” the Archbishop explained. 

Jeremiah's experience of how God had consecrated and appointed him gave him the confidence to proceed with his ministry as a Bishop because that was God's plan. 

“I do find how the Lord shapes us, as we do find in the book of Jeremiah. He points out how the Lord consecrates us, appoints us, and leads us,” said the Archbishop. “That is so striking from the first chapter: I consecrated and appointed you. And do not be afraid; I am with you.”

“These words are very supportive, consoling, and comforting to me, encouraging me to go ahead, and that's how I find you, just being in the flow of the Lord’s mission. I became provincial, then Bishop of Khandwa. There are now, and I am the Archbishop of Bhopal,” he explained. 

He added, "It's all God's plan as he leads me.” 

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD, speaking to Father Savari Rayan at an exclusive interview for Radio Veritas Asia.

Archbishop Durairaj, a Divine Word missionary (SVD), was born on May 3, 1957, in Thirunagar, Archdiocese of Madurai, Tamil Nadu; in 1971, he entered the SVD's St. Charles Seminary in Tiruchirapalli after completing elementary education in his hometown and Madurai.

Palda Seminary in Indore completed his junior formation and pre-university education in 1975. He also earned a Bachelor of Science from P.M.B. Gujarati Science College in Indore and a Master of Arts in Psychology from Government Arts and Commerce College.

In 1979, he concluded his novitiate in Khurda, Indore, and began his first profession. He studied theology at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, and made his perpetual profession there on June 12, 1984. He was ordained a priest at Thirunagar, Madurai, on May 8, 1985.

Bishop Durairaj, 66 years old, possesses a Master of Arts in counseling from Loyola University in Chicago and a Doctor of Philosophy in counselor education from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh (USA). Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Bishop of Khandwa on May 11, 2009. His consecration as bishop occurred on July 16, 2009.

He had numerous duties after his priestly ordination, including 1995–1996: Spiritual Director at Khrist Premalaya Regional Philosophate, Bhopal; 2004–2005: Rector of SVD Regional Philosophate; 2005: Provincial Superior of the Central Indian Province; and 2008: Re-elected Provincial Superior.

In its 26 parishes and 20 mission stations, the Archdiocese of Bhopal has approximately 75 diocesan priests, 70 religious' priests, 20 religious' brothers, and 550 religious' sisters. Two colleges, seven spiritual animation centers, three nursing colleges, 49 schools, 13 hostels, five social welfare centers, five hospitals, five dispensaries, five professional training centers, five schools for the physically and mentally challenged, four communication centers, and three hospices are administered by the Archdiocese of Bhopal.

Regarding the participation of youth and women in the Archdiocese, the Archbishop emphasized that their contributions have made the Archdiocese more vibrant through their faith in God.

When asked about FABC's triple dialogue with religion, culture, and the poor, he responded that the church must demonstrate mutual respect and support, nurture culture because we live in a multicultural society, and focus on the poor as the central value of our life and mission.

The entire interview discusses his life, vocation, and ministry in the archdiocese, synodality, and other topics is published on YouTube: Voice of Asian Bishops with Archbishop Alangaram Arockia Sebastian Durairaj, S.V.D - YouTube

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD of Bhopal Archdiocese

Read the full transcript of the interview below.


RVA Interview with Archbishop Durairaj, SVD of Bhopal Archdiocese by Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD, from Radio Veritas Asia Hindi Service. 

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD:  It's a beautiful time that we are together, and I would like to ask you to say something about the Archdiocese of Bhopal

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD;

Thank you. Father Ryan. I'm extremely happy to tell you that this year, the Archdiocese of Bhopal celebrates its Diamond, Jubilee, 60 years of existence. And by God's grace, it is marching forward gloriously. Catholic Christian presence began. It last. We look into history. Maybe in the 18th century, the French Bourbons came to Bhopal to render their service to Muslims, leaders nawabs here in Bhopal, to meet the needs of these Catholics Borebons from Patna has Bishop Anastasius Hartmann SJ, sent the priests to look after these people and that's how the Christian presence started blooming and blossoming. 

Then we find in history Bhopal was under Agra dioceses afterward it was under Allahabad diocese after that in the year 1935 as I studied, I come to know Bhopal was part of Indor, but in the year 1963 he became the diocese Archdiocese of Bhopal and it had a great significance because of the geographical situation and political situation Bhopal being the capital, this became the Archdiocese and we find that the first Archbishop of Bhopal is most reverent Eugene D’souza MSFS and he let this diocese for a very long time, 31 years from 1963 to 1994. After that came by Archbishop. Pascal Topno SJ was here and afterward. Archbishop Leo, Cornelio SVD led this diocese for about 14 years. And by God's grace, I am called by the Lord to lead. This wonderful archdiocese was installed on 27th November 2021.

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD: Please, Tell us something about your journey as a priest and as a bishop and now as the archbishop about your vocation. 

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD: 

Yeah. It's always interesting how the Lord calls us and how he leads us to take up different responsibilities. You have already captured and captured a glimpse of my life. I began as a simple priest in 1985 in the Java diocese I rented my service. And thereafter came to Bhopal and then in and out of Bhopal working in formation houses. And I do find how the Lord shapes us, so we do see in the book of Jeremiah. He points out how the Lord consecrates and appoints and leads us. That is striking from the first chapter: I consecrated and appointed you. And do not be afraid, I am with you. These are the words that are very supportive consoling comforting to me, encouraging me to go ahead and that's how I find you just being in the flow of the Lord’s Mission I became provincial, then became Bishop of Khandwa. There are now, I am the Archbishop of Bhopal. It's all God's plan as he leads me.

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD: So, in the hands of God has been consistently leading you and guiding you and the name, Jeremiah, the prophet. You said means also mean that God exalts and certainly God exalts whom he wants. What exactly motivates you to keep doing your work, your mission as the Archbishop right now.

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD: 

As I continue with different responsibilities. It is the love of the people Wherever I Go, the love of the people, the support and encouragement, cooperation that I get from my priests religious and people that motivates me and challenges me to do many more things. 

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD: Now, let us move on to what Pope Francis called and what he has proposed for The Universal Church a synodal path you have a great responsibility of leading and guiding the people on the path. How do you experience the collaboration, corporation, and participation in the mission of God in the Archdiocese? 

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD: 

preparation for the Synodal all over parishes.  These priests and religious and other people are at different levels. They have discussed and you have been part of this preparing the document. And so all that I have learned is that church has a beautiful structure but then we must continue to animate them. Keep it alive revive it. And so, I aim to ensure every Parish Parish Council is active and alive finance committee. Small ecclesial communities or small Christian communities. These structures must bring life to people to grow in Holiness. And that's my main priority to animate, our priests us leaders, and religious and lay leaders who will keep the faith alive. That's what I think we are. 

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD: as your Grace rightly said this year, we have seen many programs, good, number of programs, being organized in the Archdiocese of Bhopal. What, how do you describe the role of the youth in the life of the church here? 

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD

Yeah, like the one big celebration that we had Bible, Muhammad Show for the whole diocese, and this youth had a greater contribution in organizing this. Also, I need to add the women Commission all members. They also contribute more to making the diocese More Alive with their faith and other God experiences, but we could do much more with the youth. Many more young people are not cared for or have not come into the church. We need programs to get them all together to benefit from all that we are organizing. 

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD: Yeah, thank you for your grace in explaining the role of the youth, and the different commissions. And Maria samathi, and all the other activities. Now, in the coming few years, what do you like to see in the Archdiocese happening? The action plan, for example, 

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD:

The action plan, first and foremost, is what I mentioned right now, for a synodal church, Communion, participation and Mission. And this is very important for us to continue maintaining the momentum. So that will be my focus with the help of several commissions we have. We will focus on that synodal perspective. Sometimes people misunderstand the synodal, everyone demands, you know, youth demand women Parish Council, everyone.

They have their own desires and demands but I think we need to understand How we can work together; participation, communion, and the mission have to be clear that should go on first. And second thing in the present situation, the political situation in India, Public Relations has to be strengthened. And so PRO is, PRO team is quite active, in our Archdiocese of Bhopal, and so at every grass root level, our team will organize with the PROs in every institution, parish, and at the local level. we need to strengthen with different leaders, political leaders, religious leaders, and social workers, public relations will be another effort that I wish to have a concrete plan on this. 

The third one may be on the environmental issues that we have to work with the government and our Holy Father, Pope Francis with his encyclical Laudato si has already given us some guidelines and so I wish to work on this exam 

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD:  Yeah. Now let us go to the next level from CBMP and the Indian Church to the FABC Federation of Asian Bishops, the triple dialogue to begin with the religion, culture and the poor.

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD:

I think this is vital for us, in India Fr. Ryan as you and I have been working here in this state of Madhya Pradesh for a very long time. And so inter-religious, dialogue, working with religious leaders here in this same place where we are recording. We had a meeting with all religious leaders praying for the Nations, so we must maintain this relationship very often. We have a few meetings and then go off. So that one is very important. Mutual respect for one another and mutual support, then nurturing, the cultural Factor. We have a terrific Multicultural Society. We are very proud of these very colourful songs, and dances and so, we have rich cultural factors, we must The Church Must continue to nurture these aspects of culture, religion and other aspects. Yeah, attention to the poor is the core value of our ife and so our Social Service Unit is active, but I think we need to be more and more involved socially for the poor. We have several institutions for the destitute for orphans and hospitals and of course, our educational institutions are many institutions are their schools and colleges

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD:  Our involvement during the time of Covid has been tremendous and we have gained the Goodwill of the people in mother probation in the Archdiocese of Bhopal and following the teachings of Pope Francis, who always has a special place in his heart for the poor and therefore we move to the next question. So it is also very important to pay attention to the ecumenical, prayer meetings and the collaboration and organization, Your Grace kindly highlights these aspects. 

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD: 

In one way, our PROs were public relations office is quite active in. Maintaining a good relationship with many denominations, and many churches. But at the same time, it is also challenging because each one has got their style of Functioning and so in some places, they have run into problems, we have run into issues and we need to see what is wrong with our approaches because of our theological approach or Proclamation approach. There are tensions. So we try to come together to address some of the common concerns and we have celebrations like Easter. So we have Christmas celebrations, and there is a cordial relationship but it is challenging will continue to work on building our relationship with other churches. 

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD:  Thank you very much to you all Grace because you have rightly pointed out the tensions that we have in our approach, especially the approach in the Theology and the proclamation and therefore a related question. What comes to my mind is the concept of sheep stealing. A few incidents have happened and continue to happen. Kindly highlight.

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD:

I mean, they are likely to blame us, saying that, we are stealing their people, and we are likely to all be Christians. And so all that I wish to promote first basic understanding and our relationship is good. I think this issue will not be the will not dominant in our concerns for our Primary issue of proclamation, that same? 

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD:  There are many problems and difficulties in life and also in the life of the missionaries. And as you rightly pointed out, we have been missionaries in this land for many years, and most of our viewers as well and know this highlight on few challenges and the problems that we right now face in our church. 

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD: 

Right now, the major challenge is that the Political situation does not promote that type of Freedom with which we were going around in the Villages or the towns and very openly directly talking about or we can now speak about. Still, it's the same time some phonetic groups fundamentally groups are there that is found everywhere. It's not only here anywhere; the church has faced all these challenges. And so I think we will overcome with our Goodwill and Committed Services.

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD, Can you kindly give us a message as we conclude this session with you, your grace, a message for the people.

Archbishop Durairaj, SVD:

Um, my dear people, we are deeply grateful to the Lord for the holy sacraments that we have and the rich traditions and practices that we have inherited that will help us to move forward in proclaiming the good news of our Lord Jesus, it's a holding on to all this. We respect everyone following the Footsteps of our Lord Jesus. And then, with our great leader Pope Francis, who wants everyone to be in the fold to praise and thank the Lord. And so, our effort is to work with everyone and follow the words of our Lord Jesus in St. John 14:35, you know, in all that, you do, we will come to know. You are my disciples Feel so much love for One another.

Fr. Savari Rayan, SVD:  My Grace has found time for us, and he has very beautifully explained to us the challenges of today following the footsteps of Pope Francis, the message that you gave us is like a bomb that is applied to the wounds of the people, because the world, in which we live is wounded bluest and also fragmented. And therefore, coming together, appreciating each other and encouraging each other. As you rightly pointed out, your grace is a beautiful and very important message. Thank you very much. And God bless you and your ministry for the people of Madhya Pradesh and the Archdiocese of Bhopal. 


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.