History of Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India
In 1944 a Conference of Indian Bishops known as “Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India” (CBCI) was established. When the National Episcopal Conferences got juridical and structural recognition in Second Vatican Council, the CBCI began to reorganize itself with infrastructures such as National Commissions, Regional Councils of Bishops and National Organizations working under its guidance and directives.
The promulgation of the Latin Code of Canon Law in 1983 contributed to the debate about establishing a Conference only for the Latin Rite Bishops. The Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II, after his visit to India in 1986, wrote an apostolic letter to the Indian bishops on 28 May 1987 an important text of which reads thus:“The Bishops of each of the three Rites have the right to establish their own Episcopal bodies in accordance with their own ecclesiastical legislation. The National Conference (i.e., the CBCI) of all Catholic Bishops of India is to continue for questions of common concern and of a national and supra-ritual character, e.g., Doctrine and Morals, Organizations of a national and supra-ritual character, questions involving the Catholic Church and the Government, etc. These areas are to be determined in the National Conferences’ new statutes.”
Hence in compliance with the above directive of the Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II, the CBCI in its General Meeting in April 1988 decided that all the three ritual Churches could have their own Episcopal body. Accordingly, the bishops of the Latin Church started their own Episcopal Conference in the same meeting and named it “Conference of Catholic Bishops of India – Latin Rite” (CCBI-LR). In January 1994 the Holy See approved its Statutes. Hence, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India is an organization having its legal foundation in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which applies to all Catholic Church of the Roman Rite throughout the world. Therefore, according to Canons 447-459 CCBI is the Central Church body of India and its purpose is to deliberate on matters of concern for the whole Church of India and encourage activities in accordance with the needs of the times. The CCBI members are: 1) The diocesan bishops, their coadjutors, and auxiliaries, and 2) those honorary bishops appointed by the Holy See or the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of India for particular tasks.
In the Bishops’ Conference there is a President, who is in overall charge and represents the Conference, a Vice President and a Secretary General to assist him for a term of two years. The Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, in addition to Plenary Assemblies, has an Executive Committee to handle ordinary matters, Episcopal Commissions and a General Secretariat. Currently CCBI comprises of 131 dioceses and 181 Bishops.