“You are citizens like all the saints and part of God’s household” Eph.2.19. These Church citizens of India organizing a national consultation in Pue on Challenges facing families ordered by Pope Francis, humbly call for your sincere participation in person or through mails with your inputs.
Family is the basic brick of society in church, country and world. Societies stay together strong and lasting as long as families – made up of three elements called father, mother and child — continue to image the unbreakable mystery of a triune God (“In God’s image; male and female God created them. God blessed them saying: Be fruitful.” Ge.1.27.) It is to help ensure such stability in families, Pope Francis ordered a survey of families.
In today’s developing theological thinking it is not any more man (single and male) in whom God’s image is seen reflected but in the collective close-knit trinity(man, woman & child) of family, which therefore is called the “Domestic Church.” “It is the man and woman together that are the image of God. This would indicate they are equal to one another. There is no reason to consider one superior to another,” writes Fr. Michael Amaladoss sj, the Indian Jesuit theologian, reportedly under Vatican scrutiny. Vast implications of this equality can be gagged only when seen against Pope Paul VI’s blunt question at Vatican II Council: “Where are the other 50 percent of humanity that is not here?”
But then listen to this: “Man without woman is not fully human. And woman without man is not fully human either. Each without the other is a piece of humanity, incomplete.” It was Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of Vatican Congregation for religious addressing last August the triennial meeting of International Union of Superiors General with a membership of nearly 2,000 leaders of Catholic sisters around the world. Asking the question: What does it mean to be image and likeness of God? He answered:
Domestic Imaging of God
It means men and women are to be together, for they do not image God by themselves but only when they are together. Gender inequality exists in the Catholic church because men and women forget they cannot be “fully human” without one another and so he added, the question of man and woman living together, walking together and working together is something to be delved into and explored more and in a deeper fashion, even among male and female religious.
In families this living together, a de facto reality, results in the birth of a child (“Be fruitful”) as the living embodiment of their mutual love. It completes the visible image of a triune God. It is to protect, promote, prosper, serve and defend this family, also called Domestic Church, from all perils, threats and conflicts that Pope has ordered a two year study of the manifold problems it faces in today’s world.
It is therefore most unfortunate that the Indian Catholic Hierarchy did not respond to Pope’s order with the seriousness it deserves, as did bishops in other countries. In happy contrast it is most fortunate, the stones (laity=church citizens) ignored, rejected or kept out of deliberations of the builders are rising to the occasion to do their little bit – putting out their few loaves and one fish – by way of conducting a survey of their own to quench the hunger of five-thousands of Church citizens in India to respond to Pope’s call. God’s power is being made manifest through the powerless to confound the powerful and arrogant, it looks.
In an article last April: “Pope of Periphery Poll Pews”(Visit: http://sites.google.com/site/jameskottoorspeaking/ to read it) this writer referred to initiatives taken by laity in India in collaboration with Catholic Church Reform International (CCRInt’l) to conduct public surveys, big and small. One such initiative is led by our esteemed colleague Chhotebhai, from Kanpur, working in collaboration with CCRInt’l, to support the efforts of Pope Francis. After studying samples of world surveys and searching for any such survey in India he writers:
“.I got responses from eminent lay leaders all across the country stating that no such Survey had been conducted. The response came from people in the following dioceses: Bombay Archdiocese (the Cardinal’s own), Delhi Archdiocese, Bangalore Archdiocese, Pune Diocese, Ernakulam Archdiocese, Chennai Archdiocese, Allahabad Diocese, Bareilly Diocese and Meerut Diocese. I consider these responses sufficiently representative to state that no Family Survey had been conducted across the 167 dioceses in the country…
“If several countries like Japan, Germany, England, etc could conduct the Survey in the stipulated time frame, why was it not done in India, more so when one of the Pope’s handpicked group of eight advisors is here, and was at the time heading the CCBI? Does this not amount to disrespect for Pope Francis’s stated intentions? Does it also not amount to betrayal of the aspirations of the laity in India, and its families who are the Domestic Church? Has there been a deliberate cover up, to avoid facing embarrassing questions; and presenting a rosy, but grossly distorted picture, to Rome? Unfortunately, the Catholic Church in India, and the universal Church, is the poorer for this.” He has also written to Nuncio Abp Pennacchio in Delhi on May 21st on this matter.
Similarly from a month long correspondence on this matter, published also in Almayasabdam website of the Kerala Catholic Reformation Movement by this writer and others with the Ernakulam centered Syromalabar bishops, to which we could not get any reply, it is abundantly clear no Family Survey was done in Kerala either. Chhotebhai who corresponded with Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai and other Bishops in the north, at least got responses which made it clear no survey was done anywhere in India.
Pope’s Letter to Families
Pope Francis had sent also a personal letter addressed to families on Feb.25th to listen to their raw voices. Indian bishops seem to have covered up this as well from public view although this scribe got it published in Almayasabdam as soon as it came out. When a bishop sends out a pastoral letter to parishes it is expected and automatically read publically in parishes on Sundays. In the present case the Supreme Pastor, Pope Francis sent two letters to be widely circulated and bishops in India it seems, did nothing short of passing the buck to Family commission or others. Then why wonder, if bishops’ pastorals and instructions are ignored by the faithful? Yet “Knock at the doors” of pastors, is what Francis told pilgrims at St.Peter’s square on May 11: “Bother your pastors, disturb your pastors, all of us pastors, so that we will give you the milk of grace, of doctrine, and of guidance.” This is what Church citizens in India are doing instead of ignoring them.
Of course it can also be argued by bishops or others that, time was when Pope was king and emperor of a large papal states, not any more. Now Vatican is reduced to just 108 acres, while many bishops of the 167 dioceses in India especially in Kerala, may own many times that area of landed property. Therefore what is wrong if some say the Pope is on the same footing as the once Great Britton which today has shrunk to become the Little England in the eyes of the world? That may explain why some bishop in Kerala is reported to have said, he doesn’t care what the Pope says. The point here to remember is authority in the church is spiritual and moral. It should not be seen and judged in terms of money power and material possessions because man is not to be measured by foot rule.
It is in this context that a lay initiated national survey is planned in Pune. Small groups of Catholics anywhere in India wishing to make their voices heard at the Papal synod are advised to conduct their own surveys wherever possible and sent in the results to CCRInt’l (info@CatholicChurchReform.com).Even individuals are welcome to send their own views and suggestions directly. The CCRInt’l will collate them all and bring them to the attention of the Extraordinary Synod due coming October. One may never be sure that any suggestion sent through our bishops will ever reach the Synod, just as we can’t expect to receive even acknowledgements to letters sent to them. This will not be the case with the CCRInt.l. So grab the opportunity to make your voices and concerns heard at the Synod. Also share this information with those concerned, acting like a link in the relay race to spread the good news. This is evangelization in our internet age. Equally it is thinking and acting with Pope Francis.
Details for Participation
For the benefit of those who wish to participate in the August Pune consultation, the details are as follows: 1. The Registration Charges for 2 days for twin room sharing, and including all meals, is Rs 1200/- per person. For local participants, or those who can arrange their own accommodation, the Registration Charges, including all meals, are Rs 700/- per person. Participants would have to bear their own traveling expenses. For further information they may contact: Chhotebhai, Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com; Phones: 0512 – 2361363, Mob. 09415130822, Postal Address: Noronha Sadan, 2/11 Krishnanagar, Kanpur – 208007.
After all we all have to go by the accepted principle: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness around.” So let the candles being lit by Church citizens especially from the Domestic Church, illumine the Church in India.
For more information contact : firstname.lastname@example.org, Mob:9446219203