I am a Priest of Jesus Christ: Bishop Elect Msgr. Peter Paul Saldanha

Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Peter Paul Saldanha as Bishop of Mangalore Diocese on 3rd July 2018. Msgr. Peter Paul who will be the 14th Bishop of Mangalore diocese, consisting of 124 parishes, will be consecrated on 15th September 2018 at the Rosario Cathedral, Mangalore. 

On this occasion Team KonkanCatholic.com had a short interview with the Bishop elect. 

Team KC: Congratulations Fr. Peter Paul on being appointed as Bishop of Mangalore 
Bishop Elect: Thank you for the wishes. Do pray for my ministry. 

Team KC: Can you tell us about your Vocation? 
Bishop Elect: I was born in a devout family in Kirem Parish. Right from my childhood days I experienced a prayerful atmosphere at home. Daily Rosary, Bible reading, singing of Hymns was common practice. These aspects made me develop love for Christ. I was regular to my Catechism classes which strengthened my faith in God. Also I was very much impressed by Fr. Abundius Dsouza, the then Parish Priest of Kirem Church who was very fond of children. Whenever we, children, visited him, he used to give us some sweets and teach us some values too. Some of my relatives who observed my behavior in my childhood days always encouraged me to be a priest. But it was after my PUC studies I met a friend of mine (Fr. Andrew Leo Dsouza, Parish Priest of Bondel) who also wanted to join the seminary; he guided me and then I spoke to my Parish Priest about joining to the Seminary for Mangalore diocese. Then, I went with my father to meet Bishop Basil. The present Apostolic Administrator Bishop Aloysius was then the Chancellor. He received me with love. 

Team KC: How were your seminary days as a student? 
Bishop Elect: I joined the seminary on June 24th, 1982 on the feast of St. John the Baptist. I did not know to speak in English when I joined the seminary. But by God’s grace I could pick up languages like English and Latin quickly in the Seminary. Also during my regency at the Diocesan Vocation Centre, and at Gladsom Home the then Rector of St Joseph Seminary gave me an opportunity to teach English grammar to the students. So as a seminarian I started teaching to my juniors. 

Team KC: Fr. Peter, we have heard that you know many languages. Can you let us know about it? 
Bishop Elect: I teach in the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Italian language. I have also learnt German, French and Spanish later on. I read in these languages. I had already learnt some Latin during my seminary days. 

Team KC: Father, how was your experience as a priest after your Ordination? 
Bishop Elect: I was ordained on 6th May 1991 and then I was appointed as the Asst. Parish Priest of Moodbelle Parish (Late Fr. J.J. Saldanha was the then Parish Priest). It was a great experience to work with the youth movement and SVP Society of the parish wherein I could help many people to turn back from alcoholism. We helped many mentally sick people by admitting them to the hospital for treatment. Programmes like cleaning the surroundings of the church, and the public road on the Independence Day, organizing talent-shows and other events with the help of parishioners helped me gain good boost in my priestly mission. Later I was transferred to Milagres Parish, Mangalore, as Asst. Parish Priest. Here, I could continue my mission towards the needy. I still remember admitting many sick people to Wenlock Hospital and thus serving the people in a different ways. Thereafter, I continued my priestly mission as Asst. Parish Priest at Vittal parish. Starting SCC meetings in wards along with Fr. Antony Serrao the then Parish Priest of Vittal and then extending the concept to Puttur Deanery parishes was an amazing experience. In 1996, I was appointed as the Section Minister at the Orientation Course St Joseph Seminary where I taught to the juniors and Philosophy students. In the next two years, I was in charge of the Theology Students. Later in 1999, I was sent to Urbaniana University, Rome, to pursue my higher studies in Theology which I completed in 2005 with doctorate and then returned to continue as a full-time professor at St Joseph Seminary. 

Team KC: Fr. Peter, how did you get an opportunity to be a Professor at the Urbaniana University, Rome? 
Bishop Elect: In 2009, when I had gone to Rome for a short holiday, I went to meet the Moderator of the Thesis. I was told that he was sick and then I happened to meet the Dean of the Faculty. He requested me to take up classes in the absence of my Guide which I initially denied citing him the responsibilities which I was assigned at St Joseph Seminary, Mangalore and then with the consent of Most Rev. Aloysius Paul Dsouza, Bishop of Mangalore, I agreed to join Urbaniana University in 2010. In spite being in Rome, I used to come down to Mangalore every year to take up classes at the St Joseph Seminary. 

Team KC: Dear Fr. Peter, can you tell our website readers about your appointment as Bishop? 
Bishop Elect: Well, on 27th June 2018 I was asked to meet Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples who informed me about all the statistics of Mangalore Diocese and asked my consent to take up the responsibility as the Bishop of Mangalore as per the directions of Pope Francis. He even told me that accepting this mission would mean sacrificing the teaching career in Urbaniana University. I was really stuck at that time and then thought to myself and told Cardinal Filoni that if Pope Francis wants me to lead the Church as a Bishop, then I humbly accept it. Since I had to travel to India on 29th June, I requested him to make the announcement on July 3rd the feast of St. Thomas, the apostle of India. 

Team KC: Fr. Peter, did you expect this appointment any time before or has anyone told you about it earlier? 
Bishop Elect: Appointment of a Bishop is a Pontifical secret and once I was informed on 27th June, I had maintained this secret until it was officially announced. Earlier, when I used to be in Mangalore during vacation, I have even heard people talking about me as the possible candidate. But it was the personal intuition of individuals. After being appointed as bishop, I remembered one thing my Godfather had told me many years back, which happened to be true. One year prior to my birth, the then Bishop of Mangalore Rt. Rev. Raymond D’Mello had been to my native parish Kirem to inaugurate the Belfry in 1963. After the inauguration he had visited our ancestral house to thank my family members who had collected some money for the construction of the belfry. He even prophesied saying that one person from this family would sit in his position one day which has become true today. 

Team KC: Fr. Peter, do you have any specific plans to be executed as Bishop? 
Bishop Elect: I have just been appointed as a Bishop and I need some time to make plans and execute ideas. But my prime importance will be to strengthen the faith of the flock entrusted to my care through the proclamation of the Joy of the Gospel. Of course, the other things, like pastoral care to the family and of our common home, are certainly connected with it. We also need to develop harmonious relationship with the people of other faith-traditions and I wish to work in this direction. 

Team KonkanCatholic.com wishes Msgr. Peter Paul Saldanha the very best in his future ministry as the Bishop of Mangalore and looks forward to take the diocese into greater heights. 

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