33rd General Body Meeting of the CBCI Begins from February 2 to 9
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), expressed concern on the Dalit issue and urged upon those in power to uphold Constitutional values. Cardinal was speaking at a Press Conference on Wednesday (February 1) prior to the 33rd General Body Meeting of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India being held at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, from February 2 – 9.
Cardinal Cleemis who is also Major Archbishop – Catholicos of the Malakara Catholic Church and the Major Archbishop of Trivandrum elaborating on the theme – ‘United in Diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness’ said our country is a rich nation with the patrimony of diversity. Even the Church in India has diversity of rites and three ecclesial traditions. The diversity is united for Church and nation today. Though unity is seen in its positive aspect, it has gone and grown beyond beliefs. The country’s diversity has contributed to its growth and sustained it gloriously as a united nation in reality despite differences.
India’s richness in culture, customs, habits, tradition and values form part of the Church in India. The deliberations would focus on ‘how we can reflect the Mission of Mercy. Cardinal Cleemis known for his compassion for the weak and needy said the Bishops will look into the aspect that ‘we need to be more sensitive to the poorest of the poor’.
They would also weigh up the value of secularism, democracy and various other affairs needing attention. He stressed the importance of keeping all together for integrity. The Bishops and Church at all times render whole-hearted support to the nation for all to grow in dignity and totality. The Cardinal also felt the necessity of empowering our villages of the country that they may not lag behind in development. The Bishops in India intent and propose to include everyone in ‘the pilgrimage’, finding new method of serving the country. The poor are to be brought to the main stream. This calls for greater commitment to do so. Catholic Church needs to exercise this viewpoint and healthcare mission in India. St. John’s Medical College and Academy of Health Sciences stand testimony to it.
Catholic Bishops need to be empowered in their scene of service to the humanity. The assured commitment to the nation is achieved through prayers and reflection. The CBCI president also felt the need to bring in more commitment from the laity besides bishops and clergy to carry out the mission. The mission includes not only commitment but compassion, mercy, concern, charity, kindness and consideration among others. All these would bring more confidence to serve the nation and all people in a diversified manner. Cardinal Cleemis said, ‘we are committed to the Gospel, to the Pope and to our beloved nation, India.
In reply to queries from the media persons he said the country faces different challenges such as economic poverty, re-integrated Constitution to be safe-guarded, Constitutional values to be guaranteed especially to profess, propagate and practice one’s faith. Humanitarian activities should not be mixed and linked with religion. Our obligation is to ensure all are together. Country has to grow together. We need more attention in people’s need. The enlightened minds of the country are the health and wealth of our nation. Religion should not be a biased entity and people should not be differentiated on religion. If Christians and other persons of minority religions are sidelined, it is on the consideration of vote banks which matter a lot for such parties.
As president of CBCI, he had conversation with people concerned on all those issues raised from time to time. To revitalize India is the need of the time. Cardinal said he was not speaking about one religion alone. Christianity is a dignified religion in the world either socially or any other manner. Even in India, the CBCI with 174 dioceses, 204 active bishops and 64 retired bishops is the fourth largest Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the world, Cardinal said.
Regarding conversion and attacks on Christians in different parts of the country, he said no conversion is unconstitutional. We have judicial system in place if anything illegal and unlawful happens. Accusation is one thing and reality is another. We need bold and confirmed order from persons in power to quell such forces in the country.
Clarifying the issue of Dalits, Cardinal said this should not be based on religion. Dalits belong to different religions and they should not be discriminated against on their practising religion. Diversity is not a block for unity, either on colour, face, languages or place of birth. The consideration should be on one aspect that all are Indians. This is the only way to survive, the Cardinal added.
Cardinal Cleemis also informed the media that the General Body Meeting would begin with solemn Eucharistic Celebration presided over by Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, Apostolic Nuncio to India. Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, would be the chief guest at the inaugural function. He would also address the gathering on the theme “How the Church lives Unity in Diversity in Myanmar.” Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bengaluru would welcome all the bishops. Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President of CBCI, would deliver the presidential address and preside over the whole General Body Meeting. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas would present the biennial report of the CBCI for the year 2016 and 2017.
The General Body Meeting will have three women resource persons, two representatives of the tribals, two from among the Dalits and a representative each from the three ritual Churches. As part of the actual meeting, Fr Francis Gonsalves SJ will give the Keynote address on the theme: “I am with you always, even to the end of the ages” (Mat. 28:20) “United in Diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness.”
Sr. Rekha Chennattu RA and Sr. Renu Silvano OCV will address on “This is to my Father’s Glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (Jn. 15:8) “The Catholic Church in India at the Service of the Good News”.
Prof. K M Francis and Mr Jacob Punnoose (IPS Retd) will talk on “Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. (Rom. 12:12) “The Catholic Church in India, the Harbinger of Hope”.
Fr Barnes Mawrie SDB and Prof. vrginius Xaxa will address on “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4: 8,9) “The Catholic Church in India with the Tribal People”
Fr Maria Arul Raja SJ & Sr. Urmila ICM will address on “Whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mat. 25:40) The Catholic Church in India for the upliftment of the Dalits”
During the Meeting the Bishops will elect the President and two Vice-Presidents for a term of two years. The will also elect the Chairman and Members for the various Offices of the CBCI. Various matters affecting the Catholic Church in India will also come for discussion.
The students of St. John’s Nursing College and neighbouring schools will present a cultural fest for the bishops on February 6 at 7 am.
The bishops will have Mass at 6.45 am every day. The Mass on February 5 will be in the Syro Malankara rite and on February 7, it will be celebrated in the Syro Malabar Rite. The evenings there will be reflections being offered by spiritual leaders from different Christian denominations.
The inaugural Mass and Session can be watched live on the CBCI Website:http://www.cbci.in/liveVideo.htm
The press meet began with a prayer by Bishop Theodore M SFX, Secretary General, CBCI. He also clarified queries on false news particularly on WhatsApp and Facebook. He exhorted all media persons present to be optimistic and practice optimism. Verify the news appearing in social media before forwarding them.
Those present at the Press Conference included Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX, Secretary General, CBCI, Fr Joseph C, Deputy Secretary General and MSGR S Jayanathan, V G, Archdiocese, Bengaluru and Local Media Coordinator, CBCI General Assembly. Msgr Jayanathan proposed a vote of thanks.
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