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The two day National Seminar on "Labour Migration in the Post Liberalization Era" on 18-19 August, 2018, concluded at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi this afternoon. The Seminar was jointly organized by the Indian Social Institutes, Delhi and Bangalore. The Seminar began with Fr. Denzil Fernandes SJ welcoming the delegates and an Inaugural Address by Fr. George Pattery SJ, the President of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA). The Keynote Address was delivered by the renowned Labour Economist, Prof. Ravi Srivastava, who spoke on "Recent Trends in Migration and its Implications". Though he explained the trends in Migration in India from Census and National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) data, he lamented at the inability of macro data to capture the status "undocumented" migrants. There were 18 papers presented at the Seminar from research scholars, professors and academicians from different parts of the country. Besides presentation of academic papers, there was also a sharing of the activities of Jesuits and other organisations working for migrants in India. During the consultation chaired by Fr. Martin Puthussery SJ, the delegates resolved to work on the issue of migrants at three levels, namely (1) direct intervention with migrants, (2) research and documentation, and (3) advocacy leading to policy change. This would entail networking and collaboration with Jesuits Centres, CBCI Labour Commission and other Church organisations, NGOs working for migrants, social activists, research scholars, academicians, policy makers, Government agencies, etc. The Seminar concluded with an address by Ms. Suneetha Eluri, a labour consultant, who summarised the main themes that emerged during the Seminar. Finally, Fr. A. Selvaraj SJ proposed the Vote of Thanks, where he expressed his gratitude to all the delegates and those involved in successfully organising the seminar. (For more photos go to our Gallery)

Denzil Fernandez

19 Aug 2018 - 15:32


The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts as unprecedented floods and landslides continue to wreak havoc in India's Kerala state, killing 75 people within a week.

All 41 Catholic dioceses in the southern state have opened schools and other institutions to accommodate flood victims and are cooperating to send food, clothes and other relief materials to affected areas.

Thousands have fled their homes to reach safer places after incessant rain since Aug. 13 filled up reservoirs of Kerala's 33 dams to the brim, forcing authorities to open sluices. This left all 44 rivers to overflow and inundate homes, farms and roads and railways as floodwater gushed to the Arabian Sea on the state's western border.

"It is an extremely worrying situation," Kerala's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told media on Aug. 15, noting that heavy rain was forecast for another two days.

A red alert has been sounded across the state as the heaviest rain and floods since 1924 continue, leaving about 75,000 people in relief camps and causing damage worth US$1.2 million to crops and properties.

Water levels continue to increase in the plains amid threats of landslides in hilly districts. Road and rail lines remain flooded in several parts and the state's main Kochi International Airport has halted operations following the inundation of runways.

According to the federal National Emergency Response Centre, 187 people have lost their lives in Kerala since the monsoon season started in June.

"It is an unprecedented situation in my lifetime," said 70-year-old Father Jose Plachickal, vicar-general of Idukki Diocese, which covers one of the worst-hit hilly districts, home to the state's biggest dam. "The roads to many parishes are blocked because of massive landslides and uprooted trees."

Most people living near rivers lost all they had including homes when dam shutters were opened.

Many are moving out with whatever they can carry, fearing landslides from saturated slopes could hit their homes at any time, the priest said. But some believe their homes are the safest place.

"We cannot venture out of our homes … there is no guarantee to come back as you may face flash floods and landslides any time," said Cheriyan P.J., who lives in Valiyathovala village in Idukki district.

The 56-year-old Catholic farmer added: "Now we don't even feel safe in our homes as continuing rains have weakened our old houses. But where could I go?"

Father George Vettikattil, who directs Kerala Social Service Forum that oversees the Catholic Church's rescue and relief operations, said the situation is no better in other areas. "Thousands are in relief camps. Drinking water is a real issue in many areas. It is a terrible situation," he said.

In a report released on Aug. 12, the federal home ministry said 774 people had lost their lives in incidents related to floods and rain in seven states during the monsoon season.

The worst-affected states besides Kerala are West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Assam and Nagaland.

The church is "already out in the field" in Kerala through its social service wing Caritas India, the Indian bishops' conference said in a statement on Aug. 15.

Economic and collateral losses to people and their livelihoods are huge, though still need to be effectively calculated, it said, appreciating "the quick and efficient relief work" undertaken by the government and other agencies.

When the crisis is over, the causes of flooding should be analyzed to take "urgent steps to preserve our environment and prevent further ecological damage to our common home, Mother Earth," said the statement signed by conference secretary-general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas.

Source: UCAN

17 Aug 2018 - 07:38

“I feel deeply grateful to God at the end of the TOT sessions seeing the participants entering earnestly into their task of preparing for the zonal programmes.  -  the programme went well far beyond our expectations. The participants took to heart the mission of conducting the zonal programmes. They have dispersed with a firm resolve to spare no efforts in preparing for the zonal programmes to the best of their abilities..” RC Chacko. On the  TOT workshop of REGAE II. This reflects the sentiments of the participants.

Fifty Jesuits from all the four zones participated in the ToT workshop held at ISI Bangalore. It was indeed a learning experience for the participants of the dynamics of REGAE with emphasis on spiritual conversation and learning ways to discern on Conference apostolic priorities, issues on governance especially on reorienting the many commissions and if need be to review the zonal and province boundaries.

Core Team convener Fr. Franco Fernando, sj was ill disposed and could be present for the TOT workshop. The rest of the core team members took up various responsibilities and did a marvelous job. At the end of three days there was desire, resolve and joy among the participants to take REGAE forward. They have planned around 60 programmes in all the zones, from September 2018 to March 2019.

A process is on that could give new enthusiasm for the Assistancy.

May the Lord accompany us in our journey to make our Assistancy affectively efficient and we may respond effectively to the challenges e face today. I am confident the 55 competent Jesuits will realise what we all desired for our Assistancy.  Joe Arun

The SAP and REGAE II was a beautiful experience: working together as one mind, heart and body.  It was a time to know interiorly the SJ, the South Asian Assistancy and many Jesuits of the Assistancy. The TOT was a great experience. We missed FRANCO very much. But we were united with him in spirit and prayer. JossieD’Mello

Deep within I feel confident that with Holy Spirit’s guidance and wholehearted support from JCSA, REGAE II will catch fire in the Assistancy and inspire us to seek God’s will in all our endeavours: Brian Pereira.





I join Brian thanking George Pattery and Core Team for their splendid Job.... Franco, we missed you physically but felt your presence in every activity for which you have put in your labour of love.All of you have enthused us IteImflamate Omnia. I am sure your and our hard work will bear abundant fruit in the Assistancy. Jerry Cutinha







14 Aug 2018 - 13:23

The Annual Meeting of the Commissions’ Secretaries of the Assistancy was held on 3 & 4 August in St.Xavier’s campus, Jaipur. The warm hospitality and support of the Jesuit community made our meeting quite comfortable and fruitful. The theme was, ‘Collaboration and Networking: Formation of Lay Collaborators. Fr. George Pattery made a presentation on the Formula of the Institute to help us to connect with our roots, to discover the passion of the First Fathers and to explore its impact for our mission today. Fr. Siji made a presentation on Collaboration and Networking: Jesuit Perspectives. He highlighted the development of collaboration and networking from the GCs 31-36 and the letters of our Generals and also the opportunities and challenges in collaboration today. We had personal prayer and reflection and used the method of spiritual conversation for our sharing and deliberations in small groups and plenary sessions.

We had a panel discussion in the afternoon with our lay collaborators working in our institutions and parish. Mr.MichaelCasteline, Ms.Neelam Chopra, Ms.Roxanne and Ms.Rose Martin shared with us frankly their experiences and expectations of their collaboration with the Jesuits. In the evening Fr.JossieD’Mello made a presentation on ‘Formation of Lay Collaborators’ with six well-planned modules which were taken up for our personal reflection and sharing in groups. The deliberations helped us to work on a concrete module on the formation of lay collaborators.

On the second day Fr.POSA shared with us the different happenings and initiatives taking place in the Assistancy which gave us a panoramic view of the journey of the Assistancy in the recent years. He invited the secretaries to continue to collaborate through their commissions for the mission given to the Assistancy. We also had a sharing by each secretary about the activities, initiatives and challenges of the respective commission. It kept us very well informed of what is happening in other commissions and also helped us to explore the possibilities of inter-ministerial collaboration. We also took for our in-depth discussion the important issues that emerged from our common sharing. On the whole it was a deep experience of realizing the needs, importance and ways of collaboration and networking especially in relation to the formation of our lay collaborators. We are extremely grateful to Fr.VarkeyPerekkatt and his community for their hospitality, generosity and support in helping us to have this meeting in a conducive and atmosphere. We were also happy to visit the new school and college and see its steady growth. We thank very much Fr.John Ravi and his community for their kind hospitality.

Reported by

Raj Irudaya, S.J.

5 Aug 2018 - 17:01


Good to be together as Jesuit family. Thank you for gathering today to glorify the Lord for the marvels he did and continues to do through Ignatius and to each one of us. God of Ignatius is a laboring God in this world, in history, in each of us and in all of us - leading us to our flourishing and guiding the creation to its fullness. God and we have the same enterprise, originating from God and moving towards God in an ever becoming process.


God our Father and Mother, we appreciate you as our creator and rejoice in being your ‘children’ created in your image and likeness; recreate us today and every moment of our lives to discover your beauty and goodness and realize you  - the ‘principle and foundation’ of our lives. Lord Have Mercy.

Lord Jesus, you’re the beloved of your Father and you rejoiced in being just that, doing your Father’s will. Make us sons and daughters after you recognizing that our true flourishing is in doing your will. Give us your grace to seek and accomplish your will with joy and magnanimity. Christ have mercy.

Spirit of the Risen Lord, come to us today, mould and shape us that we may find God in all and in all God, Lord have mercy.

Ignatian Gift

The time of Ignatius has some parallel with our times. At that time, the colonial powers compelled by reasons within and propelled by the industrial revolution spanned across the world to colonize and to expand. The missionaries followed them to spread the gospel and the church. Even as Europe was colonizing the globe, and church was expanding, internally church was immersed in scandals of pomp and luxury, political intrigues and clerical power. Martin Luther responded to this and caused the second division in the church, and at the same time initiated major reforms within the church and across the ecclesial map of the time. The Catholic church owe much to Martin Luther for initiating much needed reforms, even though it cost a division; Ignatius walked a different and narrow path.

Today we are witnessing unprecedented ‘globalizing trends’ through technology and neo-liberal market economy, introducing a new kind of colonization of peoples and cultures. Church is undergoing a scandalous phase of pedophilia/sexual abuse and financial mismanagement, across the world and in our own country.

Can Ignatian perspective throw some light into this situation? Pope Francis seems to think so and his Ignatian ways seem to confirm that.

Ignatius, a court official turned soldier, shattered by a bullet received during a petty war between two local kingdoms of Navarra and the French army at Pamplona (Spain), was taught by God. In and through these exterior ‘events’ Ignatius was led to perceive interior movements within him. That led Ignatius through a period of soul-searching, through extreme forms penance and fasting. He came through it a transformed person, with a tool in hand, that was deeply personal and yet truly universal; this tool of the Spiritual Exercises contained a pedagogy, a method capable of initiating reformation, within and without, slow and steady, and within the church.

How did Ignatius make a differene? He had a double tangential approach, or a process approach, with definite goals in view.  The first was a process of inner transformation through interior freedom, saying no to all inordinate attachments to health, riches, honour, long life etc,having God as the only absolute. The second was a process of building up a horizon of the kingdom of God as thepoint of reference, having the two standards, as the measuring yard.  Not  a gospel of prosperity, promising riches and wealth, power and pleasure, but a true flourishing of the human person and human family through dying to self-will, self-love self-interest.

This double tangential process approach is profoundly based on the two biblical/theological principles: I  God is dealing with each individual in and through the interior movements of the persons, in unique manner in each one’s lives; ii)God is laboring in this world for his kingdom in and through all realities, inviting us to join his enterprise. The first insight earned him scrutiny and prison a few times.

Today as we celebrate his feast, we are invited to embrace this double processes: join the enterprise of God laboring in this world in and through all circumstances, persons, events and movements. Even in the darkest of moments and situations, God is laboring and we are invited to decipher him and join his enterprise. Secondly we are invited to a contemplative way of reviewing daily what is happening to us and how the Spirit is leading us through our interior movements. In both processes, we need to adopt a discerning attitude to check on our growth interior freedom and to discover a God laboring in and through all things/persons and events.

God of Ignatius is struggling with us and laboring in this world,  tobirth a new world. Hatred, divisive ideologies, mob lynching, lies, majoritarian hegemonies and falsified narratives shall not discourage us to join the enterprise of a laboring God. As D.2. No.6 of GC 35 says: “starting from the contemplation of the incarnation, it is clear  that Ignatius does not sweeten or falsify painful realities. Rather he begins with them, exactly as they are – poverty, forced displacement, violence between people, abandonment, structural injustice, sin – but then points to how God’s Son was born into these realities; and it is here that sweetness is found. Tasting and seeing God in reality is a process. Ignatius had to learn this himself through many painful experiences.”…..No.7. “Similarly today the Society, in carrying out its mission, experiences the companionship ofthe Lord and the challenge of the cross. Commitment to ‘the service of faith and the promotion of justice, to dialogue with culture and religions, takes Jesuits to limit-situations where they encounter energy and new life, but also anguish and death – where the divinity is hidden. The experience of a hidden God cannot always be avoided, but even in the depths of darkness when God seems concealed, the transforming light of God is able to shine. God labours intensely in this hiddenness. Rising from the tombs of personal life and history, the Lord appears when we least expect, with his personal consolation as a friend and as the centre of a fraternal and servant community. From this experience of God laboring in the heart of life, our identity as ’servants of Xt’s mission rises up ever anew.” We shall never stop our mission of reconciliation and justice.

Happy Feat Feast of Ignatius, the pilgrim.

George Pattery SJ



31 Jul 2018 - 07:18

Pope Francis sent a message to participants in a July 26-27 conference in Sarajevo, on the theme, “A Critical Time for Bridge-Building, Catholic Theological Ethics Today.”

By Robin Gomes

Pope Francis is encouraging Catholic men and women in the field of theological ethics to be passionate about dialogue and networking in order to remove the walls of division and build bridges of fraternity everywhere in the world. 

The Pope’s encouragement came in a message to participants in a 2-day conference in Sarajevo,  Bosnia and Herzegovina. on the theme, “A Critical Time for Bridge-Building, Catholic Theological Ethics Today.”    Some 500 Catholic moral theologians from 80 countries are attending the July 26-27 meeting, organized by the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC) network.

Commenting on Sarajevo, the Pope said that in today’s environment of tension and division marked by fear and forms of regression, the city of bridges calls for the need to build new paths of closeness between peoples, cultures, religious, visions of life and political orientations.

Ecological challenge

The Pope noted that certain aspects of the ecological challenge can create grave imbalances not only in terms of the relationship between man and nature, but also between generations and people.   In this regard, he said, the issue of migrants and refugees can foster ethical and theological reflection, even before inspiring suitable pastoral attitudes and responsible and carefully planned political policies.

In this backdrop, the Holy Father said individuals and institutions need to assume a renewed leadership to help find and put into practice a more just way for all of us to live in this world as sharers in a common destiny.

Network of persons

The Pope commended the CTEWC  proposal to create a network between persons in various continents to engage in theological ethical reflection to help find new and effective resources that will help mobilize action that is compassionate and attentive to tragic human situations,and concerned with accompanying them with merciful care.  But for this to happen, the Pope said, all the theologians themselves need to build bridges among themselves, to share ideas and programmes, and to develop forms of closeness. 

30 Jul 2018 - 18:32

St. Ignatius Loyola was born in 1491, one of 13 children of a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. As a young man Ignatius Loyola was inflamed by the ideals of courtly love and knighthood and dreamed of doing great deeds.

But in 1521 Ignatius was gravely wounded in a battle with the French. While recuperating, Ignatius Loyola experienced a conversion. Reading the lives of Jesus and the saints made Ignatius happy and aroused desires to do great things. Ignatius realized that these feelings were clues to God’s direction for him.

Over the years, Ignatius became expert in the art of spiritual direction. He collected his insights, prayers, and suggestions in his book the Spiritual Exercises, one of the most influential books on the spiritual life ever written. With a small group of friends, Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. Ignatius conceived the Jesuits as “contemplatives in action.” This also describes the many Christians who have been touched by Ignatian spirituality.

On the Feast Day (31 July) we wish you all a very Blissful Day. May St. Ignatius continue to inspire and guide the world...!

30 Jul 2018 - 15:26

Meet the Indian Jesuit priest-scientist who recently discovered that Milky Way had a ‘sibling’ galaxy

In an interview with, Richard D’Souza SJ explains the significance of the findings he and Eric Bell made at the University of Michigan.

Meet the Indian priest-scientist who recently discovered that Milky Way had a ‘sibling’ galaxy

Fr. Dr. Richard D'Souza SJ

A recent intergalactic discovery making headlines across the world has an Indian connection. Earlier this week, it was widely reported that scientists Richard D’Souza and Eric Bell of the University of Michigan had deduced that the Milky Way once had a sibling, which was devoured by the neighbouring galaxy of Andromeda about two billion years ago.

The findings were published in the Nature Astronomy journal on July 23 and have grabbed attention for their potential to change our understanding of how galaxies merge and evolve over time.

When two galaxies are drawn together by gravitational pull, they stand the risk of colliding. In such an event, the larger one usually subsumes the smaller entity. Andromeda, the largest galaxy of the Local Group of which Milky Way is also a part, was long believed to have gobbled up several small galaxies over the years. Using computer simulations, D’Souza and Bell deduced that one of the galaxies that Andromeda merged with was in fact a massive one, the third-largest in the Local Group after the Milky Way.

The researchers have proposed that the stars of this shredded galaxy ended up surrounding Andromeda, giving it its outer faint stellar halo, and its intriguing satellite galaxy, M32. Scientists have for long being trying to decipher how M32 was formed, as it is a rare compact elliptical galaxy (unlike the Milky Way, which is spiral) that is rich with stars. The new findings propose that the undestroyed core of the cannibalised galaxy went on to form M32.

Described in media reports as Milky Way’s sibling or sister, the lost galaxy has been named M32p. The findings are interesting not only because they indicate that M32p’s core survived the collision, but also that the disk of Andromeda remained intact despite merging with such a large galaxy. This goes against traditional scientific belief that collisions between entities of this size would dramatically impact the structure of the surviving galaxy.

D’Souza, the lead author of the paper, comes from the Indian state of Goa, where his family still lives. He is doing his post-doctoral research at the University of Michigan. D’Souza is also a Jesuit priest and is a staff member of the Vatican Observatory, an astronomical institution supported by the Roman Catholic Church.

D’Souza has had a long and illustrious academic record and has studied an interesting mix of subjects. He was born in 1978 in Pune and spent his early years in Kuwait. In 1990, he moved to Goa, where his family still resides, and joined a Jesuit school. He did his BSc in Physics from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, followed by an MSc at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He then returned to Pune and got a second Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, followed by one in Theology. He got his PhD in Astronomy from the Ludwig Maximilian University is now doing his post-doctorate from the University of Michigan.

In an interview with, D’Souza talks about his interesting academic graph, how his religious and scientific pursuits inform one another, and what his discovery means for the future of the Milky Way. Excerpts:

For a layperson, how would you explain your recent discovery? 
My research centres around how galaxies grow through mergers. Over the course of its lifetime, a galaxy like Andromeda, our nearest big neighbour, is thought to have merged with hundreds of smaller galaxies, due to the attractive forces of gravity. These smaller galaxies are destroyed in the process due to tidal forces of gravity leaving behind a trail of stellar debris (like ‘crumbs’) around the main galaxy called its stellar halo.

By studying the stellar halo of a galaxy, I have developed a technique of inferring the size of the largest galaxy that was destroyed in the process. This is similar to guessing what a small child has eaten after looking at the ‘crumbs’ and mess scattered on the floor around it!

Observations over the last decade have shown that Andromeda has the largest stellar halo for any galaxy its size. We realised that to build such a large stellar halo, Andromeda must have merged with a really large galaxy. We can best understand this through a business analogy. Just like companies, galaxies also grow through mergers. Now a company can grow moderately in size by merging with other smaller companies. But if a large company wants to make a major spurt in growth, it needs to negotiate a merger with another significantly large company. Similarly, based on observations of Andromeda galaxy’s large stellar halo, we inferred that it merged with a significantly large galaxy (1/4th its size) not too long ago.

Andromeda galaxy. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/via Wikimedia Commons

Andromeda galaxy. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/via Wikimedia Commons

How many years was this finding in the making? And what was the nature of your research work before that? 
We started thinking of this project about a year and a half ago!. Last year around this time, we began writing it up, and we were mostly done within six months. The review process through the Nature Journal took an additional 6 months. Previously, for my PhD at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, I focused on obtaining deep observations of the stellar halos of more distant galaxies.

How does this discovery change our understanding of the universe? University of Michigan’s press release says that this could “alter the traditional understanding of how galaxies evolve”. Could you elaborate?
It was traditionally thought that such large mergers would destroy the disks of galaxies converting them to spheroidal elliptical galaxies. We now know that the disk of the Andromeda galaxy survived this particularly large merger, though we don’t know exactly why. So, this finding upsets a major paradigm in our understanding of galaxy evolution. One thing we can take away is that the disks of galaxies are more resilient that previously thought. We hope that this finding motivates further studies to understand in what particular circumstances do the disks of galaxies survive such large interactions.

What is the significance of the fact that Milky Way had another sister galaxy? How is a galaxy qualified as a sibling galaxy? 
The Andromeda and the Milky Way galaxy are relatively close by, and are the largest members of the ‘Local Group’ of galaxies. Astronomers have long studied the Local Group including its smaller members, and thought they knew their local neighborhood pretty well. We now realise that there was another galaxy out there (which we call M32p) which was almost half the size of the Milky Way and which was destroyed by Andromeda. This comes as a complete surprise! It makes M32p the third largest member of the Local Group. The next smallest member, the Triangulum galaxy, is at least eight times smaller than the Milky Way. So indeed, M32p was a long-lost sibling finally found. We joked among ourselves that it was ‘the missing family member’ nobody wanted to talk about.

Could studying the M32p shed more light on our galaxy?
The Milky Way currently has a large satellite galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud, which will merger with it around one-two billion years in the future. Although the Large Magellanic Cloud is much smaller than M32p, astronomers were worried whether the disk of the Milky Way would survive the merger. Andromeda and M32p have now taught us that the Milky Way will survive this merger.

Some scientists have talked about the likelihood of Andromeda colliding with the Milky Way some billion years from now. Does Andromeda’s consumption of M32p suggest more about that in any way?
The Andromeda galaxy is moving towards the Milky Way at about 110 km/s, and will eventually collide with it in about four-five billion years. Eventually, our galaxy will be part of the stellar halo around the Andromeda galaxy. Moreover, since both galaxies are large and comparable in size/mass, we suspect that Andromeda may not survive the collision, and may transform into an elliptical galaxy. This is just how the Universe is and how the forces of gravity work. We must remember that within a similar time frame, our own sun will turn into a red giant star, expand in size and make the earth inhabitable. That may be a far more immediate concern!

Richard D'Souza/via Facebook

You have studied theology, philosophy and physics. That’s an unusual and fascinating range of subjects. How do these fields differ and intersect?
Yes, the study of philosophy and theology gave me a chance to broaden my thinking. Philosophy taught me how to critique the science I learned in University including its assumptions and adopted worldview. Theology helped me reflect on deeper issues which motivates all of us humans: where do we come from, where are we going, and what is the meaning of life? Although I enjoy science, it is a bit restrictive and limited in its approach; philosophy and theology equipped me with tools to think and reflect on a broader set of issues and problems.

The Catholic Church has historically taken a stance that is somewhat antithetical to science. It is unusual, though not unheard of, to have scientists who are also priests. How do your religious and scientific beliefs interact?
It is rather unfortunate that the Catholic Church has historically made a number of mistakes with regards to the sciences, especially when it felt its power and doctrine threatened. However, it must also be emphasised that the Catholic Church in its own way through the development of Universities in Europe but also through the number of its clergy actively involved in the sciences down the centuries has contributed to its development. This part of the narrative does get left out!

I do not see any fundamental contradiction between my religious and scientific beliefs. They actually go hand in hand. My religious beliefs tell me that God created the world as something good according to some laws. This fundamental assumption assures me that the laws of nature are constant, and are actually worthy of being studied. This is why the sciences prospered in the West, as opposed to other cultures where the gods and hence one’s understanding of reality were more capricious and whimsical. For me studying the Universe helps me learn more about its creator. Hence for me, studying astronomy, the stars and the galaxies is an ultimate form of worship.

What drew you to studying religion and going on to become a priest? 
I studied at a Jesuit school in Goa, and grew fascinated with the Jesuits there. It was there that the roots of my vocation began. Moreover, their long history of working in the sciences was a huge draw for me.

Where does astronomical research in India stand today? And do you have plans to return, after completing your post-doctoral research at Michigan?
There a number of excellent astronomical centers in India today, especially in Pune and Bangalore. Traditionally, the research in our country tended to be more theoretical, but that is quickly changing. Observational advances usually require larger investments, especially in terms of money and resources. Optical astronomy today is driven by new observational data, which in turn depends on having access to the right telescopes, instruments and resources. I think our Indian scientists would be able to much more cutting-edge progress if the Government invests more in instrumentation.

After my postdoctoral research in Michigan, I plan to return to the Vatican Observatory. I am open to opportunities to do research and collaborating with scientists in India!

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30 Jul 2018 - 04:06


World Assembly of Jesuit Universities, at University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain, from 8-12 July  
The University of Deusto hosted the World Assembly of Jesuit Universities from 8 to 12 July 2018 in Bilbao. This event was attended by more than two hundred Jesuits from Jesuit universities and institutions of higher education from around the world. Indian delegation was one of the biggest with about 50 Jesuits. 

Chaired by the Fr. General of the Society of Jesus, Arturo Sosa, sj, this event was attended by over 200 representatives, who met under the motto "Transforming our world together" to reflect and examine some of the key challenges faced by Jesuit and other universities..

Accompanied by Arturo Sosa, the Basque president Iñigo Urkullu and the Deusto rector José María Guibert, King Felipe VI of Spain presided the official inauguration of this event which included speeches by the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Guiseppe Versaldi and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. Other participants in the Assembly were Pedro Duque, Spanish Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities, the Secretary of Higher Education of the Society of Jesus, Michael Garanizi, the political expert Pankaj Mishra from India and the economist Gaël Giraud SJ.

The decisions for the new board of administration of the IAJU were discussed and new possibilities for cooperation between universities, regional networks and the international association were analyzed. The Assembly of Jesuit Universities has been organised into six thematic areas. These subjects were discussed and debated in groups in order to put forth some projects at the end of this event. They will shape the areas of action for Jesuit education centres in the future.  

There will also be moments full of symbolism, such as the signing and establishment of the new International Association of Jesuit Universities-Network of the IAJU in the Loyola Sanctuary. This association will provide the entire network of Jesuit universities with a clear legal status, structure and stability. It will give new impetus to the universities of the world.

The main Jesuit universities in the world, such as Georgetown University, Santa Clara University, Loyola Chicago, San Francisco University, Pontificia Gregoriana (Italy), Xavierian University Bogotá, Iteso (Mexico), Catholic University of Córdoba (Argentina), Ateneo de Manila University, Sophia The University of Tokyo will take part in this world assembly. The first two assemblies were held in Mexico (2010) and Melbourne (2015).

The University of Deusto was chosen as the venue for the 2018 event of a select group of candidates around the world. Therefore, the celebration of the event here recognizes and supports the University of Deusto and the city of Bilbao, while the creation of the Association opens a world of new possibilities for the internationalization and networking of Deusto with universities around the world. 

Useful information

·  The largest global university network, in 54 countries

·  210 universities

·  800,000 students

·  450,000 lecturers, researchers and staff

·  5,000,000 alumni


27 Jul 2018 - 06:20

After losing their migration routes to forest clearances, elephants in Bangladesh pose a deadly danger to displaced people.

Posted on July 25, 2018, 7:01 PM

A vendor sells items to people beneath a road sign reading "Elephant Crossing Point" near Kutupalong in September 2017. Elephants have killed 13 people in camps since August 2017. (Photo by Piyas Biswas/


Rohingya couple Yakub Ali and Anwara Begum survived the deadly military crackdowns in Myanmar's Rakhine State in October 2016 and August 2017 that left scores of their persecuted community brutally abused and murdered.

They crossed the border into Bangladesh from Maungdaw in October last year with two daughters and a son to find sanctuary at Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, which now shelters about 400,000 Rohingya.

But the family's dream of starting life all over again came crashing down on Jan. 19 when a wild elephant trampled 45-year-old Yakub to death and destroyed their makeshift tent.

"We were woken by the screaming of people nearby and, before we realized what was going on, a huge elephant smashed our tent. My husband died in the attack and I got injured while fleeing with the children," Anwara, 40, told

Yakub was the sole breadwinner for the family as a day laborer for humanitarian groups supporting up to one million refugees huddled in overcrowded camps in Cox's Bazar.

"Now we are surviving completely on mercy relief from aid groups," Anwara said. 

About 300,000 refugees were in the area before August 2016. The two crackdowns forced an exodus of more than 770,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The massive influx of Rohingya saw more than 1,200 hectares of forest land cleared for shelters for refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh's most popular tourist destination thanks to the world's largest unbroken sea beach.

Cox's Bazar's Ukhiya and Teknaf subdistricts are known for lush green coastal forests and natural habitats for rare wildlife species including birds and Asian elephants. Ukhiya and Teknaf houses all the refugee camps and they cut through the crossing points and migration routes of elephants from Myanmar to Bangladesh and vice versa.

This human-elephant conflict has seen 13 refugees killed in elephant attacks since August last year, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Clearing of forests for human habitation has endangered wildlife in the area including elephants, according to Ali Kabir, divisional forest officer in Cox's Bazar.

"If you live in an elephant's habitat, the inevitable is not unexpected. Thousands of hectares have been cleared and refugees collect 800 metric tons of firewood from the forest every day. We fear that if deforestation continues at this rate there will be no more forest left out by the end of 2019," Kabir told

Kabir said the cutting of trees must stop and refugee settlements that blocked traditional elephant migration corridors need to be relocated to keep refugees safe from elephant attacks and deaths.

The UNHCR and IUCN carried out a joint survey covering 70 square kilometers of Cox's Bazar. It revealed a traditional elephant migration route has been completely blocked due to new refugee settlements, and about 35-45 Asian elephants are living in the forest of the southern part of Cox's Bazar. There are about 93 migratory and 96 captive Asian elephants in Bangladesh, and they are critically endangered, according to the IUCN.

"Elephants always follow traditional path for migration, and the blocked crossing point was a bridge for them for movement between Rakhine and Cox's Bazar. Now, elephants are trying to find the lost corridor by entering camps from various sides, and casualties are taking place," IUCN country representative Raquibul Amin told

The IUCN and UNHCR have formed 30 elephant response teams of 10-12 people in the camps. They are also setting up 92 elephant watchtowers, more response teams and training.

"We have set up 26 watchtowers and others are being constructed. We would like to form 46 teams and offer training to about 500 people," Amin said.

Two persons are on duty at the watchtowers at night and early morning, when elephants usually move, and they warn others when they spot an elephant. Then the team tries to make the elephant return to the forest.

Teams have successfully tackled seven elephant intrusions to the camps in recent months, Amin said.

"This is a temporary solution, and we are not sure how long this protection system can work. We need to work more on it and see if we can come up with a permanent solution," he added.

Panic among refugees over elephant attacks has reduced if not vanished, said James Gomes, regional director of Catholic charity Caritas Chittagong, which is active in refugee camps.

"Even one month ago, people had sleepless nights fearing elephant attacks. They had never faced such a threat and didn't know what to do. The situation is better but refugees are still vulnerable, and more work needs to be done to sort out an effective plan ," Gomes told

Back at her reconstructed tent in Kutupalong, Anwara Begum says she can sleep well with her children now. "I am less frightened because I know there are guards watching over elephant movements," she said.

Source: UCAN

26 Jul 2018 - 08:49