Institute of Missiology and Communications
Pune – India
November – 2009
India: Indian Mission Congress
Indian Mission Congress (Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav) opened at Goregaon’s St Pius X College in Mumbai. Joining more than 100 bishops, hundreds of men religious, sisters and lay people from India’s 160 dioceses in representation of the country’s three different rites, Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankar. Card. Varkey Vithayathil, President of CBCI, said that together, all three Churches pulled off something that represents an "historic event", a four-day congress (14-18 October) on "Let your light shine".
Most Rev. Thomas Dabre, bishop of Pune said, "Only when we have joy in the faith can we be true evangelizers." Indeed, the "true missionary is the one in whom the Messenger becomes the Message." Christians "must embody the message we have to proclaim" so that it can become "our identity." "The life of faith, worship, and prayer is not to be only in the Church or private but should influence and shape the public, socio-economic and the entire temporal sphere which should be consistent with the Christian faith" he said (asianews.it).
India: Khrist Bhaktas
About 30,000 Hindus and Muslims from different castes are united by the same devotion for Jesus. They belong to the Khrist Bhaktas, a spiritual movement generated by the service rendered by the Indian Missionary Society (IMS) in Varanasi, India. The history of these "Devotees of Christ", the literal translation of the movement’s Hindi name, fascinated the 1,500 delegates who attended the recently concluded Indian Mission Congress. It also raised many questions. Fr. Anil Dev, a delegate for the IMS, told the story. For the past 17 years, he has lived at the Matridham Ashram in Varanasi, the Khrist Bhakta Centre, and described his experience among the Devotees of Christ.
How was Khrist Bhakta born? "The movement is the result of the Satsangs (prayer meetings) held at the Ashram in 1993-1994. At present, at least 4,000 people come every Sunday to attend such meetings out of about 30,000 members of this devotional movement, more than the total number of Catholics in the diocese. Most Khrist Bhakta members come from a reality of spiritual and social bondage; many suffer enslavement in a patriarchal society. Ours is primarily a movement of spiritual liberation. Encountering the Gospel is a life-changing experience; it gives a new identity, a culture of prayer and brotherhood that transforms people and the society in which they live."
What draws these "devotees"? People find inspiration in the person of Jesus and his teachings. They are attracted to his suffering and his love for the poor. The experience of expressive praying, especially in community, which is not in the mainstream Hindu religious system, is a new experience that gives them a sense of freedom and contentment. Many of the Khrist Bhaktas suffer social obstacles and often ostracism and here relate to a personal and living God. They experience the freedom of a relationship, free from fear, with a Father who unconditionally loves as opposed to deities who need to be propitiated (asianews.it).
India: Media Education is Evangelization
“As Cardinal Avery Dulles says, If ‘Church is communication’ then media education is also evangelization in the sense it tries to educate people to discover the presence of God in the media by critically guiding and educating them,” says Executive Secretary, CBCI Commission for Social Communications, Fr. George Plathottam. “The students in our institutions, the faithful in our parishes need media education. Media education also helps us to move out of the instrumentalist approach to communication to the larger world of the media that profoundly influence society and people, particularly the young,” explained Fr. Plathottam during Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav on 16 October at Mumbai (donboscoindia.com).
India: Divisions among Christians, Obstacle to Evangelization
Divisions among Christians are an obstacle to evangelisation, a problem common to all believers in Jesus, this according to Bishop Felix Machado, a former under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. "The World Council of Churches is a body with over 300 members, Protestant and Orthodox Churches. It was founded in 1948 and its headquarters are in Geneva," but the "Catholic Church is not member," said Msgr. Machado, who is one of the Holy See delegates to the JWG. "In every country, there are National Council of Churches (e.g. the National Council of Churches of India or NCCI). The Catholic Church is not a member, but ties are very friendly," he added.
What are the ecumenical movement’s challenges and concerns, especially with regards to India, where many Protestant groups are accused of "conversions"? The word Protestant should not be immediately applied to every ‘store front church’ or ‘every little group’ that calls itself Christian. These must be considered apart. The World Council of Churches is a very credible and important body in the world. The ecumenical movement was born among Protestants, mainly because of missionary work.
A mission congress was called by all the Protestant Churches for Edinburg in 1910. Out of that Congress, the idea of Ecumenism, the idea of the Unity of all Churches, emerged. It was an important event in the history of the Churches and next year it will be celebrated with many meetings and activities. The Church, which is the body of Christ, cannot remain divided. This is a contradiction and goes against the wish of Christ himself who, before he was crucified, prayed "they may be one" and which the Servant of God John Paul II used to title his encyclical Ut Unum Sint - That they may be One (asianews.it).
India: Hindus and Christians for Peace in Orissa
Young Hindus and Christians, of different groups gathered for a few days at Phulbani (Orissa) to give "a new chance for peace." For three days they lived together participating in a seminar entitled "Celebrating Diversity", ordered and structured by an ecumenical group headed by Most Rev. Thomas Menamparampil, Archbishop of Guwahati. The site of the rally was marked by the violence of radical Hindus against Christians that erupted in August 2008. Phulbani in Kandhamal district, saw burned homes and parishes, people killed and forced to flee.
Visiting Kandhamal in recent months along with other Christian leaders, the Bishop of Guwahati proposed to the district authorities to conduct a residential seminar for reconciliation and peace. Among the organizers there are Fr. V. M. Thomas of the Don Bosco Youth Services of Guwahati and Sr Suma, regional superior of the Missionaries of Charity. The meeting, held October 7 to 9, was attended by over 160 young people, as well as the heads of government of the district and 60 representatives of local government.
The group that held the lessons and heard testimonies, helping young people to interact together, is a mixed group, with Christians, Muslims and Hindus. The lessons emphasized the importance of acceptance, forgiveness and seeing diversity as mutually enriching. On another level it was noted that a lack of peace and coexistence also undermines the foundations of development and the wellbeing of all. Thus the violence falls on those who committed it. To date, Orissa is suffering because of the pogroms caused by extremists. Many health and education facilities were destroyed; development projects are blocked, trade has been slow to recover.
The district authorities are happy with the initiatives success so they decided to repeat the seminar in other places in Kandhamal. During the two day seminar, Abp. Menamparampil met with priests and religious of the area to urge them to rebuild relations with their neighbours. "Anger must be calmed and love and respect fostered," he said (asianews.it)
Vatican: Pope welcomes Anglican Clergy
Benedict XVI has decided to create a structure for Anglican clergy and groups who want to join the Catholic Church. The forthcoming Apostolic Constitution will provide for "Personal Ordinariates," thus allowing "for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy." The ordination of Anglican priests in the Catholic Church is nothing new. In 1982, John Paul II had approved provisions whereby married Anglican clerics who wanted to become Catholic priests could perform their ministerial service. Benedict XVI has decided to provide a framework for such a situation, this according to a Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church.
Personal Ordinariates "will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy."
"We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way," said Card William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "They have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion," he added (www.asianews.it).
Africa: Final Message of the African Synod
The Message of the 18th General Congregation contains many important points. First, it signals the commitment of various ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups to the unity of the Church and mentions the fact that African Churches were founded as far back as apostolic times. One section is dedicated to the activities of the Church in favour of development and AIDS patients. On this issue, the bishops express their solidarity towards the Pope who back in March said that condoms were an "inadequate" means to eradicate the disease. The document also expresses appreciation for the women who talked about their role in society and in African Churches. Given the poverty of the continent, the Message stresses the urgency to study and apply the social doctrine of the Church and proposes greater South-South cooperation as well as between the Churches of Africa and Asia.
Part VII, No. 38 entitled, “Joining our Spiritual Forces” reads, “We wish to recall again, what Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily at the inaugural mass of this Synod: that Africa is the ‘spiritual lung’ of the humanity of today. This is a precious resource, more valuable than our minerals and oil. But he warned us that this lung runs the risk of getting infected by the double virus of materialism and religious fanaticism. In its determination to preserve our spiritual patrimony, against all attacks and infections, the Synod calls forever-greater ecumenical collaboration with our brothers and sisters of other Christian traditions. We also look forward to more dialogue and cooperation with Muslims, the adherents of African Traditional Religion (ATR) and people of other faiths (asianews.it).
India: New Women Religious Paradigm
Speaking before an international gathering of women religious leaders at Samphran in Thailand, Indian theologian Sr. Rekha called for a radically new religious paradigm. She said that the time has come for women religious to leave what she described as a culture of “command and control” and enter one built on “service and friendship.” Her remarks were delivered at AMOR XV, a gathering which has drawn together women religious leaders from throughout East Asia and Oceania.
Sr. Rekha, who holds advanced degrees in scripture studies from Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and Catholic University of America in Washington, described religious formation as a “never-ending dynamic process.” “Religious by nature are called to bring about its dynamic permanent renewal,” she said. “We live in a fast changing world and the only thing that is constant in this world is change. The old style of leadership, as ‘command and control’, is outdated and cannot work today. The friendship model of leadership seems to be the most appropriate and adequate model for religious communities, as we are consecrated to be sisters and friends.”
She based her egalitarian call on the gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman, and said, “Matthew portrays the woman as an active dialogue partner who dares to confront Jesus, the newly found Jewish prophet, with counter theological arguments.” Her point was that women religious today need to be daring and active dialogue partners. “What does it entail when we say religious women are called to appropriate a new paradigm of religious life? She asked.
Then, before answering her question, she admitted that a move to the new paradigm will likely mean that “inadequate communities may die or merge into newer communities.” She then listed six calls that women religious today are being asked to respond to:
Women religious will not be able to respond to these demanding calls unless they “develop a deeper spirituality”, one “which liberates us from the slavery of our occupation and preoccupations and enables us to be attuned to the voice that transforms us constantly and makes us anew,” she said. A deep and authentic spirituality is required if women are to respond to these calls and clarified that it is a spirituality that grows out of an authentic prayer life and added that regularity in prayers or observance of the rituals should not be confused with the deepening of spirituality. “On the one hand, prayer is not merely something that we do in certain formal moments set aside for prayers – saying rosaries or praying with psalms. These are important and necessary means, but should not to be confused with the goal, the spiritual life or spirituality. On the other hand, the claim that ‘work is prayer’ is also misleading. One needs to spend quality time with oneself in the presence of God to hold the different aspects of consecrated life together,” she concluded (ncronline.org/news/women-religious).
“God is light in whom there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). At the dawn of creation, He issued the command:” Let there be light’ and there was light” (Gen 1:4). At the end of time, He will gather the nations into the New Jerusalem, the city that “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it for the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev 21:22). During this beautiful festival of Deepavali, the festival of lights, we 1200 delegates from 160 dioceses, together with 107 bishops of all three Ritual Churches gathered at St. Pius College, Goregaon, from October 14-18, 2009 for the first Indian Mission Congress, Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav. Our theme was: “Let Your Light Shine” (Mt 5:16)
Prabhu Yesu Mahotsav has been for us a festival, a celebration of our faith in Jesus the Light of the World (Jn 8:12). We felt ourselves blessed during these days marked by prayer, inter-ritual worship, inputs, personal testimonies, discussions and cultural activities as each of 13 regions that make up the Catholic Church of India Portrayed how the Light of Jesus has shone in its Region. Towards the end of the Congress, we feel the need of addressing this message to you our brothers and sisters in the faith.
During these days, we first of all contemplated the Lord Jesus, who is the light which enlightens everyone coming onto the world (Jn 1:9). Jesus in the Gospel of Luke begins his ministry with the words: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor" (Lk 4:18). Jesus proclaimed the Good News that God, Our Father, loves us and has made us his children in Jesus Christ by pouring out his Spirit into our hearts (Rom 8:14). Jesus assures us that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness (Jn 8:12). We believe Jesus is the answer to the ancient prayer of the sages of our country: "Lead me from darkness to light". In mysterious ways, he has been at work in the hearts of so many in our country down the centuries.
The Church, under the impulse of the Spirit, has been continuing the mission of Jesus. The mandate of the Risen Lord to his Apostles was: "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation" (Mk 16:15). The apostles did just that: "and they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it." (Mk 16:20). Two Apostles, Thomas and Bartholomew brought the Good News to our own country.
The proclamation of the Good News is called "Evangelization". Pope John Paul II strongly affirmed: "The Church evangelizes in obedience to Christ’s command, in the knowledge that every person has the right to hear the Good News of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ". Jesus is not ‘our possession- he came for all. The present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, reminds us that sharing the Good News is the greatest service we can render to humanity.
The evangelizing mission of the Church has taken different forms: One is works of mercy and compassion. She does what Jesus himself did: he proclaimed the Good News by words and by deeds as he cared for the sick and the afflicted (Mk 1:32). Mother Teresa and so many others like her make visible the Church’s commitment to evangelization through compassion. Church-run hospitals and hospices, efforts to reach out to those in prison are examples of the Church continuing the work of Jesus who “went about doing good" (Acts 10:32).
The developmental work of the Church is another form of evangelization. The Church cares for human beings right from the womb to the tomb as she stands for life and all that would promote life. Her work in the field of education is evidence of her interest in the all round human development. This is linked with the Church’s involvement in justice issues to liberate the downtrodden and the marginalized. Through all these, the Church has contributed to building up the nation.
Another form that evangelization has taken in today’s world is inter-religious dialogue. Living in a pluralistic world, the Church seeks to appreciate the religious richness of the others because she "rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions". Such a dialogue, as Pope John Paul II reminds us "should result in collaboration, harmony and mutual enrichment" . Through inter-religious dialogue initiatives, the Church has striven to promote peace and harmony in our country.
During the Congress, we prayed over and reflected on what our calling as disciples of the Lord Jesus entails. He has called us to be the light of the world as he himself is the light. "You are the light of the world" he says to us (Mt 5:14). Our mission is to radiate the light of Jesus so that all persons will be illumined by his divine light.
As we reflected and prayed, we became even more vividly aware of the need of ourselves being re-evangelized. We realized more clearly the role of all of us, especially the laity-women and youth in particular – in the task of evangelization. Jesus proclaimed the Good News by his life. We will do the same by the witness of our lives called as we are to be" holy and blameless before him in love" (Eph 1:4). We recall the words of Pope Paul VI: "Above all, the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness" which involves "presence, sharing, solidarity." Each of us is called to be both the messenger and the message.
We will proclaim the Good News by lives of humble service to all around us beginning with our homes and neighbourhoods. We commit ourselves to fighting corruption in public life by the probity of our lives. To stem the tide of consumerism we will live lives marked by simplicity and contentment.
Finally, we will not be afraid to proclaim what Jesus means for us by word. Pope John Paul II forcefully reiterated what Pope Paul VI had said: "There is no evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed." This is a human right enshrined in the Constitution of our nation. No opposition, no fear of persecution will deter us.
As we have done through art and other channels, we will find new avenues of proclaiming the Good News especially through the media which offers us tremendous possibilities of reaching out widely and effectively especially to the youth.
Surely, we will proclaim Jesus in a manner respectful of the beliefs and religious practices of others. We will seek to be familiar with the national and religious traditions of our country discovering "with joy and reverence the seeds of the Word hidden in these traditions". We see the need of retelling the story of Jesus in an "inculturated" form- in a language and form which is meaningful to our country with its plurality of cultures and religions. In every way, proclaim we must: "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel" (I Cor 9:16).
As we end our first Indian Mission Congress, we pray to the Holy Spirit who anointed us at Baptism asking him to empower us to bring the Good News to our beloved country. We turn in prayer to Mary, the Star of Evangelization. The Visitation shows her to us as the first evangelizer carrying Jesus within her ( Lk 1:39-45). Like her, we shall carry Jesus to a world eagerly awaiting the Good News (indianmissioncongress.com).
1. India: Archbishop Acharuparambil Expired
Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil (70), Archbishop of Verapoly and President of Kerala Bishops Conference, passed away. The funeral took place on October 28, 2009 at 3.30 pm at the St. Francis Aussisi Cathedral, Verapoly in Kerala. The late archbishop was a member of Discalced Carmelite Order (cbcisite.com).
2. Asia: Sisters Struggle to find Relevance in the Modern World
Women Religious communities face a crisis as more young people dismiss such vocations as "irrelevant," Sr. Rekha told a meeting of sisters recently, and added that some of them are also "not happy in their own mission.” This is calling us to redefine our identity and our mission, to ... make our identity and mission relevant to the world today," she said. More than 100 sisters from 18 countries in the Asia and Oceania regions met for the 15th Asia and Oceania Meeting of Women Religious (AMOR XV) from October 13-21 (ucanews.com).
3. Papal Diwali Greeting urges for Joint Action
Greeting the world’s 800,000 Hindus for the feast of Deepavali, Vatican has asked them to work together with Christians “for integral human development.” This means “the advance towards the true good of every individual, community and society, in every single dimension of human life,” explains the message from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The annual “festival of lights,” which Hindus in most parts of the world celebrated on October 17th this year, commemorates the victory of light over darkness, and good over evil.
Catholics in Kathmandu joined hands with their Hindu compatriots in celebrating their major Tihar festival, which commemorates the victory of light over darkness. The five-day-long festival in Hindu-majority Nepal began on October 16, and is equivalent to India’s Diwali, which starts October 17, this year. “As the festival holds special cultural importance, all Nepalese, irrespective of their faiths join in the celebrations as one community,” Fr. Robin Rai, parochial vicar at the Church of the Assumption (ucanews).
4. Ishvani Day 2009
Ishvani Day was celebrated on Mission Sunday, 18th October 2009, with the theme, “Become the Message and the Messenger”. This theme was aptly chosen considering that this year is celebrated as “Year of the Priests”. The chief guest was Very Rev. Fr. William Fernandes, Episcopal Vicar of Pune Diocese. In his address, the Director said that Ishvani Kendra was founded as an Institute of Missiology and Communications on 26th May 1976. During the last 33 years the Institute has tried to respond to the challenges of mission in India with a ‘vision’ to animate persons in the light of the Word of God and to translate the Word into action. Its ‘mission’ is to echo the Voice of God, providing inspiration, co-ordination and assistance in the work of evangelisation of the Church in India as well as in Asia.
The celebration began with a prayer service at noon, during which the Bible was enthronement. The Chief Guest then gave a reflection on the Word of God that was read from the Gospel of John 13:3-15, highlighting the importance priesthood. He emphasized that each priest is the message and the messenger to the world. The audio-visual presentation that followed highlighted in a nutshell the story of Jesus giving up Himself on the cross. Then the prizes were distributed to the winners of Zeitler Memorial Essay Competition, which is held annually in memory of Fr. Engelbert Zeitler SVD, the founder-Director of Ishvani Kendra. This year the theme was “Emerging Challenges for Priests in India: Being Servant Leaders in Collaboration with all People of Goodwill”.
5. Nepal: FOIM Conference
XIII FOIM (Fellowship of Indian Missiologists) Conference and General Body Meeting took place at Godavari Pastoral Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal from 11-14 October. There were 17 participants from India and 2 from Nepal. Bishop Anthony Sharma of Nepal inaugurated the Conference and 10 papers were presented on various aspects of the general theme “Mission in Asia”. During the Business Session the Secretary, Joy Thomas and Treasurer, Joe Mangalam were re-confirmed, the Vice-President, Joe Patmury was chosen President and B. L. Nongbri was elected Vice-President. Anthony Joseph was nominated Executive Member. Next FOIM Conference is fixed at Punaloor in Kerala from 17-20 October 2011, with the theme “Christian Life in a World of Growing Violence.”
1. Lalrinawma, V. S., Major Faith Traditions of India, Delhi: ISPCK, 2007, pp. 381. (Rs.250/-)
Major Faith Traditions of India intends to help students studying theology and different major faith traditions of India. Religion being a most important part of the human life tries to explain the mysteries regarding the existence of human beings, their relationship with the Creator / reality and fellow-human beings, and other forms of creation in the universe. The reality, which is to be realized through religion, is the soul of truth, the delight of life and the bliss of mind and eternity.
2. A. V. Afonso (ed.), “Indian Christianity” in D. P. Chattopadhyaya (Gen. eds.), History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, Vol. VII, Part 6, Delhi: St. Pauls, 2009, pp. 543. (Rs. 1,500/-)
This volume on ‘Indian Christianity’ represents the unique character of Christian belief systems and its practice in the Indian context, reflected in the divergent cultural and ethnic expressions that have been theologically justified by various individuals and groups representing diverse Christian denominations. This book on Indian Christianity is likely to be of interest both to researchers as well as the general public, some of whom have varied misconceptions about the two millennia of expression of faith in India.
3. Bevans, Stephen B., An Introduction to Theology in Global Perspective, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2009, pp. 384. (US $30.00)
In this volume the reader benefits from a scholar’s mastery of our theological tradition, the clarity and insight of a brilliant teacher, the sophisticated global contextualization that comes from a lifelong commitment to Christian mission and the humility of a committed spiritual pilgrim.
4. Stephen, N., New Trends in Christian Theology, New Delhi: Serials Publications, 2009, pp. 198. (Rs.495/-)
In this book the author brings out a brief survey on the contemporary perspectives on theology. The liberal, catholic, evangelical, pentecostal, political, existential, neo-orthodox, orthodox, post-modern and post-colonial theologies are discussed in this book. The present theologies are people-centred, praxis-oriented, contextual and liberative in natural. The religious pluralism, the eccological issues and the emergence of the subalterns are also considered in this book. This book will provide a general understanding to the readers on the present trends in theology.
Dr. Joy Thomas, SVD (Director)
Please forward this Mission Scan to any of your friends and acquaintances.