Study Seminar Dialogue and Ecumenism
Atma Darshan, Andheri, Mumbai, 19-21 April 2018
Atma Darshan, Andheri, witnessed a very significant meeting from 19-21 April 2018. 21 Regional and Diocesan Directors of Interreligious Dialogue & Ecumenism from different parts of India came together to study, reflect and dialogue on how to bring to life the Final Statement of the 33rd General Body Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India CBCI from an Interreligious and Ecumenical Perspective. Mar Joseph Perumthottam, the newly elected Chairman for the CBCI Office for Dialogue and Ecumenism and Bishop Raphy Manjaly one of the Member Bishops were present for the Study Seminar and Bishop Thomas Dabre send prayers and blessings for the fruitful outcome.
Right at the beginning of the Seminar, Archbishop Joseph communicated the sad news of the sudden passing away of Archbishop Dr. Abraham Viruthakulangara a zealous missionary and an ardent pastor. Few moments of silent prayer was followed by a prayer of thanksgiving for the precious gift of Archbishop Abraham to the Church in India and his many years of Episcopal service in Khandwa and Nagpur.
The greatest challenge for all present was to discern wisely and identify precisely the interreligious and ecumenical perspective that cut across all aspects of life. In simple words it was all about to be in a permanent state of mission and strive to be in dialogue and communion with everyone and with mother earth.
Amazingly as we reached the concluding part of the Key-note Address (Fr. Dr. Francis Gonsalves’s paper used with permission), “United in Diversity for a Mission of Mercy and Witness: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Mt 28: 20), one of the directors said: we want to know how many credit course was the Key-note Address? In the midst of a hearty laughter, followed by an animated discussion, the missionary nature of our very being was emphasized.
With an active dialogue on the Final Statement of the 33rd GBM of the CBCI, with particular attention to the 20 point proposal to live in Unity in the midst of Diversity, both in the Church and in the country, Fr. Dr. S.M. Michael led the participants to a journey into each one’s context of mission as promoters of dialogue and communion, as he made each one reflect on how one can integrate the points relevant to dialogue and ecumenism into the action plan.
The Panel moderated by Fr. Dr. S.M. Michael had Archbishop Mar Joseph Perumthottam and Bishop Raphy Manjaly on the panel. Their sharing was coloured with the enriching experience of the 33rd GBM and with the interreligious and ecumenical perspective. “Let us understand each other and cultivate a culture of patient listening towards each other said Mar Joseph. In the process of dialogue, he continued that all our efforts should be spiritually supported by an intense spirit of prayer. Bishop Raphy affirmed that over the years the Church has become more dialogical and more inclusive. From Second Vatican Council II to the present day, he said: I am happy to see this openness and dialogue reaching its climax in Pope Francis. Dialogue is a mission and a way of life and for us it is of prime importance, he continued. The Universal Church has given us encouragement and guidelines, we have to look forward and ask ourselves: what can I do? What can we do? Unless we move things won’t move. Every beginning is humble. How convinced am I of this mission of dialogue and Ecumenism?
Fr. Dr. Joseph Mundananikka, the resource person helped the participants to take a look at Interreligious dialogue from a Sociological Perspective. He focused on: finding common ground, interrogating religion and commitment in public sphere. Fr. Jose did a very good job looking at interreligious dialogue from a sociological perspective.
This three days National Study Seminar for Regional Secretaries and Diocesan Directors for Dialogue and Ecumenism was meant to study the theme of the 33rd Plenary Meeting of the CBCI and the lines of action drawn up in its Final Statement with special focus on the areas of Dialogue and Ecumenism and to come up with strategic action plan for the Regions and Dioceses. In every way this task was a demanding one, even so, commendable efforts were made to welcome the challenge and to initiate a process of moving in this direction well aware of the assurance of Jesus: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat.28:20).
The topic for the panel discussion was: Teachings from the Life of your prophets. The panel consisted of well qualified representatives from the major religions. Fr. Dr. S.M. Michael spoke on God’s unconditional love and how Jesus summarized his teaching into love of God and love of neighbour. Speaking on the parable of the Prodigal son, his father’s loving concern and promptness to organize the grand feast at his son’s return home, God’s unconditional love was evidenced. Referring to Jesus’ words: When I was thirsty you gave me to drink... Fr. S.M. Michael emphatically affirmed that all the humanitarian services rendered by Catholics have their source and origin in these words of Jesus even though our actions are judged as efforts towards conversion.
Bishop Raphy Manjaly appreciated and thanked Sr. Teresa for the competence and dedication with which she organized the meeting with great spirit of flexibility and adaptability except when the task at hand was to find ways and means to integrate the Final Statement into the regional and diocesan programs. He said: I am happy to be here and see so many of you coming from diverse contexts. The real dialogue has to happen in the dioceses and the regions. This was a very good meeting, let us return with a great sense of hope, we can do something, we are already engaged in the work and we will integrate the Final Statement of the 33rd GBM of the CBCI into our work and mission. Let us thank God and each other. Bishop Raphy imparted the final blessing to all present with a very significant prayer invoking God’s blessings on all present and on our mission.
Reported by Sr. Teresa Joseph fma
Secretary CBCI Office for Dialogue and Desk for Ecumenism