By Jacob Peenikaparambil
Bengaluru, Feb. 11, 2019: A retired Supreme Court judge known for his compassion for the downtrodden has urged Christian priests and religious to refrain from amassing material goods but serve their people.
“Priests and religious have to collect only what is left out after feeding the people. They have no right to amass without giving to the people,” Justice Kurian Joseph told a seminar on socially-oriented seminary formation, referring to the biblical account of Jesus multiplying loaves to feed the hungry,
The February 8-10 seminar was organized by Dharmaram College, Bengaluru, capital of Karnataka state. As many as 92 people, including rectors of major seminaries and seminary professors participated in the seminar on “Socially Oriented Formation in Major Seminaries.”
Justice Joseph was among several lay leaders who attended the seminar.
Addressing the opening session on February 8, Justice Joseph asked the seminary rectors and professors, “Are we concentrating on the “sheep without shepherd?”
He said the role of priests is to contribute to build the Kingdom of God. The core values of Indian Constitution: justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, are the values of the Kingdom of God, he clarified.
Justice Joseph reminded the participants about the current credibility crisis facing the Church leadership in India. If the credibility is to be regained the future priests are to be trained to be become role models of what they preach, he asserted.
“You be the change that you want to see in others,” he said and asserted that priest and religious have to become the Bible in the context they live and work. “In order to become Bible the seminarians have to imbibe during the formation the qualities of conviction, commitment and zeal.”
He reminded the participants that the task of priests and religious is to make people Disciples of Jesus and not mere devotees of Jesus.
Another speaker, Dr. A Pushpararajan, former Head of the Department of Inter-Religious Studies of Madurai Kamaraj University, stressed the need for seminarians to develop Intelligence Quiescent, Emotional Quiescent, Spiritual Quiescent and Peace Quiescent.
He also wants them trained in inter-religious dialogue and promotion of pluralism as they have to work in India, a nation of multi-religions and multi-cultures.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India who addressed the valedictory session, urged seminary rectors and formators to train their students to become persons of compassion after the model of Jesus.
“If compassion is not created in them when they are seminarians, they will not get it after becoming priests,” said the prelate, a member of the Goa-based Pilar Society.
Bishop Mascarenhas wants future Catholic priests to have the human face of Jesus, caring for the least, the last and the lost.
Ram Puniyani, former professor of IIT Bombay, who spoke on “Quest for a Civilized Society in the Context of Growing Religious Polarization, noted that the current fight is between democracy and Hindutva.
“Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism which is all embracing and inclusive,” said the professor, a born Hindu. The solution to religion-based polarization, he said, is to reinstate the core values of the Indian constitution and return to the pre-British period when people of different religions lived in peace and harmony.
Justice Santhosh Hegde, another former Supreme Court judge, spoke on corruption. He noted constant erosion of values in the functioning of democracy inn India since 1970. The three pillars of democracy: legislature, executive and judiciary as well as the media, the fourth pillar, are infected by the virus of corruption, he bemoaned.
According to his analysis, the root cause is that the Indian society has become corrupt because of greed. Hence the solution lies in transforming society by inculcating the values of contentment and humanism in the young people. “The religions and religious leaders can play great role in reforming the society by inculcating these values in their followers,” he added.
Sukhadeo Thorat, former professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, explained how discriminations based on gender, caste and language continue to be practised in India in spite of policies opposing them.
He appreciated the Catholic Church for acknowledging that the practice of untouchability exists within its fold. “The Church has to free itself from discriminations based on caste, gender, and language,” he added.
The seminar also allowed activists to their views on training future priests.
The seminar concluded with the participants acknowledging recasting the seminary formation as an urgent need.
The leadership of the Church has to focus on the issues of the people and the Church leaders have to become facilitators, animators and coordinators as good shepherds and not rulers and masters, they added.