Dance in the Liturgy

*The three-page letter is part of my yet-to-be published article on the NBCLC. Some excerpts from it

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*The three-page letter is part of my yet-to-be published article on the NBCLC. Some excerpts from it:


May I draw your kind attention to the following news reports, all Catholic sources:

1. Delegates Will Bring Indian Experience To Mission Congress In Thailand September 21, 2006 UCAN EXTRACT

Indian Church people who attend the upcoming Asian Mission Congress will highlight inculturation and interreligious dialogue in presenting Christ in Asia, according to local Church officials.

According to Father Ignaci, besides the official delegates, about 25 other people will attend the congress from India. These would be missiology experts, observers and a dance troupe. The dance team from the National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre, based in Bangalore, southern India, will use Indian classical dance to present a dance-drama on mission in Asia. Father Thomas D'Sa, the center's director, told UCA News the performance will show how Jesus could be presented in the multireligious and pluricultural society of Asia, which gave rise to the world's major religions…

2. Indian dancers to perform at Asian Mission Congress September 16, 2006 ICNS EXTRACT

A dance group from India will perform at the Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand, adding color to the second such event in Asian Church history. The eight-member dance group of the National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Center (NBCLC) in Bangalore will perform a ballet on "Telling the Story of Jesus in India."

The theme of the Oct. 18-22 Congress is: "Telling the Story of Jesus in Asia."

3. NBCLC honours Art of Living guru April 2, 2006 by Jessie Rodrigues Daijiworld EXTRACT

The NBCLC is a place owned by Roman Catholics. But as the word 'Catholic' stands for a universal outlook of encompassing everyone, NBCLC respects every religion and honours the neighbours. As part of this programme, NBCLC honoured HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Saturday April 1, 2006, the theme being "Pilgrimage towards inner Harmony" and "Living with people of other faiths". Sri Sri is the founder of the 'Art of Living Foundation', which propagates to live in harmony with other religions. This foundation is wide-based and spread all over the world and it recently celebrated its Silver Jubilee in Bangalore in a fitting manner.

The NBCLC took this opportunity and held a function to honour him. Fr Ronnie Prabhu* [right] presided over the function… The programme began with Bhajans – Karuna Sagara followed by dance programme by Nrityavani of NBCLC [centre], which depicted that Wisdom is divine and the divine gifts are to be distributed freely. NBCLC director Fr Thomas D'Sa [left] in his welcome speech said that Sri Sri may be called the "Apostle of Harmony". Rector Ronnie Prabhu introducing Sri Sri to the gathering said that with prayer and love one can become Pandit and Sri Sri has shown the way. He was proud to mention that Sri Sri was a student of St. Joseph's College, Bangalore.

Sri Sri advised the assembly to have strong faith in God.  He said that the faith makes one to believe in oneself and to see God within… Regarding other faiths, he stated that there is no 'other' at all. It is like all lengths of waves in one ocean. During the question and answer session that followed, Sri Sri said by celebrating the diversity, and adoring it, one can bring harmony in life.

*Former Jesuit Provincial of Karnataka, and currently director, Fatima Retreat House, Mangalore



I deeply regret having to criticize our holy and learned priests and theologians, but there is additional information that I must include, statements that I am obliged to make, and questions to pose.

4. Hindu “Mass” Sparks Violent Altercation in Toronto Churchyard [See page 58] August 2006 edition of Catholic Family News
To the best of my knowledge, the Indian Rite of Mass may incorporate only the following:

From: CBCI commission for Social Communication To: RM Satur Sent: Friday, May 19, 2006 9:01 PM

1. The posture during Mass, both for the priests and the faithful, may be adapted to the local usage, that is, sitting on the floor, standing and the like; footwear may be removed also.

2. Genuflections may be replaced by the profound bow with the anjali hasta.

3. A panchanga pranam by both priests and faithful can take place before the liturgy of the Word, as part of the penitential rite, and at the conclusion of the anaphora.

4. Kissing of objects may be adapted to local custom, that is, touching the object with one's fingers or palm of one's hands and bringing the hands to one's eyes or forehead.

5. The kiss of peace could be given by the exchange of the anjali hasta and/or the placing of the hands of the giver between the hands of the recipient.

6. Incense could be made more use of in liturgical services. The receptacle could be the simple incense bowl with handle.

7. The vestments could be simplified. A single tunic-type chasuble with a stole (angavastra) could replace the traditional vestments of the Roman rite. Samples of this change are to be forwarded to the "Consilium".

8. The corporal could be replaced by a tray (thali or thamboola thattu) of fitting material.

9. Oil lamps could be used instead of candles.

10. The preparatory rite of the Mass may include:

the presentation of gifts; the welcome of the celebrant in an Indian way, e.g. with a single arati, washing of hands, etc.; the lighting of the lamp; the greetings of peace among the faithful in sign of mutual reconciliation.

11. In the "Oratio fidelium" some spontaneity may be permitted both with regard to its structure and the formulation of the intentions. The universal aspect of the Church, however, should not be left in oblivion.

12. In the Offertory rite, and at the conclusion of the Anaphora the Indian form of worship may be integrated, that is, double or triple "arati of flowers, and/or incense and/or light.

This writer has already, in several other reports, included information about certain activities of the NBCLC which this ministry perceives as not in accordance with guidelines from Rome.

These may be read on this ministry’s web site in the following documents [page numbers indicated]:


CORRESPONDENCE WITH ROME May 5, 2004, January 1, 2005, November 5, 2005: [8, 11, 14]

CATHOLIC ASHRAMS October 2005: [3, 10, 13, 14, 16, 28, 29, 31, 43, 65, 67, 68-69, 74]

[A separate report on the NBCLC is under preparation. So also, is a detailed study of the 'Indian Rite of Mass'.]

The NBCLC is perceived by laity as an integral part of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India [CBCI]. Indeed, to the lay Catholic, when one says 'NBCLC', one thinks 'CBCI'. If wrong teachings and wrong praxis emerge from the NBCLC, it is understood that they are in the full knowledge, permission and authority of the CBCI.

This ministry has just completed an extensively researched 40-page report on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living. It is expected to be published in a few days. The report details the New Age teachings of the guru.

If he has been honoured and felicitated by the NBCLC, a CBCI body, through a specially arranged public function, it is a matter of most serious concern for all Roman Catholics, and of immediate concern to the Bishops of the Indian Church.

When leading priests like Fr. Thomas D’Sa eulogize Ravi Shankar, his teachings, and his movement, innocent and less-knowledgeable Catholics are robbed of any discernment they might be able to otherwise exercise.

The NBCLC, with or without Fr. Thomas D’Sa, appears to represent a serious danger to the orthodoxy of the faith. My studies and reports show that, right from its very inception under Fr. Amalorpavadas, the NBCLC has served more to Hindu-ise and secularise the Church than to properly inculturate it. Strong words from a layperson, but backed by hard evidence.

"The Federation of Ashrams of Catholic Initiative in India was formed in 1978. It was constituted at a gathering of ashramites at the NBCLC, in Bangalore at the invitation of Fr. D.S. Amalorpavadas [Swami Amalorananda, 1932-1990] who was its Director, and Secretary of Liturgy. [Aikiya= Unity]. Here, Fr. Amalor [as he is known] helped define "the main elements" of an ashram."

The above is a quote from my exposé titled ASHRAMS IN INDIA: CATHOLIC OR NEW AGE? 61.

The Catholic Ashrams movement, which is spawned by the NBCLC and receives sustenance from it, aims to desacralize and desacramentalize the Indian Church. My report charges that it promotes New Age, and is guilty of blasphemy, sacrilege and heresy. It revolts against the 'patriarchy' of Rome and would love to have an autonomous Indian Church. And much more.

Its leaders also reject the teachings and exhortations of some of the recent Vatican documents and encyclicals, and abhor evangelization. Many "experiments" in the Mass being carried out in the Ashrams reflect those of the NBCLC, and, to the best of my knowledge, they do not have the official sanction of the CBCI. Many such "experiments", which are aberrations and abuses, are transferred to Masses celebrated outside the ashram circuit by priests who are sympathetic to the cause.

The NBCLC dance troupe might be expected to perform at the Holy Mass in Chiang Mai as they reportedly did in Toronto.

Can our reverend Bishops and the concerned CBCI Commissions confirm that this particular ‘Indian Rite of Mass’ – which does not have the official approval of Rome, and which seems to include several liturgical abuses and aberrations – will not be introduced at Chiang Mai as "Telling the Story of Jesus in India"?


On October 12 and 13, 2006, this writer sent the above three-page report concluding with a question, by email to ALL the Bishops of India and all the various Commissions and organizations of the Bishops’ Conference, and to select Church leaders in Rome and the FABC, copy to Fr. Thomas D’Sa, Director, NBCLC, under the following covering letter, excerpted here:

"…This letter concerns the OCTOBER 18-22, 2006 ASIAN MISSION CONGRESS in CHIANG MAI, THAILAND, and the "Roman Rite Liturgy of the Eucharist with religious cultural adaptations of India" or "Indian Order of Eucharistic Celebration" being promoted by Rev. Fr. Thomas D’Sa, Director of the National Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Center (NBCLC) Bangalore. Kindly read the attachment.

I look forward to your response. Yours obediently, Michael Prabhu, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India."

I am reproducing just one response of the many that I received [the rest will be found in the NBCLC report]:

From: fabcoph To: prabhu Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 2:43 PM


Dear Fr. Prabhu,

I appreciate your concern and I assure you nothing of the sort is contemplated at the Asian Mission Congress. The NBCLC's performance is purely for socialization and contextualization. No appearance in any liturgical ceremony. I have not allowed it and I will not allow it. So please rest assured. I am leaving for Chiang Mai at this very moment and this is my last email from Goa. If your concern is not satisfied, I will reply later on. Thanks for calling our attention. Fraternally,

Fr Saturnino Dias [F.A.B.C.-OE (Office of Evangelization) Executive Secretary, at the Archbishop’s House, Goa]
Fr. Michael Gonsalves and the NBCLC’s “beautiful” Indian Rite of Mass

3.1 Recognise All Cultures in India as Indian The Examiner, the Archdiocesan weekly of Bombay, July 24, 2004

Fr. Michael G., invited to speak at an inter-religious meeting said, "India has many cultures and all of them should be recognised as ‘Indian’ or Bharatiya especially by the Majority Group people of this country!" The meeting was organised by Swami Smruti Samiti on 4th July on the occasion of the punyatithi (death anniversary) of Swami Vivekanand at Yashwantrao Chavhan Natyagruha, Kotharud, Pune on the theme "We Indian, Our Culture Indian".

Fr. Michael G. spoke of the beautiful Indian Mass composed with Sanskrit slokaas and Indian rituals by the NBCLC, Bangalore. "But," he said, "our inculturation movement has come to a halt because of the opposition to it voiced by the Dalit and the tribal groups in the Church! They oppose this kind of inculturation because it brings back Sanskritic and Brahminic culture that imposed on them inhuman life conditions for centuries with the tools of the oppressive customs like casteism and other superstitions."

I have always maintained that -- despite weak arguments to the contrary from inculturationists -- many of the experimental innovations in the Indian Rite of Mass as conducted by the NBCLC, the leaders of the Catholic Ashram Movement and priests influenced by them, are inimical to the interests of dalits and tribals as they are more Brahminic than Indian. The above statement by Fr. Michael G., part lamentation and part truthful observation, coming as it does from a priest who is himself closely associated with the NBCLC, supports my contentions. But, who is Fr. Michael G.?
3.2 Drama For Creative Liturgy Review by Fr. C.M. Paul S.D.B. in Catechetics India, August 2003 EXTRACT

The [NBCLC], Bangalore released a video CD, 7th May, on Drama For Creative Liturgy. Scripted and acted by Fr. Michael G., this hour-long VCD has 10 thought provocative dramas with titles like The Encroaching God, Cursed Be The Day!…

Each drama is earmarked for bringing creativity at different parts of the Eucharistic celebration.

Dramatised themes include: acting out a Scripture reading solo, dramatising a Scripture reading, acting out a Gospel passage involving the audience for catechesis, narrating a homily as a storyteller, using a newspaper report in the liturgy of the Word as an interview. Other creative ways are: presenting the entire liturgy of the Word in one story, for bringing a dramatic change of attitude in the faithful, and praying the formal prayers with images.

Fr. Joshy Illath directed the film in which Redemptorist theology students and Sacred Heart novices in Bangalore acted.

What we see promoted by Fr. Michael G., Fr. Joshy Illath and the NBCLC and supported by a cast of Redemptorist and Sacred Heart seminarians is improvisation, innovation, experimentation and dramatization of the rubrics of the Holy Mass. Abuses and aberrations in the Liturgy have virtually been made official! What on earth are our Bishops and their watchdog Commissions doing?

Fr. Michael G. is Fr. Michael Gonsalves, a staff member of the NBCLC.
Drama in Eucharist provokes people Indian Currents, November 2001, reproducing a story by UCAN

Bangalore: A priest began Mass with the usual Sign of the Cross. However, before the congregation could say 'Amen', came a shout from behind the sanctuary, 'Hell with it, Hell with it!' Shouting anti-Christian slogans, some youths then barged into the sanctuary carrying placards that ridiculed Christianity.

The congregation was stunned. Some rushed forward to fight. However, Fr. Michael Gonsalves, the celebrant, turned to the demonstrators to answer their questions. He also let the congregation, participants of an October 9-31 training on the new ways of catechizing, answer some questions.

Fr. Gonsalves, a staff of the NBCLCuses such interventions to "avoid monotony" and shatter the perception that current realities have little relevance in Christian worship. According to him, people join liturgy "meaningfully" when their minds are disturbed in such a manner and jolted from a state of complacency.

After the October 9 Mass, some participants told UCAN that it was the most meaningful Eucharistic celebration they have participated. Fr. Gonsalves told UCA News that he began incorporating aspects of drama in the Eucharist 12 years ago when as a parish priest he saw liturgy being reduced to a mere “tranquilizer”, not a catalyst that changes lives.

According to the 48-year old priest, mass-goers would respond to the drama better if they faced similar situations in life. The drama usually takes place before the Liturgy of the Word or after Communion. It ends with a call for repentance following the depiction of socio-economic inequalities, poverty, corruption, communalism, and other evils.

During one Mass, Fr. Gonsalves received a call on his cellphone, and he engaged in a "conversation" as the congregation watched. He says drama has the same relevance as hymns and dance in liturgy.

Some resent his innovations as they see drama only as entertainment, he admitted. Some elderly parishioners who opposed him initially began appreciating the dramas after a while, he said.

"My dramas," he added, "are simple, sober, and use minimum costumes," and always address "down to earth" issues.

He says he does not "strictly follow the order of the Mass, but I don’t leave out any important aspect also."
The influence of the NBCLC on liturgical music in the Indian Church

Unique Meet Discusses Music and its Positive Effects on Human Life The Examiner January 1, 2005 EXTRACT

"Music has been a great source of inspiration for both promoting life in its various aspects and thinking creatively when life is negated, because music penetrates our being and thus provides alternatives… Jesus too used artistic images to communicate life…," said Fr. Thomas D’Sa… delivering the keynote address at the National Music Consultation, November 11-14, 2004. He was speaking on the topic "Music for Personality Growth". The music consultation, the first of its kind in the country, saw the participation of 37 musicians trained in Western and Indian musical traditions. They have worked as instrumentalists, vocalists, liturgists, choir leaders and teachers of music for years in the Church life in India.

"These four days of sharing and consultation under the guidance of NBCLC brought a fresh vision for the future of liturgical music in India," said a participant. "We hope that this united vision of sacred music may become a powerful creative expression of God’s life in us to bring about peace, harmony, and spread the Gospel of truth in our country," said another participant.

Sr. Sheila Kunnath CMC spoke on "Music-The Elixir of Life". She highlighted the effects of music for healing, relaxing and problem-solving. After four days of consultation, there was a "Sangeet Retreat" in which 52 persons from all over India participated. In his concluding remarks Fr. D’Sa… promised to continue research in music along with the other art forms of the Indian cultural milieu.
A further excerpt from the above SAR news release will serve to highlight the thrust of the “consultation”:

"According to Indian tradition, music is 'Brahma Sakti' (Creator’s power) and it can awaken the latent powers lying dormant within a person," said Fr. Paul Poovathinkal*, the first Indian priest to obtain a Ph.D. in Carnatic music for his paper on 'Nadayoga: A Meditative Approach towards Absolute Music'. "Whether it is pure 'raga sangeet' or 'bhava sangeet', whenever it is pursued in the true spirit of 'Yoga Sadhana', music will manifest its supra-mundane powers in many ways and in different situations." *See pages 77ff

The priest appeals not to “Indian” tradition as he wrongly claims but to Hindu tradition, which two are quite distinct from each other if one is precise in delineating the two. Moreover, Indian tradition encompasses a diverse range of cultures including a number of tribal ones and not just the Hindu one upon which our NBCLC and Ashram priests appear to have a fixation.

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