By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis has sent his blessings to India’s Latin-rite bishops, wishing their plenary assembly bear much fruit in the service of their faithful, helping them to grow in faith and charity.
“His Holiness sends fraternal greetings to you and your brother Bishops gathered on this occasion, and invites you ‘to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ... an openness to letting Him encounter [you]… unfailingly each day" (Evangelii Gaudium, 3),” wrote Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin in a message sent on behalf of the Pope to the bishops. The message was addressed to Cardinal Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), the association of India’s Latin-rite bishops.
Faith and charity with joy and generosity
The 31st plenary assembly of the CCBI, January 7 to14, at the Joe Animation Centre of the seaside town of Mahabalipuram in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state, has as its theme, “Evangelii Gaudium”, or “The Joy of the Gospel”, the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis on the Church’s primary mission of evangelizations in the modern world.
The Pope “prays that your discussions may bear much fruit in your service of God's people, as they strive to grow in faith and charity,” said Card. Parolin’s message that was read to the bishops by CCBI vice president, Archbishop George Antonysamy of Madras-Mylapore. “Fortified by a deepened personal relationship with the Saviour, and sustained by the grace of the sacraments, may all the faithful in India live out their vocation joyfully and generously,” the message read.
Needs of humanity
The Apostolic Nuncio to India and Nepal, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro presided over a solemn Eucharistic celebration on Jan. 8 to inaugurate the working sessions of the CCBI plenary assembly. "There is a need for the Church to attend to the needs of humanity, which is the joy of the Church in living the Gospel,” he told the assembly.
The bishops are chalking out detailed programmes and action plans to revitalize the ministry of love and compassion of the Church at the diocesan and parish levels. They are also examining the present situation of the Church in India.
Archbishop Diquattro said that the CCBI assembly “is not the gathering of the hierarchies of the Church in India; rather it is a gathering for the witness to the nation. Our unity, collaboration and oneness should prove to the nation that we witness the Joy of the Gospel by our life."
In his address, Cardinal Gracias appealed to the Church in India to revitalize evangelization which he said should be full of life and full of love for
CCBI’s inaugural session began with the lighting of the lamp by Church dignitaries.
CCBI secretary-general, Archbishop Anil
Bishop Neethinathan Anthonisamy of Chingleput who is hosting the CCBI plenary assembly explained that the CCBI meeting was taking place in his diocese that is home to part of St. Thomas Mount, the holy hill where St. Thomas the Apostle is believed to have been martyred.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) is the apex body of the Catholic Church in India that includes bishops of India’s 3 ritual Churches – the Latin (CCBI) and the two eastern rites, the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara. With 132 dioceses and 189 bishops, the CCBI is the largest bishops’ conference in Asia and the fourth largest in the world.
During the plenary assembly, the bishops will elect new office bearers.