The presidentship of the All India Catholic Union will return to a Goan as Engr Elias Vaz, the current vice president of the union, is the sole candidate for the post in the elections scheduled on Sunday, October 2, in Goa.
Sources told gomantaktimes.com that after a long time there is consensus on the post of president. AICU is Asia’s oldest and largest Catholic laity organisation and is recognised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. All Catholic state associations are affiliated to the AICU.
Vaz is a commercial and logistics head of a major national fertiliser conglomerate. He will succeed Lancy d’Cunha of Mangalore who led the union in the traumatic phase of the Covid pandemic.
Vaz, who was awarded the 'Manager of the Year Award' was elected unanimously, it emerged as the AICU began its three-day annual general meeting in the St Joseph Vas retreat Centre in Old Goa on Friday.
He is the second person from Goa this century to lead the organisation.
The other Goan to lead the AICU was Dr Maria Emelia Menezes, an eminent industrialist, who was the first woman president in 2000, and led the union in vigorous relief work in the Bhuj earthquake and the tsunami.
The All India Catholic Union will be holding its 68th annual general meeting in Old Goa on October 1 and 2, with the working committee meeting having begun on Friday, September 30.
Cardinal Filipe Neri Ferrao is expected to address the assembled lay leaders from the many dioceses of India, on Sunday. The Cardinal, as Bishop, was once the ecclesiastical adviser to the AICU and has been a strong supporter of the laity.
At the annual general meeting, various issues are scheduled to be discussed, including a detailed discussion on the topic ‘Democracy and freedom of faith.'
Speaking to gomantaktimes.com, Vaz said, "The current trend of restricting people’s freedom more than targeting any minorities, it is targeting every citizen of India. It is not affecting only a small 10 to 15 per cent of the population."
He added, "The general agenda of the government is to restrict freedom in all ways and that is what we will be discussing, that it is affecting all of India, that it is not good for the country. As true Indians, we have to speak out against this and speak for what is good for the country."
Various issues are expected to be raised by the State associations, which will also be discussed.
In his message, outgoing National President Lancy d’Cunha of Mangalore said, "This is the year of the platinum jubilee of India’s Independence. As part of the celebrations, we have arranged a few competitions and are also in the process of completing the study of Christian contributions to Independent India, and a related book will be released soon. We have the right to tell others what we Christians have contributed to our India when few are questioning on open platforms. This study/book will give some answers.’
As a pan-India organisation, the efforts of the AICU have been focused on how individual citizens can become more productive, for which training programmes have been held. Plans include an AICU training academy that the underprivileged can have access to, for training in any field, which the academy will try to offer them.
The Old Goa meeting includes meetings of the working committee, the annual general meeting and a public meeting with presentations by retired Justice John Michael Cunha, Catholic Bishops Conference of India secretary general Archbishop Felix Machado, noted dermatologist Dr Brenda Nazareth Menezes, and writer and activist Dr John Dayal, who is also past national president of the AICU and its spokesman.