Indian Bishops Gather in Assembly

Cardinal: Though Few in Number, Faithful Can Build Better Future for Nation

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BANGALORE, India, FEB. 1, 2012 ( Some 170 bishops representing the 164 dioceses of India are gathered in their biennial assembly this week, where they are reflecting on the theme «The Church’s Role for a Better India.»

Presiding over the opening Eucharistic celebration today, the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, called for a planned pastoral response to the current challenges society and the Church in India are facing. He urged the need for patient dialogue, charity and openness. 

During the inaugural address, the nuncio recalled the major issues touched upon by Benedict XXVI during the Indian bishops’ ad limina visits last year. 

The episcopal council president, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, welcomed the participants to the plenary assembly and highlighted the relevance of the theme chosen for study and reflection. He described the Church as the conscience of the nation. 

Commenting on the state of the country today, Cardinal Gracias said there are two Indias — one comprised of the rich, and the other comprised of the poor and marginalized. Though a numerical minority, the members of the Church, he said, can make a major difference in building a better India. 

Christians are only about 2% of the population of India.

Vice president of the CBCI, Bishop George Punnakottil, read the papal message sent for the occasion.

«His Holiness hopes that your discussions, which will focus on how the Church in India may continue to play a positive role in the life of the nation, will bear much fruit since the Church assists humanity by ‘reading the signs of the times and … interpreting them in the light of the Gospel,'» the message, signed by the Holy Father’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said.

The assembly also congratulated Cardinal-designate George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, who will be created cardinal Feb. 18.

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