Bishops, priests urged to shun extravaganza, clericalism

They should, instead, adopt a simple life style and open their houses and institutions to the poor


Bangalore: The apex body of the Catholic Church in India has urged its members and priests to shun “excessive institutionalization, clericalism and extravaganza.”

They should, instead, adopt a simple life style in their work and open their houses and institutions to the poor, says a statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India issued at the end of its 32nd biennial plenary in Bangalore, southern India.

The March 2-9 plenary also urged the bishops and priests to be “first and foremost, shepherds of the flock, available and service minded,’’ and to lead a life of “simplicity and spirituality that can be an inspiration to everyone.”

Promoting transparency and accountability at all levels of administration of the Church — parish and institutions was another major proposal made by the assembly.

The statement mentions Saints Thomas the Apostle, Francis Xavier, Gonsalo Garcia, Alphonsa, Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Euphrasia, and Joseph Vaz as persons for emulation.

It also recommends Blessed Mother Teresa, Blessed Maria Theresa Chiramel, Blessed Augustine Thevarparambil (Kunjachan), Blessed Devasahayam Pillai and Venerable Constant Lievens as people who have challenged and inspired the Church by their “exemplary life.”

Referring to the idea of a new way of being Church for an effective response, the CBCI said that “both Mother Teresa and Pope Francis are exemplary models for living with such a vision and mission.”

“Mother Teresa changed her routine way of living and made a radical decision for living her religious/consecrated life in a thoroughly new way,” the statement says, adding that “…the lifestyle of Pope Francis challenges us to be authentic in our Christian vocation by freeing ourselves of traditional structures, institutionalization and to break new ground, shedding the comforts and privileges of office and status…and bringing the joy of the Gospel to one and all.”

The statement described the Church in India as a “vibrant community making significant contributions to nation building through education, social development, health care and service, especially to the poor.’’

The “Church is blessed with over one-hundred and twenty five thousand religious priests, religious brothers and religious sisters who serve the Church significantly through a large network of educational, health and social service institutions,” the statement says.

While commending the selfless and dedicated life of the consecrated persons, the CBCI expressed concern that lately “there is a decrease in the number of candidates opting for consecrated life.”

Terming the consecrated life as a “gift of God,” the 178 bishops who attended the plenary assembly said that a fresh, creative and self-critical approach is needed to make it more attractive and relevant. They stressed the need for the consecrated way of life to become a combination of contemplative and active service, and shift its emphasis from “maintenance to mission.”

According to the bishops, careful selection of candidates and Christ centered formation and commitment to the poor can ensure the quality of consecrated life.

While paying tributes to the commitment of thousands of clergy who witness the mercy of God through parish community and their attached apostolate, “we are of the opinion that the priestly life needs a thorough renewal and updating,” the bishops said.

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16 thoughts on “Bishops, priests urged to shun extravaganza, clericalism

  1. It may be immature to think , if the Bishops follow the foot prints of Christ. Let us follow the foot prints of Christ. The Bishops have the bounded obligation to do justice to all the decisions arrived at the Plenary. The public watch the drama.

    May Glory and hon-our be to u God my Father. Not to me…………….

  2. it is high time to put the words into action. priests and Bishops are going away form the people and having their own kingdom instead. the higher authorities are found only in functions to be presided over, in this year of Mercy may they make simple visit to 365 families. it would be appreciated if such meetings could have conducted in a situation where it supports the subject matter. i am sure the priest will shun all their high life if the Bishops whom they make as their leaders follow the foot prints of Christ who was available to the people, who understand the needs of people. today church needs the shepherds who will lead the sheep to the green pastures. dont lead them to the dry land, and say everything is a plan of God.

  3. Good to see so many responses, all from lay people! That itself has much to say. All this talk of simplicity is humbug if not practiced. MY parish house has the best a/c SUV, a/c bedrooms, marble floors etc. I have none of those. So why should I contribute to the “pastors” fund? Water always flows down, unless it is forcible pumped up.
    As for institutions in the post Vatican II era they have grown at three times the pace of the Catholic population. Who are we fooling?
    The pope’s personal example is not enough. He has to issue strict instructions, that need to be followed. We have had enough of pious exhortations.
    chhotebhai

  4. We humans can live in a hut made of plastic and wood or wood and leaves. People also, many.live in palatial buildings. The church, the statues are only symbols and is highlighted as though the essential aspect of being God oriented.May be the emotional aspect of our being God oriented. We try to transcend these symbols to be really God oriented.

    God bless us !

  5. The week long biennial plenary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) from 2nd March to 9th March crystallised on some very important decisions, in line with what our Pope has been exhorting the Church to do. They are:

    1. Unanimous view that “the crying need of the hour was to continue dialogue” which is essential in solving problems affecting the society and the country. The bishops wanted a more humane and fruitful mode of dealing with the conflicts, not by force, but by an “open, free and trusting dialogue.”

    2. The right to profess, practice and propagate one’s faith and underlined the fundamental equality of all human beings, regardless of caste, gender, creed and status in life.

    3. Urge members and priests to shun “excessive institutionalization, clericalism and extravaganza.”

    4. The plenary also urged the bishops and priests to be “first and foremost, shepherds of the flock, available and service minded,’ and to lead a life of “simplicity and spirituality that can be an inspiration to everyone.”

    5. The statement described the Church in India as a “vibrant community making significant contributions to nation building through education, social development, health care and service, especially to the poor.’’ According to the bishops greater opportunities will be provided to the Church’s service organizations, comprising health care, education, social services and rehabilitation

    6. Promoting transparency and accountability at all levels of administration of the Church — parish and institutions was another major proposal made by the assembly.

    DIALOGUE – THE CRYING NEED OF THE HOUR
    This is a very practical and workable realization. All over the world all issues under the sun are being resolved through a process of dialogue, making use of the best professionals who are called “peace brokers”. Even sworn enemies Israel and Palestine have realised that long-term solution, dialogue was the much better option than bloodshed. Most of the problems which the Indian Church sweeps under the carpet, can be solved through dialogues, especially by setting up Crisis Management Teams in each parish / diocese. One of the important jobs of this team would be to give early warning of “smoldering crises” – ones that ignite a very slow and steady burn. If these are not noticed and addressed at the outset, they might suddenly take the shape of a volcanic eruption.

    For dialogue, the church has to change its own mindset. It has to free itself from the illusion of sitting on a high pedestal and come down to a level-playing field before the process of dialogue starts. It has to treat the affected party as equal and allow free flow of thoughts particularly “dissenting opinion”. True dialogue calls for large-heartedness on both sides. Bishops, Provincials and Parish Priests can show this large-heartedness by first acknowledging receipt of letters and emails. Nine out of ten times they don’t and think it to be below their dignity to do so. Though CBCI has a well-publicised Social Communications Commission, which is also one of the concerns of Diocesan / Parish Pastoral Plan, in practice every attempt is made by bishops and parish priests to shut out communication. This attitude has to change before the process of dialogue is put in place. Also it must be made clear what the remedy is when the respective Archbishop or Bishop does not acknowledge or answer letters / emails. Does one then go to CBCI (if so, to whom) or the Nuncio who too is not free from the same folly!

    FUNDAMENTAL EQUALITY OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS, IRRESPECTIVE OF CASTE, GENDER, CREED AND STATUS IN LIFE
    The Indian Church itself is guilty of the above discrimination. Though in Christianity (and also in Islam), there is no caste system, in reality it is very much practised by the Church, especially in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa. The Indian Church has first to clean up its own backyards before venturing on to advise the Indian Government. As the Lord said “You cannot serve two masters.” In Kolkata one parish priest tried to divide the parish by bringing in his own Kerala caste culture. He left the parish in ignominy.

    PROVISION OF GREATER OPPORTUNITIES IN HEALTH CARE, EDUCATION, SOCIAL SERVICES AND REBABILITATION
    This a very welcome decision indeed. But in reality, the Indian Church which has 25% stake in education and health care service in India, actually provides very little to its own Christian Community and the lion’s share to the non-Christian Community. In MOST missionary institutions, 90% of student population comprises non-Christians and less than 10% is Christians for whose benefit these institutions were founded and accorded Minority Institution status. Christian students are given admission no doubt, but in reality they are treated as second-class citizens, for most of them need fee concession and other help. Most of the students out of this 10%, drop out in the middle levels due to various handicaps, inferiority complex being the main malady and school authorities are not bothered to keep track of where they go – languish or recover. They merrily fill up the vacancies with the paying non-Christian students. In a parish in Kolkata, an on-going study centre run by a laity action group to help out poor Christian students, has been forcibly closed down. Even change of parish priests and the Provincial who has a degree in Pedagogy has not changed the ground reality. Oral hire and fire of teachers goes on unabated. The poor students continue to suffer and the apathy goes on with the exhibition of spiritualism. Didn’t one of the resolutions at the Plenary urge the bishops and priests to be “first and foremost, shepherds of the flock, available and service minded,’’ and to lead a life of “simplicity and spirituality that can be an inspiration to everyone?”

    PROMOTING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY AT ALL LEVELS OF ADMINISTRATION OF THE CHURCH — PARISH AND INSTITUTIONS
    This is an area where a lot of work needs to be done for the Indian Church is very cagey about Transparency and Accountability though in Sunday sermons honesty and truthfulness are preached profusely. Transparency in Sunday Collection, donations received, receipt and disbursement of sponsorship which in most cases are kept under wraps, income and expenses, vendor selection, assets register, details of parish property – is lacking at the Diocesan and Parish levels. Most parishes even today do not have transparently elected Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) and Parish Finance Committees (PFCs). PPCs are loaded with yes men, handpicked by Parish Priest. PFCs which will capture all income and expenses of a parish and thus help in making parishioners wise, are non-existent in most parishes. Can CBCI produce any authentic database on how many parishes under each diocese have PPCs and PFCs?

    Similarly for aid– educational, healthcare and income-generating activities – to reach the really needy, parish-wise family database creation should be given the first priority. These databases need to be vouched by select members of PPCs and PFCs and updated at pre-determined intervals say quarterly. They can be customised by data access/ administration password. The respective parish priests and bishops can get a clear picture of the health of a parish / diocese. From these databases, professionals in various fields can be culled. These rich pools of professionals can then be motivated to form the backbone of parish / diocese development activity. Talents can be shared amongst parishes.

    To translate all the above noble resolutions into reality, two pronged approach is a must: Clear vision of sustainable development and scientific approach. There is no place for tokenism.

  6. What about the making of Golden statues of Mother Mary. According to the Bible any statues made by Gold and worshipping is occult

  7. #31,4th Main Road,
    Chamrajpet

    Putting to Practice,what is Preached will be really good.My poor Old Mother is craving to receive Holy Communion evey day,she being in the practice of attending Daily Mass throughout her life time when she was able,now that she isbedridden only 25% of heart is funtioning.But ou Parish Priest has no time they say .And we can only once a week even though just not even half kilometere from our Parish Church.
    Hope they can kidly look inti this matter,

  8. All these are well said But this has been said for years now… Will any one listen to it. Our Holy Father Pope Francis showed it with his life, when he assumed as Pope…and exhorted the same thing… did any one follow him?

    Let us begin to act…God Bless…

  9. Similar exhortations have been aired from time to time. Pope Franziskus in his efforts soon after assuming as the pope has been striving to send across the same starting with Vatican. But to put off the Phylacteries the prelates need to have spirit of Christ. It lacks integrity…………If the so called Bishops, priests,Sisters , exceptions are there, provincials have the integrity…….Stop from baptizing the activities in the the name of God with PROJECT CULTURE.

  10. While the document of this CBCI plenary assembly which calls the bishops and clergy to shun the extravaganza is the need of the hour, it has to begin with the bishops themselves. Which bishop in India dares to give up his palatial building and moves to live among the people, the poor? When some bishops in India live in huge bungalows and move about in expensive cars, a document such as this proves to be futile, a blatant act of hypocrisy. Had these bishops the shepherds of God’s flock, gathered in a simple building with a real Lenten menu and invited challenging lay speakers and then come out with such a document as this, they deserve much praise. It seems to me now that these “catchy and attractive slogan” will remain buried in the pages of document. I sound pessimistic but is it not the reality?

  11. These three simple points as they usually preach, if followed and practiced by Bishops and Priests would make Jesus and God the Father Almighty very pleased!

    •”They should, instead, adopt a simple life style in their work and open their houses and institutions to the poor!”

    •Bishops and Priests to be “first and foremost, shepherds of the flock, available and service minded,’’ and to lead a life of “simplicity and spirituality that can be an inspiration to everyone.”

    •”Promoting transparency and accountability at all levels of administration of the Church — parish and institutions!”

  12. It’s a very comforting appeal. I pray to the Almighty that it percolates down the entire body of the Universal Church.

  13. Had these 178 Bishops, the shepherds of God’s flock, gathered in a simple building with a real Lenten menu and invited challenging lay speakers and come out such a document as this, they deserve much praise. It seems to me now that these “catchy and attractive slogan” will remain buried in the pages of document. I sound pessimistic but is it not the reality?

  14. I would like to know how simple and how poor the entire CBCI assembly held these days incuding how Lenten the menu on the table. …lead the chuck by actions and not by documents. …shun the palatial bishop-houses….get down to live among the poor…..

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