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Youth for Peace and Harmony

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CBCI Statement of 29th General Body Meeting At Guwhati

Feb. 23 – Mar. 03, 2010, Guwahati, Assam

1.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit and keenly aware of the responsibility placed on us to shepherd the flock of Christ, we, 157 Catholic Bishops of India, met for the 29th General Body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) at Don Bosco Institute, Guwahati from 24 February to 3 March 2010, to reflect on and pray over the theme ‘Youth for Peace and Harmony’. Providentially, it happened to be the Silver Jubilee of the International Year of Youth (1985-2010). Attending the Meeting were also the CBCI Commission Secretaries and Directors of National Centres, some office bearers of the Conference of Religious of India and the Catholic Council of India along with the National Director of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM) and 51 youth delegates from the 13 regions of the country.\

2.   The relevance of the theme of our Meeting is evident from the fact that while the country is marching forward rapidly, it is simultaneously experiencing discord, disharmony and violence on several fronts. The Church has always stood for the unity and integrity of the country as a Sovereign Democratic Republic and has been against violence even for the attainment of legitimate goals.  The face of India today is ‘young’ - the population trends point towards the average Indian being less than 30 years of age by 2020. Hence, the Church wants very much to harness the enthusiasm of youth in the cause of peace and harmony. Education should propel the young generation to go beyond differences and appreciate the diversity of cultures, languages, regions, and religions to create a culture of peace and harmony where everyone will be respected as human beings, free to profess, practise and share one’s faith.

3.  The Church has always had young people and their integral development close to her heart. “The Bishop, as pastor and father of the Christian community, will be particularly concerned for the evangelization and spiritual accompaniment of young people. A minister of hope can hardly fail to build the future together with those to whom the future is entrusted, that is, with young people” (Pastores Gregis, 53). Again, Christifideles Laici, 46 states: “… the Church sees her path towards the future in the youth, beholding in them a reflection of herself and her call to that blessed youthfulness which she constantly enjoys as a result of Christ's Spirit”. Pope Benedict XVI strongly affirms: “Without this young face, the Church would appear disfigured” (São Paulo, Brazil, May 10, 2007).

4.  Globalization has made an impact on all, especially on young people.  It has contributed to an economic resurgence in general and ushered in great opportunities and possibilities. At the same time, it has left large sections of poor marginalized young people frustrated by contributing to increasing levels of poverty and unemployment. It has adversely affected family relationships. It has led to the collapse of the traditional rural economy, causing an agrarian crisis, thereby leading to spiritual, cultural and political unrest.

5.  We are concerned about the migration of young people from rural areas to towns and cities in India and abroad. We are aware of its consequences: the exploited and degrading existence of especially of young women, and of young people with no skills and economic backing, forced to live away from their family, community and cultural moorings. We share their anxiety about their present and future.

6.  The Youth Survey carried out by the ICYM in preparation for this Assembly enlightened us on the situation of youth in relation to society and the Church.

6.1  We listened with interest and humility to the voice of youth telling us that:

a.  They appreciate their Catholic faith and would love to participate more in Church life if given encouragement and  support. At the same time many young people feel a sense of   disconnect with Church language, expressions and priorities;

b.  They need to be empowered to be architects of their destiny by providing them youth-friendly platforms at all levels of the Church.  Their participation in social action has to be more marked;

c.  A number of young people have sadly become victims of substance and sex abuse. This is a matter for serious concern;

d.  They need a Church which welcomes them to participate, is patient and forgiving when they fail, guides them in their life choices and helps them grow into mature, responsible, Christian adulthood – a Church that accompanies them at all times and in all circumstances.

6.2 We appreciate

a.   The genuineness of young people in their search for wholeness and their struggles to live their faith and Gospel values;

b.  Their striving to be ‘spiritual’ even when some among the clergy seem to fail to adequately respond to their aspirations;

c.  The spiritual depth and the tremendous amount of dedication witnessed in some members of the ecclesial organizations working for the renewal of youth. 

7.  We look to Jesus as our model in our ministry to youth. Jesus sees hope and life in the little girl who is dead (Lk. 8: 40-52). He determinedly steps in to stop the funeral procession of a young man, the son of a widow (Lk. 7:11-17). HE STOPS THE JOURNEY OF DEATH. Young people find themselves in many death-dealing situations. They need the LIFE Jesus offers – Life in all its fullness (Jn. 10:10). Youth need us, like Jesus, to “touch” them, “challenge” them to stand up and “entrust” them back healed and living to the “mother” – to the community, to the nation and to the Church.

8.  In the light of our reflection on the Word of God, the teachings of the Church, the voice of young people and the deliberations of the Catholic Council of India held on Jan. 9 – 12, 2010, we, the Bishops of India, are committed:

        a.      To make youth ministry an integral part of Church’s ministry, presenting to youth the Lord Jesus who loves them and challenges them to the fullness of life;

        b.      To facilitate a Trinitarian, communitarian and ecclesial experience of spirituality for the youth, making them familiar with the teachings of the Church and leading them to the Eucharist as the source and summit of Christian life (Lumen Gentium, 11) and the mainspring of Christian service;

        c.       To provide care and support for migrant youth, using the nation wide network of Church institutions, parishes and personnel.  They need to be formed in the ecclesial tradition of their sui iuris (ritual) Church even as they seek to get integrated into the culture and language of the place to which they have migrated;

        d.      To create more opportunities for youth from dalit, backward classes, tribal and remote rural communities for quality education and professional skills training;

        e.      To utilize the reach and power of technology and media for wider and creative engagement with youth;

        f.        To empower young people to be constructively involved in issues like climate change, environmental degradation, natural and man-made disaster management.

9.  To fulfil our commitment to youth, we adopt the following course of action:

        a.   Work towards a National Youth Policy and Pastoral Plan to be drawn up by the CBCI Youth Department as a road map for action;

        b.   Ensure adequate funds for youth ministry;

        c.   Design or adopt a family life education programme to be integrated into youth ministry trainings, to help Christian families  shoulder the task of forming their young members;

        d.  Have dedicated youth directors to consolidate ICYM units at diocesan and regional levels and strengthen the other structures of youth ministry in every diocese so as to move towards a commonly accepted goal through a diversity of charisms; 

        e.   Introduce training in youth ministry as an integral part of seminary formation.

10.  We bishops turn to you, our young people: We encourage you to take up the responsibility of your own formation under the guidance of your duly appointed leaders. We appeal to you to become part of the Small Christian Communities wherein you will imbibe a sense of belonging to the parish and to the Church. We cherish the hope that some of you will answer God’s call to the priesthood and religious life. We count on those among you trained in the ICYM and other Youth Movements to step forward as lay leaders.  We exhort you to become ever more involved in the task of evangelization so that the Good News may be heard throughout our country. We urge you to get involved in issues of human rights and social justice, and become part of Panchayati Raj Institutions, and other civil administration and governance bodies. We ask you to get engaged in various peace movements in our country, spreading the message of peace and non-violence in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.  We invite you, young men and women with sound moral values and personal integrity, whom people can trust, to enter into politics and build up of our nation by working for the all-round development of our people, especially the poor and the marginalized, and thus witness to God’s presence and redeeming activity. We stand by you in your journey towards establishing peace and harmony in our motherland.

11.  As we conclude the 29th General Assembly of the CBCI, we turn to Mary our Mother. To her we commend our youth so dear to her so that they may truly become Channels of Peace and Harmony.

      Most Rev. Albert D’Souza

      Secretary General, CBCI &

      Archbishop of Agra


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