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India Needs Church and Church Needs India: Indian Catholic Bishops

Feb. 10, 2018

The Indian Catholic Bishops on Friday called for an integral and inclusive development that percolates to every strata of the Indian society.

The nine-day 33rd General Body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) held at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru ended with a call to all people of goodwill to uphold the rule of law guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. In a climate of violence, they appealed to all fellow citizens to shun mob culture and vigilantism in favour of peace.

At the Press Conference, the newly-elected President of CBCI, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay said, “India needs the Church and the Church needs India. No one should doubt Christian loyalty or its commitment to the nation.” CBCI appealed for true nationalism that can lead the country to genuine peace, harmony, progress and prosperity.

Given that Christianity came to India over two thousand years ago, the Cardinal underlined the contribution of the Church in India to nation building and service to all Indians irrespective of religion, region, culture, race or language.

Elaborating further CBCI Secretary General Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX, said, “CBCI desires to continue and intensify their collaboration and partnership with the Government at the Centre and in the states to reinforce our work of nation-building through educational, healthcare and social uplift activities.”

“In service to the nation, especially to the dalits, tribals and other backward classes, the Christians will join hands with all men and women of goodwill, to ensure the integral and holistic human development of our beloved country which is measured by the scale of human index, and not merely by economic statistics,” Bishop Theodore added.

The Bishops urged all Indians, to 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. Dialogue with followers of other religions and with ecumenical groups is the need of the hour.

The Bishops following Jesus their master rededicated themselves to their mission of service and witness: feeding the hungry, comforting the disturbed, promoting the dignity of the marginalized, healing the sic k, giving hope to the hopeless, freedom to the captives, forgiveness to the sinners, and justice to the poor.

During the general body meeting, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay was elected as the New President, Most Rev. Joshua Mar Ignathios Metropolitan Bishop of the Eparchy of Mavelikkara as the First Vice President and Most Rev. George Mar Njaralakatt Metropolitan Archbishop of Tellicherry as the Second Vice President of CBCI for a period of two years. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas SFX continues his three year term as the Secretary General of CBCI.

The nine-day meeting ended with a solemn thanksgiving mass presided over by the New President, Cardinal Oswald Gracias and a Valedictory Function which followed. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, was present at this concluding event. The Theme of the General Body Meeting was: “I am with you always to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20) – “United in Diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness”.

The General Assembly resolved to promote transparency and accountability in society. They plan to encourage and train lay people and youth for involvement in vitally important areas of our national life such as politics, civil services, defense, law and judiciary. The Catholic Church will ensure the implementation of the CBCI Policy of Dalit Empowerment in every diocese, work for the protection and integral development of the tribals and other backward classes (OBCs) and 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.

An important mission to be undertaken by the Church is to work towards increasing the awareness about ecological issues and protection of the environment according to the teachings of Laudato Si, the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis. The Bishops reaffirmed the love of all Christians for our beloved country as we continue to pray constantly for it and its wellbeing. They pointed out that the 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.

The Members of the 33rd General Body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India entrusted themselves in all that that they do for the Church and society, to the loving care of Mary, Mother of Mercy.

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