Coimbatore (Agenzia Fides) – To contain the migration of Catholics to other Christian denominations: with this explicit goal the diocese of Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu state (southern India), one of the oldest dioceses in India, has decided to increase the pastoral visits of priests and religious to Catholic families, to live a moment of sharing of common prayer.
Speaking to Fides, Bishop Thomas Lephonse, who leads the community of Coimbatore, said that "there are various cases of Catholic families in the diocese who are joining other Churches: it is a matter of great concern".
The Catholic Church has endeavored to analyze the phenomenon: "The decision was to take action, placing it as a pastoral urgency", said the Bishop. The purpose is "to strengthen the link between the clergy and the lay faithful, to better know and understand their concerns, to guide them to grow in faith", he remarked.
Coimbatore is a diocese that is 161 years old and covers a vast area that includes five districts (Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Erode, Karur and a part of Trichy). Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada and English are spoken. Coimbatore is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu and is known as the "textile capital" of southern India. Today the city is gradually turning into a developed city with regards to new information technologies, as new colleges and engineering schools continue to rise. This also means a considerable increase of the populations who, from the surrounding areas come to town, changing the urban fabric and the social composition. In this stage of socio-economic and cultural changes, there is the Catholic community and its proclamation of the Gospel, as well as other churches and Protestant denominations of various branches.
The story of Coimbatore again puts the focus on the ecumenical journey in India. The National Ecumenical Council held in recent days in Vasai, conceived and developed by the Office for Dialogue and Ecumenism of the Episcopal Conference of India (CBCI), spoke about it. The leaders and the Bishops present reiterated that "the path of unity among Christians is essential to spread the message of God manifested in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ".
Archbishop Felix Machado, President of the Commission for Ecumenism, spoke about the ecumenical journey in a local, national and global perspective, referring to the documents of the Church and the teaching of the Popes. "Ecumenism is a gift of God in the Holy Spirit. The unity of Christians today is closer than 500 years ago. We need to give the world a common witness", said Mgr. Machado.
Even Silvester Ponnumutham, of the Malankara Orthodox Church spoke about the ecumenical commitment in various parishes, dioceses and regions of the Indian Church, underlining the necessity of sharing, and not competition, among Christians of different denominations. The Council agreed on the need to build and promote "a common vision" of the baptized in India.
In India there are about 17 million Catholics (about 1.7 percent of the population) and 11 million Protestant Christians of different denominations. The Anglican Christianity was introduced by the British Empire. Today the most Protestant denominations are in India. The country's largest Protestant denomination is the Church of South India, created in 1947 by the union of different communities (Presbyterians, Reformed, Methodists, Anglicans, and others). All Christian Churches have found fertile ground for expansion among the Dalits, the untouchables, and tribal groups, often paving the way for development and education of these groups of disadvantaged people. (PA-SD-TJ) (Agenzia Fides 14/11/2016)