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.