FROM THE EDITOR
DALITS IN THE MEDIA
Press Statement from Catholic Bishops'
Conference of India,
January 23, 2000
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
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.