Kanpur, Nov. 3, 2018: How many lay Catholics in India can sincerely say “We are the Church”, or “Yes, this is our Church”? The laity feels largely marginalized. It is required only to raise funds, to organize a procession, or when some church personnel or institutions are under attack. At other times they are tacitly expected to “Mind your own business”, and quietly pray, pay and obey.
Recent developments in both the Church and the political discourse in the country have left the silent majority shell-shocked. It is a huge majority and a deafening silence. Within the church in India we have had to hang our heads in shame at the blatant misuse or abuse of power that have necessitated the direct intervention of the Vatican; for the removal from administrative duties of a cardinal in Kerala and a bishop in Punjab.
Many of us have looked up in admiration to the apostolic church in Kerala that has given us so many vocations. It is the richest community. Yet it now has to sell a property valued at 700 million rupees to pay off a bank loan and its accruing interest.
In Punjab we are aware of the circumstances that resulted in a bishop being arrested, and then being given a hero’s welcome on his release on bail; even though he is an accused in a heinous crime.
What is really disturbing is the deafening silence of the so-called custodians, spokespersons and leaders of the church, both hierarchical and lay. Not a single recognized national Catholic body spoke up on these critical issues.
On the other hand we see that more than 50 years after the conclusion of Vatican II in 1965, the watershed “Church in India” seminar of 1969, or the release of the New Code of Canon Law in 1983, their vision or provisions have been quietly buried. The much hyped family Synod of 2014 turned out to be a damp squib. We are yet to see what impact the recently concluded “Youth Synod” has on the ground realities in the church.
If we are Christians, and love Jesus, then we also love his church – his body or bride. Hence we cannot be true Christians if we remain immune to, or mute spectators of, what is happening (or not happening) in the church. Our “enough is enough” or “Me Too” moments have arrived.
The national scenario is even more frightening. Four years ago we were given tall promises of less government and more governance. The opposite is actually happening, with the Govt trying to stifle the autonomy of almost every sector – the media, judiciary, social activism, small business, the army, CBI, RBI etc. The list is endless.
Are we heading for a megalomaniacal dictatorship in 2019? Many may argue, what can a minuscule minority do? We need to be reminded that till recently the Christian representation in both houses of parliament was more than 4 percent, double the strength of our population. This indicates that our fellow countrymen repose their trust in Christian leadership. Should we not then rise to the occasion?
Accordingly a group of concerned lay persons is organizing a “We Too Are Church” gathering from February 8-10, 2019 in Kolkata. The issues that we intend addressing are:
1. What Happened to the Reforms of Vatican II?
2. Vatican II – a New Vision of Christianity in Multi-Religious India
3. Participatory Structures in the Church
4. The Status of Women in the Church
5. Youth Aspirations and Expectations
6. Crisis Management and Leadership Skills
7. Our Response to Contemporary Politics
8. The Role of the Catholic Media in Reforming the Church
9. The Relevance of Evangelisation and Conversions
10. Our Collective Response – The Path Ahead?
Those interested in joining us for this collective may contact any of the persons mentioned below. Laity, clergy, religious and our bishops who share these concerns are all welcome to attend. Details of Registration Charges, the venue and accommodation will be conveyed shortly to the interested persons.