| Year 2009 Canonical Studies
Inaugural Address
(Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo)
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Your Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracious,

Dear Bishop Binay, the President and Office-bearers of the Canon Law Society of India,

Reverend Fathers, Sisters and friends,

I am extremely delighted to welcome you all to Ranchi! It is a great privilege to have you all here! Let me sincerely thank you for choosing Ranchi as the venue for this 23rd Annual Conference of the Canon Law Society of India. By choosing Ranchi, you are recognizing this relatively young, yet vibrant Church, in this region of Chotanagpur, in the tribal heartland of India.

It was in 1845, the first Christian missionaries arrived in Chotanagpur. The Catholic Church has its presence in this area from 1869. One of the most ardent pioneering Belgian missionaries, Fr. Constant Lievens SJ, came here in 1885.

Fr. Lievens used to remind passionately his fellow priests and the people of this mission “to work for a well-knit and disciplined community”. The Servant of God, Fr. Lievens knew the importance of law, discipline and right procedures to afford stability to the society. The Church has a transcendent spiritual purpose: the ultimate salvation of its members, their reconciliation and communion with God. Good order brings predictable outcome. It is this insistence on a disciplined life by visionary leaders like Fr. Constant Lievens that helped the Church to grow and flourish in this region.

I was happy to see in your programme, a session on the Chotanagpur Tenency Act. This year the Church in Ranchi is celebrating triple centenaries: Centenary of our Archdiocesan Cathedral; of the Chotanagpur Catholic Cooperative Society, and that of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act. Fr. Xavier Soreng, S.J., who is also the member of the Minority Education Commission, and Advocate Reshmi Katyayan, a senior Advocate of Ranchi High Court, will be conducting the session. However, we are proud to say that the brain behind the enactment of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, in 1908, was a Catholic priest, a Belgian Jesuit missionary, Fr. John Baptist Hoffmann. This one example would be sufficient to write volumes of research findings to prove, how precious and valuable are the Laws in the life of the people, especially of the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. Land is life for the tribal. Without land, they are broken. They are totally shattered. Thanks to the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, the tribals were protected by and large from the alienation of their land down through these years.

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