Fr Varghese Alengaden is an extraordinary Catholic priest from Indore, who has been quietly revolutionising the Catholic Church in the country. Perhaps, he is the only Catholic priest ordained for the Sagar Diocese in Madhya Pradesh has been allowed to live and work outside his diocese. A diocese is an area comprising of some districts in a state which come under the jurisdiction of a bishop, archbishop and cardinal for the spiritual welfare of the faithful. Alengaden has this privilege because he is no ordinary priest.
This was evident when recently Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, visited Universal Solidarity Movement set up by Alengaden 25 years ago to promote peace, values of justice and true democracy. Impressed with his works and his latest book Vision 2030: A Memory of the Future for the Church in India, which calls for a paradigm shift from religiosity to spirituality, Cardinal Gracias invited him to give a talks and spend a few days in Mumbai with his six Bishops, who shepherd India’s biggest Catholic diocese.
I have known Alengaden for more than 20 years. At the first meeting he came across as a rather different priest, living independently away from his ‘boss’ the Bishop. That attracted me to him. At that time I was editing the daily newspaper Free Press in Indore, a sister publication of Free Press Journal. Recently, I was in Indore and decided to catch up with him. The Universal Solidarity Movement headquarters has now moved to another bigger place but still rented. That is one of the tenets of his spirituality as his guru, Jesus Christ, owned nothing in his lifetime. But moving from town to town, he established a movement of peace, love and justice with his trusted band of 12 disciples, one of whom betrayed him at the end.
This time Alengaden took me to a corner of his premises called the mirror room. It has neither a crucifix on which Jesus Christ was nailed to death nor any statue unlike in any temple or Church. But it has two-square-metre mirror with bold words “God Within” and a phrase in Sanskrit Aham Brahmasmi (I am God)”. Says Alengaden, “God lives within us and we are all the image of God. Once this message sinks in, it will promote plurality and equality and usher in a civilisation of love.” Amen.