CBCI Meet....

    The 187 member-bishops of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in their XXXI Plenary Assembly Final Statement at Palai resolved on the following issues:


  2. 1. The Church exercises her mission in a world marked by a tremendous imbalance: a few very rich and the vast majority poor struggling to eke out a living. The Document on the Church in the Modern World, impels the members of the Church to an involvement in the effective social dialogue to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
    – CBCI has to spell out how it proposes to close this ever-widening gap.2. The Council document on the Laity points out that the lay faithful have a specific role in society – that of penetrating and perfecting the temporal order in the spirit of the Gospel.
    – This statement is blurred. Does it mean sharing of the riches of the church including administration of its institutions with the laity – the Co-partner?

    3. Corruption plaguing every sphere of society of our country: In such a scenario, Church institutions must be an example of transparency and probity.
    – CBCI must be complimented on having hit the nail on the head. However for “transparency and probity” first Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) and Parish Finance Committee (PFC) as mandated by Vatican II have to be transparently installed in each parish all across India within a given time-frame. All parishes have to disclose their income & expenses, receipt of donations, disbursal of sponsorship and all assets to their parishioners. How many Catholic institutions will disclose the number of Catholic/Christian students which are far below the norm specified by the Supreme Court of India? Instead of serving our own minority our institutions are promoting the 90% majority who can afford to pay the high fees which most Catholic families cannot afford. A systematic entry-bar is being created by the top-notch missionary institutions to make them a preserve of the elite at the cost of its minority for whose benefit our missionary institutions were founded and “Minority Institution” status and various exemptions obtained from the government.

    4. Participatory structures have been established in several regions, dioceses and parishes. Youth have experienced empowerment through training programs and services.
    – These structures, training programs and instances of empowerment have not been specified to help laity draw upon these resources /success stories. At least in Bengal youth empowerment is just make-believe. Everything depends on the whims and fancies of parish priests. No reliable statistics is available on parish-wise youth development, not even Calcutta Archdiocese.

    5. For this, our liturgies have to be well prepared, participative and meaningful.
    – Most of our liturgies are stereotyped and the sermons clichéd. In today’s age of communication, priests and religious need training in oratory especially public relation skills.

    6. We will so orient the formation of future priests and religious that they enter the ministry with an attitude of humility, ready to serve the poor and marginalized of society.
    – For this there is an urgent need, as Pope Francis said in Rome on 23 February 2014, to undergo a “heartfelt conversion: this is something that all of us – especially you Cardinals and myself – must do. Conversion!” Until and unless cardinals, bishops, priests and religious lead by example, youth participation and vocation will dry up.

    7. We will speak out against all forms of injustice meted out to them (marginalized and exploited) and we will defend their rights. We listened to the call of Pope Francis urging us to “work to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor.”
    – CBCI should enlighten laity on how it intends to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and promote integral development of the poor. In keeping with its statement 5.vi. on Promoting Dialogue, CBCI may consider consulting poverty alleviation expert Dr Ela Bhatt, founder of Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) who said “We need to recognise that poverty is violence. Poverty is perpetuated with the consent of society.”

    8. Ensuring for our lay faithful their rightful place: Recognizing the God-given talents and potentialities of the lay faithful, we will, in the first place, listen more to their voice. Hence, we commit ourselves to establish Pastoral Councils in every diocese.
    – It is presumed every diocese is a typo error and actually means every parish. Strangely there is no mention of Parish Finance Committees without which “transparency and probity in church institutions” will be like buildingcastles in the air.

    9. Stamping out Discrimination against Women: We will do all in our power to enforce discipline so as to ensure a secure environment in our institutions for women and children.
    – For this first Vishaka Guidelines have to be put in place in all our institutions which employ women. Much more needs to be done like teaching children and women child rights, warding off possible disasters and self-defence.

    10. Creating a Christian presence in political and public life. We depend in a special way on our youth, the future leaders of the Church and society. As bishops we realize much more needs to be done for them. We want to embark on intensive programmes for them to enter into the mainstream of public life so as to ensure value-based politics. Hence, we request every region to set up, wherever possible, training centres to prepare the youth for leadership roles in civic and political life.
    – For this we have to identify merit in our youth and assist them through a corpus fund, in professional courses like IAS, Judiciary, CA, MBA, Medicine, etc. Each parish has to set up study centres and centres of excellence. Only with professional qualification tempered with spirituality, our youth can create a niche for itself and serve the nation better in public life.

    Diocese-wise and sector-wise (education, health, housing) mapping of development including areas for improvement would have added objectivity to the CBCI Statement. The bishops must be thanked for their sincere deliberations. Networking would go a long way towards implementation and impact study of the above resolutions.

    Isaac Gomes



  1. Isaac Gomes said,

    March 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Vatican’s Stillborn Survey on the Family

    In December 2013, Vatican City sent a preparatory document and a questionnaire to Catholic Bishops all over the world. The questionnaire (9 questions) was on:
    1. The formation given as per the Church’s teaching on family life
    2. Acceptance by the baptized of the idea of natural law in the union between a man and a woman
    3. Mixed marriage
    4. Pastoral care of the family in Evangelization and in crisis situations, in certain difficult marital situations (separation, divorce and cohabitation),
    5. Perception on family planning
    6. Laity’s view on Union of Persons of the Same Sex
    7. Education and sacramental practice of Children in Irregular Marriages
    8. Fostering of a more open attitude towards having more children
    9. Other Challenges and Proposals.

    In the case of West Bengal, this questionnaire was distributed by bishops to various church action groups including priests and religious and heads of Catholic institutions. Filled in questionnaires were returned to Bishops / Directors of Family Commission by 15th December 2013 for collation of responses and sending by 20th December 2013 to Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) which is headed by Cardinal Oswald Gracias who till February 2014 was also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the national forum of bishops of all three rites. However, the onus of sending the responses to the Vatican rests with CBCI, the Apex Body, of which Cardinal Mar Cleemis is the new President.

    All the responses to the survey, from Catholics all over the world, would be taken up at the Extra-ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome from 5th to 19th October 2014 during discussion of the theme: Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.

    It has come to light from March 07-13, 2014 Editorial in the Herald Kolkata that the Church in India, represented by the CBCI, is not heeding the call of the Pope to get going with the survey on Family. The editor further stated “Is it not a matter of shame that the Church in India has not even started the process of getting the opinion of the ground reality, while several nations have already concluded the process…The reluctance on the part of the Church in India, even while having one of the G8 cardinals under her fold, says a lot on what is in store in the years to come….The survey is the best tool in the hands of the laity to tell the hierarchy the reality at ground zero. One can already assume that the results are not going to be palatable either to Vatican or to the local hierarchy, but the reality cannot be pushed under carpet for too long.”

    The sudden anguish of the Herald Editor is in stark contrast to his editorial style. Even constructive criticism of the establishment by the Laity e.g. continued refusal by some elite missionary institutions of Kolkata to accept minority educational scholarship cheques from the Government, with the Archbishop doing little to help the deprived students, was snuffed out by him and not published.

    The reasons for CBCI sitting on Vatican’sSsurvey on the Family are (1) CBCI knows that Vatican is 7883 Km away from New Delhi, its headquarters and therefore it is virtually impossible for the Vatican to monitor its inactions! (2) Cardinal Oswald Gracias being one of the eight jewels in the Pope’s court, CBCI is in a state of bliss that the Pope will blindly go by whatever the cardinal presents, and will not cross-check with the Indian Laity.

    The FLAW IN THE FAMILY SURVEY was in the administration of the Questionnaire to various action groups through bishops to whom filled in questionnaires were to be returned for “collation” (read dilution) of the responses and sending them to CBCI for another round of refinement before transmission to the Vatican! To be fair, the bishops or Directors of Family Commission need not have scanned the responses and merely acted as collection points. They should have then directly sent all the questionnaires to the Vatican without routing through CBCI. To do this, the bishops might talk of huge costs of printing and postage. But whose cost is it anyway? Even if it Vatican’s cost, it is actually the Laity’s, the actual owners cost! Can one put a cost to transmission loss, the loss of originality of responses due to “collation”?

    Talking of cost and time saving, the Vatican should have opted for on-line survey thereby allowing the Indian laity to give prompt and original feedback. Even now it can salvage the survey by indicating its email ID. It should also reconsider its top-down hierarchical reporting system and resort to cross checking with general laity through its representatives in all dioceses. Only the Nuncio operating form Delhi will be injustice to the growing Indian Christian populace, if one were to go by the report dated December 2, 2013 by Christian News Network ChristianNews.net (Philadelphia, USA).

    It said that Ministries in India were reporting significant growth in the Christian Church among middle and the younger Indian generations. According to Operation World, out of 1.2 billion population 74% of India’s populace identify as Hindu, 14% describe themselves as Muslim, and 6% are Christian. However, with an annual growth rate of nearly 4%, Christianity is the fastest-growing religion in India. According to a statement from The Mission Society, a ministry committed to organizing and supporting Christian mission work around the world, Christianity is emerging at a rapid rate among middle and high caste Indians, as well as young people. Traditionally, Christianity has largely been limited to lower castes in India, so the spread of the Gospel across other cultural boundaries has been encouraging to missions groups. “With more than 71 million claiming Christianity, India is now the eighth largest Christian nation in the world,” Dick McClain, president and CEO of The Mission Society, explained.

    Not surprisingly instead of sweating it out among the growing Christian population, the Indian Church is trying to derail the pope’s plans to bring about transparency in all church matters, through surveys and internal audits! Checks and balances for the Indian Church is a BIG NO NO!

    It was reported that the CBCI Assembly at Palai, came out with run-of-the-mill resolutions, without touching crucial issues affecting the life of the Church in India. The clue lies in Dr. James Kottoor’s Mar 2, 2014 article in Mumbai Laity. People from different quarters including Syro Malabar Church, quoted Pope Francis who said: “the Church should be a communion of all believers — Pope, Bishops and all the faithful.” They asked why they were not part of the Biennial Assembly of the CBCI Palai meet. So the gathering of Bishops alone at Palai was a non-starter and no wonder why critical issues affecting the laity were glossed over.

    However hope springs eternal. Will the young leadership of the new President Cardinal Mar Cleemis pep up CBCI?
    Isaac Gomes


  2. Isaac Gomes said,

    March 17, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    In April 2013, His Grace Thomas D’Souza Archbishop of Calcutta, launched the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission. The Commission is headed by a Coordinator Fr Dominic Gomes, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop being the Chairperson. The mandate is to draw up a comprehensive Diocesan Pastoral Plan at three levels: a Parish Pastoral Plan, a Deanery Pastoral Plan and a Diocesan Pastoral Plan within two years. The Core Committee comprises a mixed group of representatives (priests, Religious men and women, and Laity) selected from across the Archdiocese. The entire process of planning, built on the actual pastoral needs of the Archdiocese, is intended to be from the grass–roots involving maximum participation thereby making it all-inclusive.

    In the above backdrop, the second part of the Pastoral Plan was held on Feb. 1 and 8, 2014 for all the Commission members and the four Deanery teams and there was an article in the Herald (March 14-20, 2014) on the event.

    Given below is Isaac Gomes’ response to the article:

    The article Towards the Making of the Pastoral Plan for Calcutta Archdiocese – Part 17 (Herald March 14-20, 2014), mentioned of Fr Jothi’s pitch for West Bengal Minorities Development & Finance Corporation (WBMDFC) which provides loans for self-employment, educational grants and loans, housing loans and many such facilities to minorities of the state.

    Unsaid was:
    1. WBMDFC Scholarship is given only to meritorious students of Minority Communities
    2. Having annual family income below Rupees One Lakh for Pre-Matric; Rupees Two Lakh Post-Matric (Class XI-Ph.D.) and Rupees Two and Half Lakh Merit-cum-Means (Technical/Professional Courses at Under Graduate / Post Graduate level)
    3. Must be Indian citizens domiciled in West Bengal
    4. Minimum 50% marks in last School/Board/ University final examination.
    5. 30% Scholarship reserved for girl students.

    For Education Loan (Under Graduate / Post Graduate level Technical / Professional courses or short term courses under recognized Institutes) criteria are:

    1. Annual family income below Rupees Eighty-one Thousand in rural and One Lakh Three Thousand in urban areas.
    2. Minimum 50% marks in last Board/ University final examination
    3. Age within 32 years
    4. Guarantors required for selected students.

    WBMDFC conducts Minority Women Empowerment Programmes. It does not give Housing Loans.

    On Fr Jothi’s contention there are virtually no applications to WBMDFC from Christians, statistics reveal otherwise. He is correct WBMDFC schemes are “sparsely disseminated at the Parish level”. Much needs to be done to encourage scholarship applications particularly for professional courses.

    Regarding “how many Catholics have become Ministers, MPs, MLAs”, Leadership is developed from grass-root level. How many sermons are devoted to these issues? How many parishes run study centres to provide a strong foundation in languages, mathematics and science? Or have Centres of Excellence to promote personality development, career counselling (not housie!), cultural and physical development? Even Minority Scholarship has been spurned by several elite missionary schools making a mockery of Right to Education! The issue was discussed with the Archbishop and the matter put in cold storage.

    Isaac Harold Gomes

    Reproduced below is Fr Dominic’s (Vicar General) comments on the above letter to the Herald Editor.

    From: dominic gomes
    To: “clherald@gmail.com”
    Sent: Sunday, March 16, 2014 7:29 PM

    Subject: My reply to Mr. Isaac’s remark on issues of Minority Development in my Archdiocesan Pastoral plan – part 17

    Fr. Julian S.J.
    The Editor
    The Herald

    My reply to Mr. Isaac’s remark on the issues of Minority Development in my Archdiocesan Pastoral plan – part 17

    I think, this is exactly what was intended when Fr. Jothi SJ. touched upon very many issues at a very short time. the Purpose according to him was to stir more questioning and debates which would lead to some positive action.

    I welcome Mr. Issac Herold Gomes, points on WBMDFC and the details for eligibility. We Archdiocesan pastoral core team members (APPCoT) expect these point to be taken up at Parish level for follow up action. We have various commissions in the Archdiocese who would guide our faithful to find ways and means to reach out to these Govt. schemes which we rightly deserve.

    Fr. Jothi’s point is clear,we now have to move from ‘Parish centric’ church for all our needs to assert our rightful place in the society and make the ‘duty bearer’ answerable.

    Mr.Issac Gomes is right on the other points too. The Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan as intended by the APPCot team with Archbishop as the team leader, wishes this process to make the Church relevant, active and a ‘witnessing’ church in the world.

    Many more of such questions from the Faithful, suggestions and collaborative action for a ‘Relevant and faith celebrated Church’ in West Bengal is welcome!

    By :
    Fr. Dominic Gomes


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