Press Statement from Catholic Bishops' Conference of India,
January 23, 2000

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GENERAL BODY MEETING CHENNAI, 17-24 January 2000 Election of Office Bearers; Call to deepen faith and Programmes for Yesu Krist Jayanti 2000 etc., discussed. 

Chennai 23, January 2000, The General body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India comes to an end after a week-long deliberations and discussions on the concerns and activities of the Catholic Church in India at the dawn of the new Millennium. Calling on the Christian community to be more authentic to the message of Christ, the body of 148 Bishops from all over India, reiterated the role of the Church and its contributions towards building a new society. 

On the penultimate day of the closing of this meeting, the Conference of Bishops had biennial elections of its office bearers. Archbishop Alan de Lastic, the archbishop of Delhi was re-elected as the President, while Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios, the Syro-Malankara Archbishop of Trivandrum was re-elected as the First Vice-President, both for another term of two years. Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Thrissur was elected as the new second Vice-President, while Bishop Oswald Gracias auxiliary bishop of Mumbai was re-elected as the Secretary General of the Conference. While congratulating the new second Vice-President for his new office, the Bishops also expressed their heartfelt thanks to the outgoing Vice-President Major Archbishop Varkey Vithyathil for his untiring services to the CBCI during his tenure of office. 

Besides having business sessions, the Bishops, through prayer, input and reflection pondered deeply on the main theme of the Meeting, " The Church at the service of the Nation: The role of the Bishops ". At the culmination of the meeting, the Bishops are issuing a pastoral letter for all the Catholics of India, which among other things says, "During these recent years we faced opposition and even persecution from some fundamentalist groups in our work of evangelization. While affirming our duty and right to communicate the Good News which we have received from the Lord, we need to be prepared for any eventuality in the fulfillment of our mission". The pastoral letter also urges the Christian community to, "challenge unjust structures of society" and "uncompromisingly fight all social evils (e.g. corruption, exploitation, dishonesty, favoritism, abortion, anti-life policies, etc.), both within our institutions and in society at large and promote the Kingdom values of justice, peace, fellowship and ecological harmony". 

The bishops admitted that in some parts of the country, there was " Caste discrimination " and made a forceful plea, "to eradicate this sinful reality". The bishops also demonstrated sensitivity to the cause of the Dalits and vowed to keep struggling on their behalf. 

Referring to the Church's approach towards other religions, the letter says, "The Christians need to foster respect, love and co-operation. "Besides promoting understanding and harmony among the followers of different religions, all of us should strive and join hands together to create a just, humane, participatory and peaceful society", it adds. Year 2000 being the 2000th birth year of Jesus Christ, a special emphasis was placed on the celebrations of this year, also commonly known as the Yesu Krist Jayanti 2000. The Bishops are still trying to press the government to declare this year as the Year of Christ. The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh has already declared this year as the Year of Christ in M.P., and the Church has made similar request to various Chief Ministers, including that of Tamilnadu. The Bishops have also reiterated their request, already made to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee about granting a subsidy to 4000 pilgrims to go on Pilgrimage to Holy Land and Rome. Yesu Krist Jayanti celebrations are being organized at various levels and releasing of the Postal Stamp on 25th December 1999 on Jesus Christ by Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, was to mark the beginning of such a programme.