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21st Colloquium Of Bishops & Theologians In India

The 21st Colloquium of the Bishops and Theologians in India held at the NBCLC, Bangalore, from July 4-5, 2019, focused on the theme: “The Gift of Priestly Vocation: Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis” (hereafter, GOPV). This theme is the title of the General Executory Decree of Vatican’s ‘Congregation for Clergy’ published on December 8, 2016. This theme was chosen since, on the one hand, there is a drop in the number of vocations to the priesthood, today, while, on the other, there is serious questioning on the relevance, life and mission of ordained priests, expected to be servant-ministers ‘in persona Christi’ to the Church and the World, at large. Moreover, there was a felt need to reflect upon and respond to this topic in consonance with Vatican Council II’s (hereafter, VC II) ‘Optatam Totius’ and ‘Presbyterorum Ordinis’ on Priestly Training and Life, respectively, which led to the drawing up of a ‘Ratio Fundamentalis’ in 1970, updated in 1985, and given fuller expression in St Pope John Paul II’s ‘Pastores Dabo Vobis’ (1992). 15 Archbishop and Bishops together with 61 theologians attended the colloquium. After the prayer and lighting of the lamp, the local Most, Dr. Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bangalore, welcomed the participants and highlighted the importance of the priesthood. “In a fast-changing world,” he said, “Just as MNCs invest so much of time, money and personnel on research and development, so must the Church optimize its resources to keep pace with the ‘signs of the times’–never forgetting that Jesus is the wellspring of the priestly vocation, requiring priests to remain firmly rooted in Him alone.”

In his Presidential Address-cum-Orientation Talk, Archbishop Thomas Mar Koorilos, Chairman, CBCI Office of Doctrine, in his Presidential Address-cum-Orientation Talk, pointed out that the Church, worldwide, is facing troubled times. The behavior of priests has scandalized the lay faithful, causing many to leave the Church or even take to the streets to voice their disapproval. Hence, there is urgent need to prayerfully discern wherein lies the root problem. Archbishop Thomas reminded the gathering that VC II asked for a renewal of priestly life; and no true, lasting renewal is possible unless pastors themselves are renewed in their personal, spiritual and pastoral life. Mentioning Pope Francis’s critique of ‘illnesses’ like clericalism, careerism, rigid legalism, spiritual tepidity, seeking power, vainglory, etc., he said that there is perhaps need of a new theology of the priesthood.

Dr.Thomas Kollamparampil, CMI, member of Vatican’s International Theological Commission, underlined the significance of such a Colloquium, where all could reflect upon the road that the Church has travelled so as to renew and revive itself. He stressed the need for being ‘configured to the Trinitarian God’ created, as we are, in the “image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26-27). He called for a radical relook at Scripture and the rich Patristic Tradition to more deeply understand the meaning of priesthood—especially the intimate connect between the ‘common priesthood’ and ‘ministerial priesthood’—each especially being celebrated in the liturgy. The ‘sacramental liturgy’ must overflow into the ‘secular liturgy’ where all the faithful live their Christian vocation in everyday life. Since GOPV is a ‘common decree’ applicable to the whole world, we, in India, must tap Indian resources—providing an Indian vision and mission, which is constantly nurtured by the other religions and spiritualities, especially the mystical traditions.

Citing Jesus’ ‘Mission Manifesto’ (Lk 4:18-19) as the bedrock of priestly identity and mission, Dr. Pearl Drego provided eight ‘Dimensions of Priesthood’ that ought to characterize every priest, called to be: (i) radiating God’s love and affirmation; (ii) a celibate dedicated to service; (iii) a “life-giver bringing communion and redemption” [GOPV 12]; (iv) a “creator of community” [GOPV 50]; (v) a pastor—Good Samaritan and Good Shepherd [GOPV 99]; (vi) deeply human, and in need of being helped; also with legitimate needs for music, art and sport [GOPV 94]; (vii) a suffering servant radiating compassion [GOPV 38]; and, (viii) a guardian of inclusiveness—reaching out to all, especially the poor and the needy [GOPV 25]. Rev.Fr.Sagaya John, the Director of the NBCLC welcomed the gathering.

After the inaugural session several papers connected with the above mentioned theme were presented and discussed at length. On 5th July There was also a panel discussion in the afternoon. The colloquium came to a happy conclusion by 4.00 p.m. .