Card Gracias highlights Amoris Laetitia's responses to the challenges of the Indian family

Delegates from 41 dioceses attend national symposium. A "growing cultural, ideological, social and spiritual crisis” makes families feel like "a burden". There is a “spiralling rate of atrocities and violence against women” who, along with children, are victims of trafficking and exploitation. Couples in crisis "require a constructive response” because the Church never condemns anyone for eternity.


Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Delegates from 41 Indian dioceses came together at a three-day national symposium on ‘Understanding Amoris Laetitia in the Indian Situation’. The meeting was held at St Pius X College in Mumbai from 13 to 15 October.

Participants focused on the vital role the family has to play in evangelisation since it is the first place where faith and culture are learnt. For this reason, the pastoral priority must be given to the evangelisation of marriage and family based on Catholic teachings, most recently highlighted in Amoris Laetitia, in a society like India’s facing many decisive challenges.

In his address, Card Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) and head of the Federation of Asian Bishops, noted that if “Every family is to be seen as a gift from God and the privileged environment where children ‘are enabled to be born with dignity, and to grow and develop in an integral manner’, the same family today faces “a growing cultural, ideological, social and spiritual crisis faced [. . .] due to the negative influence of the mass media, the hedonistic culture, relativism, materialism, individualism, secularism, atheistic ideologies and an excessive and selfish liberalization of morals. [. . .] The drastic decline in spiritual and moral values in society and the rapid growth of secularization is constantly threatening the very existence and survival of the family and of civilization itself.”

Everyone should what they need to live

Unfortunately, many families “are considered a burden. Many of them live in the periphery and outskirts and struggle to survive. Many of them belong to different vulnerable groups. For example, it is sad to note that exploitation and oppression of Dalits still persist in our country. We have a duty in solidarity to assist all of them so that they can have access at least to the basic essentials of life. "The family needs to have a home, employment and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all. When society and public policy are not committed to assisting families in these areas, they deprive themselves of an essential resource in the service of peace". India has a spiralling rate of atrocities and violence against women, honour killings, dowry deaths, acid attacks, female foeticide, gender abuse, gender discrimination, trafficking and exploitation and commodification of women and children. Further, street children in India are not cared for and supported by their families and their loved ones, mainly because of their difficult economic situation; they do not have sufficient food and water to survive. Many of them are sexually, physically and mentally abused by their parents, and living on the streets makes them vulnerable to being further exploited to child labour and prostitution. The sexual abuse of children as Amoris Laetitia observes, is all the more scandalous when it occurs in places where they ought to be safer, particularly in families, schools, communities and Christian institutions.’”

Card Gracias noted that the Church has always condemned the voluntary destruction of nascent life, and that for her, men and women have equal dignity “since the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, [whilst] the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace." This found expression in “the recently promulgated CBCI guidelines for sexual harassment in the workplace,” child protection, and Dalit empowerment. “Amoris Laetitia asks for the promotion of the rights of women and speaks strongly against the shameful ill-treatment to which women are sometimes subjected and the various forms of enslavement and domestic violence, and verbal, physical and sexual violence that women endure in marriages.”

The Church does not condemn anyone for eternity

A new challenge for families comes “the New Artificial Reproductive Technologies,” which “present grave ethical problems. Many childless couples craving to have a child resort to in vitro fertilization which often involves the deliberate destruction of human embryos. The artificial means of procreation is also chosen by couples for genetic selection,” including the “destruction of embryos, which is destruction of human life and hence unacceptable. Amoris Laetitia puts it very clearly that the technological revolution in the field of human procreation has introduced the ability to manipulate the reproductive act, making it independent of the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. In this way, human life and parenthood have become modular and separable realities, subject mainly to the wishes of individuals or couples.”

In addition, there are many situations today, like common law relationships, marriage between divorcés, and the suffering of married people going through troubled times. “Amoris Laetitia clearly points out that ‘all these situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to the full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel. These couples need to be welcomed and guided patiently and discreetly’. Further, pastoral efforts to strengthen marriages is more important today than ever before. In this regard we need to take a relook at our marriage preparation and marriage enrichment programmes in our dioceses and see how they can be applied in the light of today's challenging marital situations. Pope Francis succinctly states that ‘the way of the Church is not to condemn anyone but for ever but to pour out the balm of God's mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.’”

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