Kolkata: The All India Catholic Union, representing the Christ’s faithful of the country, has expressed its great joy at the fresh air that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has breathed into the Universal Catholic Church. Asia’s oldest Laity organization has also expressed its happiness at the enlarged role that the Holy Father has called for men, women and youth in the Church.
These statements have greatly enthused the Faithful in India in all the three Rites, Latin, Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara. The people are now expecting that the Bishops in India will also take similar steps to encourage Lay participation in the many organs and structures of the church, specially in matters of finance, management of temporal goods, and in public life.
At the end of its two day Working Committee and General Body meetings, and two days of the concluding session of the year-long process of the Laity Assembly, the AICU leadership demanded that Bishops implement Canon Law provisions for the participation of the Laity in Finance and other committees. The Bishops should also ensure that every Diocese and parish has a Catholic Association in addition to a Pastoral Council. There is sufficient talent among the faithful to assist the clergy in the transparent functioning of these institutions.
Mr. Eugene Gonsalves, National President, presided over the four day meetings. National Vice President Mr. Lancy D’ Cunha, Secretary General Mr Elias Vaz and Dr. John Dayal Past President of AICU were also present. The Archbishop of Calcutta, Most Reverend Thomas D’Souza inaugurated the meeting and Archbishop of Nagpur, Most Rev Abraham Viruthakulangara inaugurated the National Laity Assembly. West Bengal Minorities Commission Vice-Chairperson Prof. Maria Fernandes, Mr. M.G. Devasahayam, IAS Retd., Mr. Sunil Lucas, National President of SIGNIS addressed the Assembly.
The historical Laity Assembly began in New Delhi on 30 June 2012. Regional sessions were held in Mangalore, Mumbai, Trichy, Guwahati, Vijayawada, Ernakulum with the concluding session in Kolkata. The report is expected to be released in Goa later this year.
The Laity Assembly is requesting the Holy Father to review Canon Laws to further empower Christ’s Faithful, and to see that the good practices in the Oriental Rites and in the Latin rite are implemented in all dioceses. The Canon law must also be made more gender just, specially on matters relating to marriages.
Resolutions in the Annual General Meeting stressed the need for security of minorities, and justice to victims of communal and other violence. It noted the lack of proper justice to the victims of the 2008 anti Christian violence in Kandhamal in Orissa and called upon the government to take necessary steps for fresh investigation and trial of murder and other heinous crimes. AICU also called upon the government to ensure the safety and security of Indian fishermen, many of whom are Christians, who are being harassed by the Sri Lankan Navy.
The AICU AGM reiterated its demand that the Government respond to the public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court on Dalit Christians so that they are given the Scheduled caste rights taken away by the 1950 Presidential Order. The Government must also immediately appoint a committee on the pattern of the Justice Sachar committee for Muslims to assess the socio economic situation of Christians, specially the Dalits, the Tribals and other marginalized groups in various arts of the country.
The Catholic union expressed ts anguish at the tremendous loss of human life in the natural calamity in Uttarakhand, and conveyed its condolences to the families of the Victims. The Union noted the gallantry of Indian Air force helicopter pilot Wing Commander Darryl Castelino who laid down his life while rescuing the victims.
The AICU reaffirmed its opposition to capital punishment and said that there must be reforms in the criminal justice dispensation system and in the police to ensure that there was no victimization of religious minorities.
The country’s apex Catholic Lay organization called upon the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India to take the All India Catholic Union in confidence in its various programmes and commissions so that the common people feel a sense of participation and fulfillment in the works of the church as commended in the Canon law.
The Catholic union also congratulated the government for putting the famous religious shrine town of Vailankanni on the rail map of India. This will benefit millions of devout of all communities who visit the shrine every year.