07/24/2022, 09.48
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The Synod and the Indian Church

by Nirmala Carvalho

From July 26 to 28 the Indian Church gathers in Bengaluru to draft the synthesis that will be sent to Rome after diocesan reflections on the synodal journey. Conversion, new social challenges and the struggle to really listen to the laity and youth: some voices from the path taken so far. 

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Latin Rite Catholic Church of India is meeting July 26-28 in Bengaluru to review the National Synod Synthesis that will be sent to Rome as part of the worldwide journey convened by Pope Francis that will see its concluding moment in October 2023.

The Bengaluru meeting will be attended by 64 delegates from across the country: 15 bishops, 12 priests, 10 religious and 27 lay faithful. The national synod will be presided over by Cardinal-designate Filipe Neri Ferrão, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), in the presence of Cardinal Archbishop of Mumbai Oswald Gracias, Cardinal-designate of Hyderabad Anthony Poola, and Archbishop of Madras and Mylapore Msgr. George Antonysamy.

The national synthesis is the fruit of 132 diocesan syntheses, 14 regional syntheses and the documents drafted by 16 commissions, 7 departments and 4 apostolates of the Bishops' Conference, as well as the reflections offered by the 674 Major Superiors of India's Latin Rite religious congregations.

What did this journey offer the Churches of India? "As bishop emeritus of the diocese of Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, now residing in my home diocese of Goa, I had the privilege of participating in the two-day presynodal meeting of this archdiocese," says Msgr. Alex Dias. "Given our human weakness, which often leads us to take shortcuts in everything we do, I feared that the whole exercise might be forgotten and swept under the rug of oblivion. Is this not what happened to the Second Vatican Council and its 16 precious documents?"

"But our beloved Pope Francis," Msgr. Dias further adds, "has set before us a goal, which we must always strive to achieve and attain: to be a holy Church, aware, as Jesus wants us to be. He has given us his Spirit in whom we form one Church. From the beginning, Pope Francis has called for a Church that recognizes itself as wounded and in need of conversion. Each of us, without exception, must have this conviction. In the past we have often erred with our shortcuts. May the Lord bring us back to the right path, even if it is slow. Together we will walk hand in hand and be the Church the Master wants."

The synod experience was also an opportunity to confront issues that challenge Indian society in very concrete ways. For example, during the synod assembly of the Archdiocese of Mumbai-which brought together 168 priests, religious a and lay people-Father Magi Murzello, rector and administrator of St. Andrew's Educational Foundation, presented an initiative that, in line with the teaching of the encyclical Laudato Sì, aims to involve the Church as well in the goal of reducing the balance of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere to zero.

"In his opening address to the Synod," Fr. Magi explained to AsiaNews, Pope Francis called for 'a Church that does not detach itself from life, but immerses itself in today's problems and needs, bandaging wounds and healing broken hearts with God's balm.' Climate change is already impacting the health, livelihood and infrastructure of India's urban areas, but its impact will be felt most by economically and socially marginalized populations living in informal settlements."

"The Synod is a crucial moment in the life of the Church," adds the Indian priest, "an opportunity for conversion and renewal, and care for creation is central to this journey. Each of us is called to take this journey, as God's people, to make better choices, thinking about the future, becoming aware of some crucial insights. Simple principles of sharing, recycling and reuse could extend the life cycles of so many harmful products."

Above all, however, there remains the challenge of real participation by the entire Indian Catholic community, with a readiness to truly welcome the contribution of the laity. Sr. Dorothy Fernandes, a Presentation Sister for more than 25 years involved in Patna in the most marginalized communities and national secretary of the Forum of Religious for Justice expresses her perplexity : "I am quite disappointed, here in Patna I have noticed little involvement of the laity," she comments to AsiaNews. Pope Francis has been very courageous, but I fear that our Church is not yet ready for this. Unfortunately, too many priests still feel threatened if women religious and laity ask questions. Their training has only taught them to dominate communities, we have idolized hierarchy and structures."

"I think it will take many years for the synod in India to get off the ground," she concludes. "For example, the language and the whole paraphernalia of our liturgical services have to change drastically, we have to be more careful not to leave anyone behind, the laity have to be trained. We are losing our young people: soon we will only have old people and children in church. And I think really the first step as a Church is for all of us to get out of the presumption that we know everything, with priests who are able to listen."



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