Cochi (Fides Service) - The need for new policies to address challenges facing Christian families and help educate the poor are two major priorities for the Syro-Malabar Church according to a pastoral statement issued in preparation for the first Assembly of this Eastern Catholic Church since it was recently granted more autonomy by the Holy See. The Assembly on the theme “Challenges Faced by Christian Families and Changing Trends in Education ”, will be held in November 2004.
Th statement underlines the major role played by the Church in education across India, a task which is increasingly difficult in a context of erosion of Christian values and discipline.
In view of the assembly a working paper will be drafted from responses to the statement which has been sent to all Syro-Malabar parishes, institutions and convents. The statement focuses on four areas of concern: family life, the power of modern media, the need for a new Church educational policy in view of the challenges posed by the society in the new millennium.
Among the problems requiring attention the statement mentions: Sex-obsessed media, late marriages, libertine tendencies, unfavourable ambience for family prayers. Alcoholism among men and drug addiction among young people.
The Syro-Malabar Church, based in the southern Indian state of Kerala, is now fully autonomous while being in full communion with Rome. According to a recent decree issued by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Oriental Churches besides autonomy in matters of liturgy and the creation of new Eparchies (dioceses) the Syro-Malabar Church is now free to make of list of candidate bishops make necessary inquiries from bishops, priests and responsible members of the laity select the candidates by majority votes and submit the name to the Pope for approval. .
The Syro-Malabar Church (Major Archbishopric) is rich in vocations both to the priesthood and the religious life, it has an active laity and a marked spirit of mission. Descended from Thomas Christians of India who became Catholic in the wake of Portuguese colonialism today it has 3.9 million members including many overseas. It has more than 6,000 priests: (211 new priests ordained in 2002) 30,000 women religious. Moreover, since thousands of priests and religious of Syro-Malabar origin are now in Latin dioceses or Congregations, this means that about 70% of all the Catholic church personnel in India comprising 17 million Catholics among a population of 1 billion, are fruits of this ancient Eastern Catholic Church. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 15/5/2004 lines 36 words 362)