Saturday, January 13, 2007

XIX CCBI Plenary Assembly Moments

Ruminating on the Memories of XIX Plenary Assembly: Concluding Statements

By Sr. Benigna Menezes

January 12, 2007 (CCBI News):

The XIX Plenary Assembly that was held in Alwaye from January 4-9, 2007 was indeed a great success. 123 bishops from India attended the national meeting held in the St. Joseph's Pontifical Seminary, Carmelgiri, Alwaye. Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil, Archbishop of the diocese of Verapoly welcoming the bishops from all over India to his archdiocese described the history of Kerala Church, which had its first origin in 1657.

He said, "In the chequered history of the Church in Kerala, the Archdiocese of Verapoly occupies an important place. It had its origin in 1657, with the arrival of the Carmelite Missionaries sent by Pope Alexander VII."

The Catholics of Latin and Syro-Malabar rites of the present Kerala state and beyond were under its jurisdiction.

Originally known as the Vicariate of Malabar, when the Hierarchy of India was established, it was raised to the status of Archdiocese of Verapoly in 1886.

In 1887, the Syro-Malabar Church was separated from the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Verapoly.

Indeed, during the six days of the Plenary Assembly in the diocese of Verapoly, in Alwaye, the participants felt the special unction of the Hoy Spirit that was present in this ancient, mother of all the Churches of India. The encounter was highlighted especially when the bishops, archbishops and cardinals each were received at Vallarpadam Sanctuary at the public reception ceremony.

An individual family of Verapoly diocese had adopted a bishop each. After months of prayer and sacrifice, they had come to receive him with a gift and flowers. Holding hands of the bishop in welcome and taking him down the aisles of the assembly to dress up for the mass was a moving sight, a reminder of the early Christian family Eucharist.

There was a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit in the Assembly. The President, Archbishop Oswald appealed to the members of the CCBI to heed to the cry of anguish of the laity to give them the right place in the Church. The bishops felt that it was Christ himself who having brought them together was asking them to empower the laity to make the Church vibrant and functioning in our country.

"What can we do and what more can we do for our laity", asked the Secretary General in his homily giving emphasis to the question by repetition, on the last day of the plenary. The Apostolic Nuncio stressed that the vocation of the laity is within them and will surface when they meet Christ and are transformed by this God experience.

At the end of the Plenary Assembly, a concluding statement was prepared based on the yearlong nationwide study conducted through the questionnaire on a random-sample basis on the theme "The Role and Vocation of the laity in the mission of the Church in India."

The hierarchy of the nation said in one voice that the question about the role and mission of laity is vital in importance to the Church as well to the society. Through faith and Baptism the lay faithful are united to Christ as members of His body, becoming, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people" (1 Pt. 2:9).

The Plenary Assembly felt that the prime and fundamental vocation of the lay faithful is the call to holiness. According to Pope John Paul II, the universal call to holiness is the basic charge entrusted to all sons and daughters of the Church, they said. "Come closer to Christ," said the Apostolic Nuncio in his opening message during the Plenary Assembly.

The lay faithful not only belong to the Church but they are the Church stated the Holy Father in Christi fidelis laici.(CL No 9), he said. The Plenary Assembly also stressed the missionary call of the faithful as missionaries in the temporal world.

The inputs, panel presentations, and group discussions enabled the prelates to note the following factors: The vast communication network and globalization has affected the moral and cultural values of people.

As a result, their hunger for the Word of God and for a God-experience has increased among them.

They need a solid formation in faith and theology because there is so much to be learnt in the Christian life on a daily basis and the faith content is difficult for the common man to grasp, the bishops discussed.

There is also the most neglected part of the humanity: the women: consecrated and the laity all are non-ordained and are part of the laity.

They also paid attention to the mushrooming of the many ecclesial movements and associations who out of their inner call have grouped themselves to carry out specific charitable or missionary activities in the church.

As the bishops discussed further they understood that each region in India is different and every region is a continent that needs specific answers.

The ancient Church of Kerala, Goa, Mangalore and so on is different than that of the Church in North East or Andhra where new people are entering the Church on an everyday basis. So every region was asked to jot down their specificities and work out a pastoral plan to form and empower the laity to have the rightful place in the Church.

The region wise committees decided to train the clergy and religious right at the formation period to consider laypersons as responsible collaborators of their apostolate. They also decided within two years to prepare participatory structures envisaged in Canon Law such as pastoral councils and finance committees both at the Parish level and the Diocesan levels wherever they do not exist.

Promoting the small Christian communities would make the Church truly participatory said the various committee reports.

Establishing a comprehensive catechesis is the need of the hour, they felt.

Teaching the Word of God and the Bible wherever possible is the felt need of those who have just returned from the Charismatic retreats or living among the other denominations, or those who have a high spiritual thirst.

Every Parish would set up a certain amount of funds for the formation of the laity to be competent as collaborators in the Parish ministry, the bishops decided.

Spirituality of the laity is another aspect that emerged because in the midst of mundane affairs there is no guidance in societies where Christianity is only a minority and does not have a dominant role in the political and social sphere.

However, encouraging and empowering the lay ministries in liturgical sphere is very much needed. Preparing lay leaders as deacons, communion ministers, preachers, prayer group leaders, acolytes and other minor functions in the liturgical services of the Church is very much part of sanctifying the laity in the ambit of the Church.

The bishops also decided to have an evaluative and monitoring system suited to the region/diocese to express their earnestness in ensuing implementation of the decisions taken at the Plenary Assembly.

The planting of a sapling in the garden of Carmelgiri by every individual bishop was a symbolic gesture of earth connectedness and an investment for a better environment. The Church in India is eco-sensitive the bishops affirmed as they happily planted the trees in celebration of life at the banks of the river Periyar thus making the XIX immortal in the annals of history.

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