Bishops to shape church response to India's challenges

Role of laity, intolerance against minorities to be discussed during meeting
Bishops to shape church response to India's challenges

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis speaks to reporters on March 2, the first day of a weeklong Catholic Bishops' Conference of India meeting being held in the southern city of Bangalore. ( photo) reporter, Bengaluru
March 3, 2016
India's Catholic bishops and top church officials are to discuss how the church can tackle challenges that affect it and the nation.

The first challenge comes "from within" the church and the second refers to what "we face as a secular country," said Indian bishop's conference president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis of Trivandrum while speaking at the biennial plenary assembly that started March 2 in the southern city of Bengaluru.

Bishops will seek ways "to rededicate ourselves as a community having faith in God," Cardinal Cleemis said. They will also discuss challenges to consecrated life, Catholics moving to Pentecostal sects, the role of laity and families in the church's mission and working towards becoming a church of the poor.

The bishops will also discuss secularism, cultural plurality and the need for better interreligious dialogue in the country, the cardinal said.

Hard-line Hindu groups have been accused of stoking a climate of intolerance against minority religions and cultures.

Without naming any political party or organization, Cardinal Cleemis said pluralism "is the culture of our nation and if it faces challenges, it is for us to stand together" to help the country successfully deal with it.

Cardinal Cleemis said Hindu and Muslim scholars and social experts will address the meeting "and it will help us identify challenges" and "formulate our responses."

The church "surely has a view but we wish to shape it" through our deliberations and upon "hearing other viewpoints" during the meeting, he said.


Watch Cardinal Baselios Cleemis talk to the media about the weeklong meeting in this video.


Archbishop Andrew Thazhath of Trichur, the first vice president of the conference, said challenges the nation faces include poverty, sickness and illiteracy.

While explaining how the church responds to national social challenges, Archbishop Thazhath said that the church takes care of "18 percent of rural education and some 30 percent" of people living with HIV in the country.

The church takes "an inclusive approach" without excluding any person on the basis of their religion or caste, he said.

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The conference's secretary-general, Archbishop Albert D'Souza of Agra, said the church is both a spiritual body and social organization.

"We seek the wounded but reach out to them with healing in order to build a better society," Archbishop D'Souza said.

About 180 Indian bishops are attending the meeting.

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