UCA News


Retreat Centers Welcome Bishops´ Decision To Check Retreat Activities

Updated: December 20, 2007 05:00 PM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Share this article :

Some retreat preachers in Kerala have welcomed a plan of regional bishops to develop guidelines to make sure charismatic retreat centers do not deviate from Catholic teachings.

"We welcome the decision to have guidelines for the charismatic retreat centers," said Father Augustine Vallooran, who directs English retreats at Divine Retreat Centre, one of Asia´s largest retreat centers.

The Vincentian priest told UCA News on Dec. 19 the bishops´ decision will help end the bishops´ apprehensions about retreat centers in the southern Indian state, where the charismatic movement began about 30 years ago.

At the end of the annual meeting of the Kerala Catholic Bishops´ Council, held Dec. 12-13, an official announced the bishops´ plan to issue guidelines that would impact all Catholic retreat centers in Kerala within three months.

"It´s good for all," commented Father John Kakkat of Chittoor Retreat Centre, which functions under Ernakulam-Angamaly Syro-Malabar archdiocese.

The council brings together 31 bishops from the three rites that constitute the Catholic Church in Kerala. The Latin rite, introduced by European missioners in the 16th century, has 11 dioceses. The Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara, both of them Oriental Churches that follow the Syrian liturgy, have 15 and five dioceses, respectively.

After announcing the plan, Father Stephen Alathara, the council´s deputy secretary, told UCA News the bishops have formed a commission to study how retreat centers are functioning. He said many of Kerala´s approximately 1,000 Catholic retreat centers operate without the knowledge of Church authorities and their preaching sometimes deviates from authentic Catholic teachings. The state has about 6 million Christians in a population of 31 million.

Father Alathara said controversy involving one retreat center forced the bishops to pay attention to these centers. "Control is necessary," he added.

Father Paul Thelakat, the Syro-Malabar Church spokesperson and a retreat preacher, said the bishops worry that some charismatic centers are "sowing the seeds of Pentecostalism" among Catholics. "There is a feeling" several centers preach "a health-and-wealth Gospel" that promotes a "consumer spirituality" and in many cases deviates from authentic Catholic teachings, he said.

Such preaching sometimes denies "rationality in faith matters, giving undue stress to wonders and healings, leading to superstitions," and sometimes such preachers interpret Scripture out of context, he pointed out.

Father Thelakat estimates about 15 percent of Catholics In recent years have joined Pentecostal Churches. Kerala´s bishops, fearing laypeople may equate the charismatic movement with Pentecostalism, wish to "guide and direct these centers in the true spirit of the age-old tradition of the Church," he said.

One Catholic charismatic leader says the guidelines should not control such centers. Thomas Devaprasad, a journalist-turned-charismatic leader, told UCA News "strict control" would "kill the spirit of charismatic movement." He said he welcomes the plan, but the guidelines should be "positive, not negative."

Devaprasad also said he is against bishops "institutionalizing charismatic movement." If it aims to interfere in the daily administration and activities, it would destroy the centers, he warned. Retreat centers in Kerala manage without "any financial help" from dioceses, he said, and the guidelines would choke these centers if they are meant to control funds flowing to the centers.


Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Mission in Asia - Contribute to help UCA News
Mission in Asia - Contribute to help UCA News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia