By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: The Catholic bishops of India plan to study seriously how the Church can channelize its diversities to witness its mission of mercy in a country where it increasingly faces neglect and hostility.
“We are being neglected because we are only a small percentage of the people of this country. But we need not be alarmed,” says Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).
The cardinal was addressing a meeting of Church leaders from all over the country in New Delhi. The current problems, the cardinal told them, should not make Christians aggressive but firm their resolve to preserve the country’s democratic and secular characteristics. “Promoting the constitutional values is our important duty,” he asserted.
Deputy secretaries of 14 CBCI regions that cover 174 dioceses, secretaries of the CBCI Offices/Councils, Core Team and resident priests at the CBCI Centre attended the November 5-7 meeting.
Cardinal Cleemis, who is also the head of the Syro-Malankara Church, noted that the CBCI is the interface between the government and the Church and it deals with national and regional issues.
The conference also coordinates the works of India’s three ritual Churches – Latin and Syro-Malabar, besides Syro-Malankara.
The cardinal said the CBCI will gather views and suggestions from these Churches and other sources to prepare policies to witness together its works of mercy and uphold the Christian faith in the country.
The cardinal also said the bishops’ next biennial plenary early next year will address “United in diversity for a mission of mercy and witness.”
The plenary scheduled for February 2-9, 2018, has chosen “United in diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness.”
The cardinal told the Church leaders not to consider Christians’ minority status as a disadvantage. “Small is beautiful and effective. Jesus sent out to the world a small group to preach the good news.
“This country is ours and we need to respond proactively to the challenges,” the cardinal added. According to him, the beatification of Sister Rani Maria on November 4 is “a pointer to the challenges” awaiting Christians in India.
He said the CBCI and its various bodies have to respond to the challenges and formulate guidelines to help the Church share its missionary mandate. He wants the Church leaders to help regional and local communities trust Christ’s assurance that he would be with humans until the end of times.
CBCI secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, who also addressed the meeting, noted that India is a melting pot many religions, races, castes, tribes, ethnic communities with different cultures, languages, scripts, customs, cuisine and living styles.
Here Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, tribals, Jews and men and women of every religion, language, and belief have to a large extent lived together in exemplary harmony and tolerance. The world looks with awe at India’s wonderfully diverse and plural society added Bishop Mascarenhas said.
The chief guest of the plenary will be Cardinal Charles Bo, head of the Catholic Church in Myanmar. The Salesian prelate will visit India just after Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar. “That would be a further enrichment for our plenary assembly,” Bishop Mascarenhas said.
The plenary will study Dalit and Tribal issues.
CBCI vice president Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichurch noted that the Indian Church remains vibrant even in these challenging times. The obstacles we encounter are just symptoms. We need to work toward having proper strategies with think tanks and legal cells. “The CBCI is growing and we need to ensure continuity,” he added.