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Indian theologians discuss ’uniqueness’ of Christ

Church struggles in presenting Christ as ‘only savior’ in a multi-religious context

  • Francis Rodrigues, Mangalore
  • India
  • January 26, 2011
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Indian theologians and bishops have told a Vatican-sponsored colloquium about the Church’s struggle in presenting Christ as the "unique and only savior" in a multi-religious context.

A team from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) led by its prefect Cardinal William Levada met with a group of theologians and bishops of India Jan. 16-19 in Bangalore.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), apprised about the struggles of the Indian Church in a paper.

Twenty-six theologians attended the program where 29 Indian bishops and the six-member CDF team were present.

Cardinal Gracias explained the religious, social, cultural and economic situation of India where Christians form only 2.3 percent of 1.2 billion Indians.

It is a "struggle" to proclaim Christ meaningfully before followers of other religions and tribal religions so that they "understand, accept and follow Jesus," the Indian Church leader said.

Cardinal Gracias urged the Vatican to appreciate and encourage the work of theologians to communicate Christ to those "who have a different world-view, religious and philosophical convictions from that of the traditional Christian world-view."

Jesuit theologian Father Errol D’Lima, in his paper, explained there could not be universal understanding of doing theology because of the challenge of pluralism.

He stressed the need to appreciate Christian traditions, proclaiming the Christian message in the civic life and the need for accelerating dialogue as understood by Vatican II.

Another Jesuit theologian Father Michael Amaladoss in his paper said since "the Church is not bound to any particular culture it can draw from cultures elements compatible with its faith."

His paper pointed out that all theology is contextual and "this is also true of Indian Christian theology."

Carmelite of Mary Immaculate Father Sebastian Athappilly emphasized the need of proclaiming Jesus Christ as the unique and universal savior.

He noted that some seemed to have watered down this "uniqueness of Jesus Christ" in the context of religious pluralism. However, he did not explain how this uniqueness of Christ could be communicated in situations that question this position.

Salesian Father Dominic Veliath, a theologian, suggested the Church’s attitude and lifestyle must reflect the teachings of Christ to communicate Christ.

Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune, who heads the CBCI’s Doctrine and Theology Commission, wants theologians to consider the "faith of the entire people of God" in doing theology.

Archbishop Luis Ladaria, CDF secretary, in his paper asked theologians to "affirm the faith of the Church rather than personal opinions."

However, mere repetition of what the Church teaches does not offer a service to the Church, he explained. The theologian, according to him, is called to have "a humble audacity at the same time openness to objective discussion, fraternal dialogue and readiness to modify one’s own opinions.”

A paper also was presented reflecting on a 1989 CDF letter: On Some Aspect of Christian Meditation (Orationis Formas)

While asserting aspects of Christian meditation, the CDF had criticized some eastern forms of mediations as "erroneous ways of praying."

Father Mathew Vellanickal in his paper, “Orationis Formas in an Indian Context” said the self-redemption theories propounded by some types of Eastern meditation techniques were incompatible with the Catholic faith.

Indian Theologian Association president Father Jacob Parappally told ucanews.com that “lively exchange of views and opinions” followed presentation of each paper.

"There was an atmosphere of cordiality, openness and mutual respect in seeking the truth together," he added.

 

Related reports
Vatican group looks at role of Indian theologians 
Living the Eucharist in Asia

 

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