Message of the 25th Plenary Assembly of the CCBI
Held at Vailankanni from 5 to 10 February, 2013
Called To Believe, To Love, To Serve and To Proclaim
- Conscious of our Episcopal calling and with joyful confidence in the Lord we, 117 bishops of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Health, Vailankanni, Feb 5-10, 2013 for the XXV Plenary Assembly and to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Conference. The main topic of our deliberations was the “Pastoral Plan for the Church in India”, considered as a milestone in the onward journey of the Conference. Several ecclesial events made our Plenary Assembly more meaningful: – the Promulgation of the Year of Faith by Pope Benedict XVI on the Golden Jubilee of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th Anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), as also the Golden Jubilee of the declaration of the Shrine of Our Lady of Health at Vailankanni as a minor Basilica.
Signs of the Times
- The Catholic Church in India finds herself in the context of rich cultural and religious multiplicity in which she is called upon to fulfill her evangelical mission. It is heartening to note the numerous signs of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the Church:
- Fruitful relationship of communion among the three sui iuris Churches namely: Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin.
- Joyful celebration of the sacraments especially the Eucharist as the source and summit of Christian Life.
- Thirst for the Word of God and desire for greater holiness of life manifested through large participation in Charismatic Conventions, Retreats, Seminars and other events.
- Zeal for the proclamation of the Word of God in word and deed and through modern means of communication.
- Growing participation of laity, especially women and youth, in the Church’s life and mission.
- Widespread reception of SCCs as the New Way of Being Church in India.
- Emergence of new ecclesial movements such as Jesus Youth, Christeen Ministry, Santvana Community, Sahradaya, Couples for Christ, etc.
- Increase in vocations in the younger churches
- Beatification of Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, the first Indian Lay Martyr.
- Celebration of the Year of Faith as an opportunity to deepen, to live and to proclaim the faith.
- Initiatives for social justice, women’s empowerment, human rights particularly the rights of children, environmental protection, greater transparency and accountability, etc.
- Growth in ecumenical relations and inter-religious dialogue.
- At the same time, we are aware of the challenges faced by the Church in many places in India today such as:
- Divisions based on caste, class, language and ethnicity leading to groupism causing scandals.
- Materialism invading sacred precincts of the family undermining spiritual and moral values.
- Routine and perfunctory worship and lack of proper pastoral care adversely affecting the faith life.
- Renewal envisaged by Vatican II yet to be fully realized particularly in the areas of participatory structures, clergy-laity relationship, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.
- Continued harassment, discrimination and attacks on Christians and denial of constitutional privileges to Christians of Scheduled Caste Origin.
Nevertheless, these challenges do not discourage us; rather they are opportunities to renew our discipleship of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
PASTORAL PLAN FOR THE CHURCH (LATIN) IN INDIA
- The Pastoral Plan is the fruit of a process that began in 2011 at the XXIII Plenary Assembly at Poonamallee (Chennai). After a nationwide survey on the major areas of the life and mission of the Church in India, a National Colloquium of nearly 300 participants comprising a cross section of bishops, priests, religious and laity representing the 13 Regions of the CCBI was held in June 2012. Continuing the process, this Plenary Assembly reflected on the four pillars of the Church’s identity as a Believing Community, Praying Community, Serving Community, and Proclaiming Community. After due deliberations under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we affirm the following priorities:
- Faith formation for all age groups of the faithful and ongoing formation of the clergy, religious and catechists to strengthen and nurture the faith.
- Biblical Apostolate to focus on proper celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, Word-based homilies, training of the laity for the service of the Word, reaching the Bible to every family and at least the New Testament to every Catholic and promotion of Lectio Divina (meditative-reflective reading of the Word).
- Liturgy celebrated in a well-prepared, devout and meaningful manner so as to ensure conscious, active and full participation by the congregation.
- Prayer Life and Popular Devotions founded on the Word of God and oriented to the Eucharist.
- Integral Evangelization to be promoted enthusiastically at all levels, proclaiming Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
- In the light of New Evangelization reaching out to Catholics who have distanced themselves from the Church in order to reconcile them.
- SCCs to be established all over India through proper training and motivation.
- Establishment and effective functioning of Participatory Structures, namely pastoral councils and finance committees/councils at parish and diocesan levels and to ensure total transparency and accountability at all levels.
- Empowering the Laity to play an effective role in the Church and society with special emphasis on the marginalized sections, in accordance with the teachings of the Church.
- Family Apostolate to focus on mandatory marriage preparation courses, ongoing formation for parents, family prayer and family pastoral visits to make our families Christ-centred.
- To Unflinchingly Defend the Rights of the Unborn and oppose all anti-life policies and practices.
- To boldly uphold the Church’s teachings on Marriage and Family at all costs.
- To prepare the Youth spiritually, intellectually and emotionally to play a leadership role in the Church and society encouraging them, and supporting them financially whenever required, to enter public life and service.
- To implement the National Catholic Policy of Education of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in letter and spirit.
- To promote Gospel-based sensitivity towards Women and make all-out efforts to empower them in Church and society so that they can live life to the full in accordance with their God-given dignity and vocation.
- To encourage holistic Inculturation in life-style and worship in keeping with the Indian ethos.
- To promote Ecumenism by relating with other Churches and ecclesial communities, through prayer meetings, study sessions and social activities, in mutual support springing from Christian solidarity.
- To foster Inter-Religious Dialogue through openness to people of other religions, willingness to listen to them with respect and understand them with their differences.
- To extend wholehearted solidarity to the much discriminated Dalit Christians who, in contrast to other people of Dalit origin, are denied their Constitutional privileges.
- To stand for the Constitutional Rights of all people, particularly the farmers, fisher folk, tribals and the displaced claiming their right to life, security, land, livelihood and identity.
- We express our solidarity with the suffering people who have been protesting against the establishment of Nuclear Power Plant at Koodankulam/ Idinthakarai, and call for prayers for a speedy and just solution to the problem.
- To carry on a sustained campaign for the recognition of religious liberty, a fundamental human right which, unfortunately, is being systematically undermined.
Responsibility to the Nation
- India is a sovereign republic – secular, democratic, progressive and strong – well-respected in the comity of nations. We the Church commit ourselves to the growth, progress and transformation of our beloved nation through our selfless service in the fields of education, healthcare and other areas of human development. We want to continue to play a constructive role in nation building by promoting peace and national integration through inter-religious harmony and by continuation of our struggle against the evils of caste system, corruption in public life, communal politics, crimes against women and children and all divisive forces in society. Inspired by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ we wish to join the universal campaign to preserve the environment as responsible citizens. We look forward to a democratically strong India by taking full part in the democratic processes of our nation.
In this connection, we urge all Christians who are eligible to vote, to ensure that their names are registered in the voters’ list and to vote without fail to elect suitable candidates who will serve the people upholding the Constitution.
- As we promulgate the Pastoral Plan for the Church (Latin) in India, we fervently pray that all sections of the People of God be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit and walk in newness of life.
- We appeal to you, lay people, to be conscious of the dignity of your lay vocation and never forget your call to be witnesses to Christ in an increasingly secularized world of today.
- We appeal to you, beloved children, to open your hearts always to Jesus Christ our loving Saviour who blesses children, and wants everyone to be childlike.
- We appeal to you, young people, to make Jesus Christ your Friend, and know that he is the answer to your life-questions.
- We appeal to you, men and women in consecrated life, to never diminish in zeal for the Kingdom of God and loyalty to the Church.
- We appeal to you, dear priests, our beloved coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord, never to cease in your efforts to conform to Christ, the Priest, Prophet and Shepherd.
We conclude our XXV Plenary Assembly held in this hallowed shrine at Vailankanni dedicated to Mary, Mother of Good Health, on the joyful occasion of the Golden Jubilee of its declaration as a Minor Basilica thanking God for the faith of the thousands of pilgrims who flock here to seek her intercession and return home touched by the healing love of Jesus Christ.
May Mary, our Blessed Mother, the Star of New Evangelization, teach us in this Year of Faith, to be faithful disciples of her Son, and be ready to say our “yes” to God’s will in all circumstances.