Thursday, February 16, 2006

BANGALORE: CBCI GBM 2006 - Final Statement


St. Peter’s Seminary, Bangalore

Catholic Education
the Church’s Concern to the Marginalized

We, 160 Bishops of India, gathered at St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary, Bangalore, for the 27th General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), from 8th - 15th February 2006, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, spent three days of our meeting in prayer, reflection and discussion on the theme: Catholic Education and the Church’s Concern for the Marginalized”. We were very ably assisted by the Conference of Religious of India (CRI). Besides, the Catholic Council of India (CCI) had also discussed this theme during its Plenary Assembly, and shared with us its recommendations. At the end of our deliberations, we address this Message to our faithful and to all people of goodwill.

1. Education has always been an important part of the Church’s mission. The Vatican Council Document on Education states: “The Church as a mother is under an obligation to provide for her children an education by virtue of which their whole lives may be inspired by the Spirit of Christ. At the same time, she will offer its assistance to all peoples for the promotion of a well-balanced perfection of the human personality, for the good of society in this world and for the development of a world more worthy of man” (Gravissimum Educationis, 3).

2. Keeping in mind the words of Jesus that He has come to give life and life in abundance (John 10/10), education, from the standpoint of Christian faith, aims at the all-round formation of the human person with a view to empowering the person to create a society inspired by the Gospel values of service in love, peace rooted in justice and fellowship based on equality. This education is meant to lead a person to an ever-greater openness to the transcendent – for us Christians to God become one-of-us in Jesus Christ. Hence, one of the important aims of Catholic education is faith-formation, deepening the Christian’s commitment to Jesus in His Church.

3. The Church in India has been striving to impart this all-round formation in various ways and various fora. In a special way, the Church is doing so through her network of educational institutions. At present, the Church conducts 20,370 educational institutions in India. According to statistics available to us from a recent survey conducted in preparation for the CBCI Meeting, 58.5% of these institutions are in the rural areas and 54.4% of students in our institutions are girls. It is significant that the vast majority of our students are children of other faiths. By imparting a sound character formation and by striving to promote harmony, understanding and a quest for excellence through our educational institutions, the Church renders a service not only to Christians, but also to the nation as a whole.

4. Along with our educational institutions, our Diocesan Social Service societies are doing much work in the field of non-formal education. Several Christian NGOs are involved in educating the physically handicapped and others who need special attention.

5. While the Church in India has reason to be grateful to God for its achievements in the field of education, we felt the need of a greater focusing of the Church’s educational efforts in view of the situation prevailing in the country wherein millions of people are getting increasingly marginalized.

6. By ‘marginalized’ we refer specially to dalits, tribals and economically weaker sections of society, the migrants and displaced, the girl-child, slow learners and differently-abled people. Marginalization has been a phenomenon in our country from very early days, especially as a result of the caste-system. Caste discrimination still continues in our country, and sadly has its repercussions on the Church. As bishops, we re-iterate our strong condemnation of this as sinful. Marginalization has been further increased by various factors, the latest being globalization as a result of which millions of people are rendered poor and deprived of the basic necessities of life.

7. Education is the key to empowering the marginalized so that they can enjoy their God-given dignity. The government’s educational effort should, in a special way, be concentrated on the weaker sector of the people. Hence, we strongly urge that government funding in this area be greatly enhanced, and that government make available to the underprivileged facilities to get the benefits of a quality education. The Church, on her part, as always, will fully cooperate with the Government in this effort.

8. As Church, in imitation of Jesus who made a preferential option for the poor, we commit ourselves to focus particularly on the marginalized to enable them to take their rightful place in the life of the country and make their contribution to the progress of the nation. Hence, as a body, the CBCI has decided:

Ø 1. to ensure that every Catholic child has a place in our educational institutions. No Catholic child, dalit/tribal or otherwise, should be deprived of quality education because of a lack of means. We keep in mind that a Catholic School has a special obligation to cater to Catholic children.

Ø 2. to establish more hostels/boarding houses, especially in rural areas, since these have proved very effective in imparting a sound education to the marginalized.

Ø 3. to ensure that every Catholic educational institution has a special concern for the marginalized, especially the girl-child. If necessary for this, modification will be made in our admission policy. Those disadvantaged, socially, physically or intellectually, will be specially assisted so that they can be integrated into the educational system. We make this preferential option, even if in this process academic results suffer. All Catholic schools whether run by our dioceses, the religious, corporate bodies or individuals, are expected to participate in this project. We deplore all attempts to commercialize education. In particular, we will not accept capitation fees. We urge Government to lay down a just fee structure so as to obviate the need of taking capitation fees and other donations.

4. to identify talented children from the marginalized communities with a view to preparing them for higher and professional education. Among them, we hope to train a select group for social and political leadership.

5. to make this possible, dioceses and religious congregations will set aside funds. Well-established schools should support economically weaker ones.

9. All our institutions will immediately start implementing these proposals. Further, with a view to giving our educational apostolate a decided thrust towards the marginalized, this General Assembly of the CBCI lays down that within a year, a National Education Policy for the Church be drawn up, taking into account the deliberations at this Meeting. The CBCI Commission for Education and Culture is hereby entrusted with this task. In the preparation of this Policy, it will take the help of SC/ST/BC Commission and the Justice, Peace and Development Commission as well as the CRI and others engaged in education. Once this Policy is approved, all the educational institutions are expected to implement it. The Policy will contain a Monitoring System to ensure its implementation.

10. On the occasion of this General Assembly, the bishops would like to address some specific groups:

o 1. To the parents: you are the first educators of your children. Our institutions exist to assist you in fulfilling your God-given responsibility and need your whole-hearted cooperation. We urge you to use all the facilities we offer to carry on your mission.

o 2. To our priests, religious and lay faithful involved in the management of our educational institutions; to the principals and teachers: we are deeply appreciative of your dedicated efforts to bring the best out of our children, especially those who need more assistance. We encourage you to continue your dedicated service despite obstacles.

o 3. To all our students: you are the hope of society and the future of the nation. Make full use of the opportunities offered by our institutions to help you grow, live a fuller life and build a better tomorrow for all including those less fortunate than you.

o 4. To our lay faithful who in various ways aid our people, financially and otherwise, in the process of education, we express our sincere gratitude. Continue to be involved in this process for the service of our people.

o 5. To all people of goodwill: we invite you to join hands with us in the building up of our nation. India has great potential. Together we can make it happen.

6. A special word to those who suffer any form of discrimination: Deeply pained by the unjust situation in which you are, the Church commits herself to make concerted efforts, together with you, to combat this injustice and create a brighter tomorrow for all of us.
Building a New India, where every child is educated, where the marginalized are empowered, where the educational system seeks to transform society, is our dream. We are confident that with the help of God, the dedicated service of our priests, religious and lay faithful, and the collaboration of all, this dream will become a reality. May Mary, Seat of Wisdom, help us in this endeavour.

Bangalore, 15th February 2006

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