23rd Plenary Assembly of the CCBI
Held at Chennai from 6 to 12 January, 2011
“Catechetical Renewal, Essential for a Vibrant Church in India”
We, the 123 Bishops of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, thank Almighty God for bringing us together for the 23rd Plenary Assembly held at Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamallee, Chennai, from 6th to 12th January 2011, to reflect on the theme: “Catechetical Renewal, essential for a Vibrant Church”. As official teachers of Faith and the principal Catechists in our respective dioceses, we are committed to promote the Catechetical renewal in the Indian Church.
The Church in India is built on the blood of martyrs and the valuable Catechetical service of zealous and committed missionaries. We gratefully acknowledge their pioneering efforts in passionately building up the Church in India. Moreover, the commitment of innumerable bishops, priests, religious, Catechism teachers, lay Catechists and the invaluable contribution of parents, have facilitated our Church to move on. They have taken various steps in the Catechetical ministry, keeping in mind our rich cultural and religious tradition.
Signs of the Times
Guided by the Holy Spirit and inspired by the Catechetical renewal initiated by Second Vatican Council, we make every effort to read the signs of the times in the Indian socio-cultural and multi-religious scenario. Faith expresses itself in a particular culture and matures through the particular experiences of the faithful. Hence, we are called to be rooted in our rich cultural and religious heritage, and to enter deeper into a fourfold dialogue in our mission: with the culture, with people of other faiths, with the poor and with the cosmos.
Drawing inspiration from rich and valuable contribution of our predecessors and building on the recent developments in the Catechetical field, we are able to move ahead with optimism and courage to work for the Catechetical renewal, which remains essential for a vibrant Church.
Word of God
We reaffirm that the main source and origin of Catechesis is the Word of God. It helps the faithful to experience God’s love in their lives, celebrate it in the liturgy, and live a life permeated by the Gospel values. God’s word is present everywhere and needs to be read in the light of the Sacred Scripture and the Church experience. It resonates in the lives of people and in nature. While filling our lives with the knowledge and the experience of God’s unconditional love, it challenges us to transform society.
Importance of Catechesis
The process of Catechesis takes place from birth to death. Catechesis fosters the maturity in faith which calls for continuous effort on the part of the Catechists and the Catechised. We firmly believe that Catechesis is not restricted merely to the class room and children. It embraces the whole life of the Church and every age group. Hence, we exhort every baptised person to make a sincere and dedicated effort, personally and by participating in the Catechetical initiatives of the Church, to know the content of faith described in the Bible, Tradition, the Magisterial documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), to grow in the personal encounter with Christ and to become authentic and credible witnesses of faith in their lives. While we appreciate the Catechetical initiatives taken so far in our regions, dioceses and parishes, we earnestly look forward to a systematic and vibrant Catechesis in every locus of Catechesis: Parish, Family, Small Christian Communities (SCC), lay movements, pastoral groups and Educational institutions.
Vital Role of Catechists
Every baptised person who is called to be a Catechist, shares in the threefold function of Christ: priestly, prophetic and kingly. As Catechists, we are called to be rooted in the person of Christ, to communicate to others our own experience of God’s love and thus to bring about a new civilisation of love, peace, harmony and justice. Through witness of life and diligent teaching, every Catechist – bishop, priest, religious, teacher, lay Catechist, parent – is called to foster the faith of our pilgrim people with zeal and build up the reign of God in which every sister and brother – overcoming the distinctions of creed, caste, language or race – finds fullness of life in Christ.
Role of Parents in the ‘Domestic Church’
The family is the basic cell of society and the Church. It is the subject and object of the Catechetical ministry of the Church. In the Catechesis of their children, the role of parents, especially the mother, is of vital importance. They are the first and the best Catechists of their children. Hence we call upon the parents to make every effort to form themselves in faith continually and play a vital role in the faith-formation of their children by example, family prayer and family catechesis.
Communication of Faith through Media
Media communications are a great gift of God to humanity. Appreciating their growth as one of the chief means of formation today, we are also aware of the negative impact they can have on the young minds, questioning the existing value system and posing a great threat to the traditional values. Undeniably, they have brought about a mediated culture. Hence we encourage every member of the Church to be critical in understanding the media and at the same time to utilise these powerful audio-visual means for making our Catechetical pedagogy more effective.
Call to Commitment
While being committed to the Catechetical renewal, so essential for making our Indian Church vibrant, we hereby urge every priest and religious, lay woman and man, to grow in the awareness of our vocation to be Catechists by our word and life. We also recommend strongly that those who are responsible for handing on of faith in our dioceses, parishes and educational institutions make every effort to reorganise the Catechesis for every age group – adults, families, youth, adolescent and children – and the special groups such as victims of social discrimination, physically and mentally challenged, the culturally uprooted people. The guidelines outlined in our draft of the National Catechetical Directory: “Fostering the Faith of our Pilgrim People” (FFPP) will greatly assist them in their efforts towards an effective spiritual renewal in the Church in India.
May our Blessed Mother, the Catechist par excellence, intercede for us in our sublime task of Catechesis.