Bangalore: The 30th General Body meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) opened at St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore on February 1. The weeklong biennial assembly is attended by 170 bishops representing 164 dioceses of India. The CBCI has chosen for its theme: “The Church’s role for a better India”.
Presiding over the opening Eucharistic celebration, Apostolic Nuncio to India Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio called for a planned pastoral response to the current challenges society and the church in India is facing today. He urged the need for patient dialogue, charity and openness. He pointed out the shepherding and servant model of Christ. During the inaugural address he recalled the major issues touched upon by Pope Benedict XXVI during the ad limina visit of the bishops of India last year.
CBCI President Cardinal Oswald Gracias welcomed the participants to the plenary assembly and highlighted the relevance of the theme chosen for study and reflection. He described the church as the conscience of the nation. Commenting on the state of the country today Cardinal Gracias said there are two India’s- one comprising of the rich, the affluent , and the other composing of the poor and marginalized. Though a numerical minority, the church, he said, can make a major difference in building a better India.
Archbishop Bernard Moras of the host city, Bangalore, welcomed the bishops and delegates to the city of Bangalore. He touched on the contribution of the church to education and other services in the city, but also spoke of the various challenges faced by the church in Karnataka and elsewhere in India. On the theme of the assembly he said, the church cannot be silent but must come forward with concrete, specific suggestions to address the issue of building a better India. He stressed the need for building credibility, trust, delegation and networking.
Archbishop Albert D’Souza, Secretary General of the CBCI, in his biennial report briefly summed up the major initiatives and progammes of the CBCI during the last two years. He introduced the new bishops of the Conference, and paid tribute to the departed bishops.
Vice President of the CBCI Bishop George Punnakottil read out the messages of the Pope, President of India, the Prefect of the Oriental Churches. The Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone send the message and greetings of Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops’ Conference which said: “His Holiness hopes that your discussions, which will focus on how the Church in India may continue to play a positive ole in the life of the nation, will bear much fruit since the Church assists humanity by “reading the signs of the times and … interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.” President of India Prathibha Devisingh Patil in her message said: “The Church in India has been doing yeoman service in many fields including, education, healthcare and social services over the years. In thr present context, the Church can continue to help in these areas, so that the benefits of economic growth cam have a positive impact o all sections of society, to bring about inclusive growth. I am sure that the Plenary Assembly will deliberate on the ways in which the Church I India can go about implementing these objectives. “The other messages included those from Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. The assembly also felicitated Cardinal -designate Archbishop George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar church.