By Saramma Emmanuel
Bhopal: Latin rite bishops in India have pledged to reorient the Church’s functioning to address issues such as interreligious marriages, single parent, differently abled children, grieving and bereaved, migrants, sick, elderly, transgenders and those living in dire poverty.
A decision to this effect was taken at the end of the 29th plenary assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) on February 8 at Asha Niketan Campus, Bhopal, capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
More than 130 prelates, including two cardinals, who head 132 of India’s 171 dioceses, attended the week long deliberations that began on January 31 to revitalize the Catholic families in India. They were responding to the exhortation of Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (Promoting the Joy of Love in Our Families).
The CCBI’s final statement issued on February 7 asserted, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and of the Church.”
“The family is the top priority of the Church now,” said Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi. “We will have to take care our families at any cost,” the first Asian tribal cardinal told mattersindia.com, adding, “family is the basis of the Church”.
Keeping this in view, the bishops agreed to lay special emphasis on tightening the pre-marriage course program incorporating more family oriented items to help aspiring boys and girls for marriage to understand marriage and family life.
The Church wants to “help young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage without minimizing the call to priestly and religious life,” says the statement issued after the meet.
Bishop Francis Kalist of Meerut says the Church leaders have to strengthen the family apostolate with proper participation of priests and nuns working in each parish. “Now the time has changed the priest and nuns will have to regularly visit families and share their sorrows and gladness as one of the family members,” he told mattersindia.com.
Bishop Kalist said he works in a mission diocese of northern India. “Whenever I go for pastoral visit in a parish I make sure that I visit every family,” he explained. He wants the Church to focus on “total integration and participation of priests and nuns in a parish with their families.”
“Unless a priest regularly visits a family, there cannot be total integration and help, if a family is in trouble,” he asserts. “A priest should become a family member of his parishioners,” he added.
The prelates too agreed to bring all estranged persons and families back to the Church fold. They also asserted that one person cannot be kept away from the Church for any fault taking a very sympathetic view on such persons.
The CCBI in its final statement says, “Church needs to reach out to those who for several reasons feel estranged from the Church (divorced, divorced and civilly remarried, cohabiting partners, etc.)”.
“We keep in mind the words of Pope Francis: “what is urgently needed today is a ministry to care for those whose marital relationship has broken down”. We want all to feel the maternal love of the Church in such a way that they experience the merciful embrace of the Father from which no one is excluded”, adds the statement.
The other key points the prelates focused on to revitalize family life in India include better training to priests, religious, catechists and pastoral works to understand family issues and offer help in time.
The training of seminarians, the bishops say, “receive a more extensive interdisciplinary and not merely doctrinal formation in the areas of engagement and marriage”. They should have exposure to family situations”.
“We will show a respectful attitude to those who have not been provided with adequate pastoral care such as transgenders, people with different orientations, etc” among other things the bishops feel will help the Church in India transform Catholic families.