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“United in Diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ ” (Mt 28: 20)
The theme of our General Body Meeting immediately invites us to reflect on the mystery of the Trinity. The great mystery of the one God, united in three Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is the foundation of our Christian faith.
We thank God for the unique nature of the Catholic Church in India who is blessed with three sui iuris Churches called to reflect in her life and mission the communion of the Holy Trinity. Rooted in this vision, we, the 184 bishops of the Catholic Church in India gathered together for the 33rd General Body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, from 02 to 09 February 2018, to pray and reflect upon the theme: “United in Diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ ” (Mt 28: 20) to deepen our understanding of our own identity and to enhance our contribution to nation-building.
We, the Catholic Bishops of India felt reassured and strengthened by the words of our Lord: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). We have taken into account the final statement of the Catholic Council of India (CCI) which met from 17 to 19 November 2017.
The Mission of Jesus
Jesus, who came to unite and reconcile the whole of humankind into one family of God, is himself the good news. He presented God to people in the way he loved all, namely, in feeding the hungry, comforting the disturbed, promoting the dignity of the marginalized, healing the sick, giving hope to the hopeless, freedom to the captives, forgiveness to the sinners, justice to the poor and life to the dead.
The Church in India
The Church in India received the gift of faith through St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus. Our Christian faith was nourished and strengthened by the efforts of many great saints such as St. Francis Xavier who is Patron Saint of Missions. We want to emphatically affirm that the Christian faith in India is as old as Christianity. India is what it is today is also due to the contribution of the Church in India.With the evidence of yeoman service rendered by the Church, it is clear that India needs the Church just as the members of the Church continue to love India as they reach out to the very last and the least, in imitation of Jesus our Master. The Church believes that all people are our brothers and sisters as Jesus himself has taught us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22: 39). The empowerment of the poor and the promotion of human dignity are values enshrined in our Constitution and are also cherished by the Church in her mission. The mission of the Church carried out through all her activities has only one aim, to build up our nation on the four essential pillars of peace, that is, truth, justice, love and freedom (cfr. St. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris).
Understanding Authentic Nationalism and Constitutional Secularism
Any attempt to promote nationalism based on any one particular culture or religion is a dangerous position. It may lead to uniformity but never to genuine unity. Such misconceived efforts can only lead our nation on the path of self-annihilation. Mono-culturalism has never been and can never be the right answer to the quest for peace, progress and development, especially in a country like ours that has a rich diversity of culture, language, region, race and religion. Violence always recoils upon the violent sooner or later, “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt 26: 52). We deplore the rising incidence of atrocities against women, killings, caste rivalries and communal violence which includes attacks on Christian institutions and communities. Therefore, let us follow the path of true nationalism that can lead our motherland to true peace, harmony, progress and prosperity. Authentic nationalism respects the human dignity of every citizen, regardless of one’s economic status, culture, religion, region or language.
We wish to urgently call all people of goodwill to uphold the rule of law guaranteed by our Indian Constitution. In a climate of violence, we make an appeal to all our fellow citizens to eschew mob culture and vigilantism in favor of peace. We appreciate and will collaborate with the Government in all its efforts to maintain law and order in our country, to ensure progress and development of all and the protection of the environment. The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi has stated in clear terms that “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough of everyone’s greed”.
The Precious Gift of Human Life
The Christian community upholds the absolute and transcendent value of human life which is a precious gift of God. Therefore, an assault on human life can never be inspired by God nor justified because of the diverse beliefs and practices. Human life of every individual person in our beloved motherland needs to be valued and defended.
The Church’s Mission of Mercy
Mercy that flows out of the heart of God alone, through the cross of Jesus Christ, can heal the wounded human hearts, restore the broken relationships between persons and communities and lift up out of misery those suppressed for centuries. Faced with this precarious situation we the disciples of Christ, resolve to be authentic witnesses of mercy, which is the essence of the Gospel and the manifestation of Christian discipleship. This is witnessed in the gentle hands and wrinkled face of St. Teresa of Kolkata and in the martyrdom of Blessed Rani Maria of Indore.
In our service to the nation, especially to the Dalits, Tribals and other backward classes, we Christians join hands with our fellow citizens to ensure the authentic human development of our people which is measured by the scale of human index, and not merely by economic standards.
Let us all resolve to go beyond narrow domestic walls of every kind in order to establish a truly secular, socialist and democratic nation as is enshrined in the Constitution of India.
To Live in Unity in the midst of Diversity, both within the Church and in the country, we propose the following:
1. To deepen and intensify our Christian life of discipleship at all levels by being a ceaselessly praying community, always living our unity in diversity in accordance with our Trinitarian faith.
2. To strengthen the bonds of communion among the laity, the religious and the clergy and to ensure that communion becomes the way of life for the Church at all levels.
3. To promote and intensify Small Christian Communities (SCCs) and Family Units for the all-round integral formation of the faithful and for inter-religious cooperation, peace and harmony.
4. To accompany families in their evangelizing mission in the world and to make sure that they become the focal point of the pastoral ministry of the Church; to manifest special care and compassion to families in distress and to enlighten our families on responsible parenthood.
5. To imbue our youth with the vision of an authentic Christian Life to enable them to play their role in Church and society; to empower our youth to play an active role in the Church by equipping them with the knowledge of the Word of God and with the teachings of the Church through the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM) and other Catholic Youth Movements; to help our youth to discern and choose the way of life which is the primary theme of the forthcoming Synod on Youth in Oct 2018.
6. To encourage and train our lay people and youth for nation-building through involvement in vitally important areas of our national life such as politics, civil services, defense, law and judiciary.
7. To ensure that formators in our formation houses guide the formees to respect the equal dignity of women and to promote the role of the laity in the life and mission of the Church.
8. To ensure adequate representation of women in all Church bodies.
9. To prepare seminarians, priests and religious to be authentic witnesses of mercy within the Church and society.
10. To seize every opportunity to promote dialogue across religious boundaries; our inter-religious dialogue will become more credible, fruitful and effective if we Christians make every effort to grow in our unity in Christ.
11. To take various initiatives to foster better cooperation among all Christians through dialogue with ecumenical groups and promoting common ecumenical services, common prayers and common endeavours.
12. To make the Constitution of India more widely known in all sectors of Church and society, particularly highlighting some salient features such as the equality of all citizens, the freedom of religion, the freedom of conscience and the freedom of expression.
13. To encourage and motivate our laity to be actively involved in the secular world in order to effectively contribute to nation-building in fulfillment of their proper vocation.
14. To continue to make our service in the field of education a mission of mercy and to implement purposefully the “All India Catholic Education Policy 2007” of the CBCI in order to impart Gospel values.
15. To make Catholic Health Services a mission of mercy and healing that is affordable, compassionate and caring, yet professional, self-sustaining and collaborative.
16. To ensure the implementation of the CBCI Policy of Dalit Empowerment in every diocese, to work for the protection and integral development of the Tribals and Other Backward Classes (OBC’s) and to take special initiatives for the relief and welfare of farmers, fisher folk, migrants and other deprived and exploited communities by providing care, comfort and hope to them in their distress.
17. To increase awareness of the importance of ecology as an integral part of our Christian commitment and spirituality and to take new initiatives to protect the environment and to promote love for Nature; to ensure that every diocese has formulated an environment policy to implement the teachings of Laudato Si, the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis.
18. To create an awareness of the plight of our brothers and sisters in prison and to assist them in their rehabilitation and the care of their families.
19. To ensure transparency in all spheres of the Church’s administration and to stand for the same in society.
20. To set up an effective “think tank” for all our dioceses for taking up urgent matters and earnestly engaging in advocacy with all stakeholders.
The Church “exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God...” (Blessed Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 14). “The Church and theology exist to evangelize, and not be content with a desk-bound theology” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 133). Even as we face many grave challenges and setbacks to the unity in diversity of our country we are proud to be Indian. We love our country as we continue to pray constantly for it and its wellbeing. Our Christian faith gives us hope to move ahead to continue our work for unity in diversity so as to establish peace and harmony and make our country live up to its exalted calling. We entrust ourselves in all that we do for the Church and society, to the loving care of Mary, Mother of Mercy.
Baselios Cardinal Cleemis
Catholic Bishops Conference of India
February 9, 2018