St. Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bengaluru organized a National Bible Symposium entitled “John and Paul: Then and Now” on the 24th and 25th of January 2024. This seminar was to celebrate the 70th birthday of Fr Assisi Saldanha and to gratefully remember and honour him for his 30 years of uninterrupted teaching at St. Peter’s Pontifical Institute. Three bishops, among others, in their speeches highlighted the services of Fr Assisi to the Word of God and also to the church in India, especially for the production of the NLTCE and ESVCE (Two Catholic Editions of the Bible brought out in 2015 and 2017 respectively). This has been such a tremendous work that other nations have shown an interest in these editions as well.
There were 13 paper presentations from well-known biblical scholars across Christian denominations who explored different themes from John and Paul, the two accomplished disciples of the Lord. There was a solemn concelebrated Mass, which coincided with the feast of the conversion of St Paul, where Fr Assisi gave thanks to God for his vocation and teaching ministry.
Apart from teaching, Fr Assisi has written over 55 articles on various biblical themes, especially on John and Paul in many well-known journals. He has been a member of the CCBI (Catholic Conference of Bishops in India) Bible Commission for many years. He is the current president of Theological Publications in India (TPI).
On the 25th of January afternoon, a grand felicitation programme was held for Fr Assisi. The bishops, his professional colleagues, family members, the publishers and his former students spoke about his contributions and his impact in their lives. Fr Edward Joseph, CSsR, the provincial of the Bangalore Province, read out the felicitation message sent by the Superior General Rev Fr Rogerio Gomes. The students from the biblical department sang the Hebrew blessing song on Fr Assisi. Fr Assisi in his speech acknowledged the blessings of God to him and he stressed the need to integrate the intellectual and spiritual life.
In the end, a Festschrift was released in honour of Fr Assisi, containing articles from over 40 contributors. This Festschrift will be made available soon in 2 volumes. It is entitled “A Fragrant Offering – Acceptable and Pleasing“: A Festschrift in Honor of Prof Dr Assisi Saldanha CSsR‘. The theme of the Festschrift covers the four major areas which are of great interest for Rev. Dr Assisi Saldanha CSSR: (i) John (ii) Paul (iii) Old Testament Exegesis and (iv) Bible Apostolate.
The participants of this symposium had come from various parts of the country. There were around 200 professors, students, and research scholars from various institutes in and around Bengaluru and other parts of the country. His own Redemptorist confreres made their contribution during these days. The homilist was Fr Juventius Andrade, and the master of ceremonies was Fr Rakesh Mathias. Some confreres and all the students of theology too were present to witness this felicitation of Fr Assisi Saldanha.
Fr Assisi is a true son of St. Alphonsus since he carries his zeal for the Word of God and the apostolate of the pen. As we rejoice in his accomplishments and thank God for his gift to our province, we wish our confrere many more fruitful years of ministry in the service of the Word of God. Ad Multos Annos.
Fr. Rakesh Mathias C.Ss.R.
Student of MTh in Biblical Theology at St Peter’s Pontifical Institute