THE PASTORAL LETTER OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF INDIA IN PREPARATION FOR THE JUBILEE YEAR 2000

CBCI CENTRE 1, Ashok Place, Near Goldakkhana New Delhi - 110 001

As the Third Millennium draws near, all of us eagerly look forward to a new world order. This expectation has been voiced in diverse ways by different groups of people in keeping with their particular ideologies and religious beliefs. For the Church, this represents a kairos - a time characteristic of the special inteervention of God through His Spirit - in the course of her pilgrimage towards the new earth and new heaven. In the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II invites the entire Church to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit for a renewal of Christian life and mission in the world. We too, the Christian community in India, are challenged to give our specific response to the Spirit of Jesus during this period, so crucial to the nation and the Church in this country.

1. The Significance of the Jubilee Year

2. The main Thrust of the Preparation for the Jubilee 2000

The main theme of the Jubilee Year 2000 is obviously the Mystery of Christ in the life of the Church and of the world today. The Church of the first centuries was a community that lived the Easter experience intensely and was deeply touched by the Spirit of the Risen Lord. In course of time however, as she grew in numbers and became organized institutionally, her experience of the Spirit tended to lose its freshness. Vatican II was a special intervention of the Spirit in her life, a New Pentecost, which was meant "to impart an ever increasing vigour to the Christian life of the faithful" (SC. 1). This requires that the Christian community encounter Christ anew not only as the centre of its own life, but also as the focal point of the history of the world. This will in its turn lead to a transformation of life and a renewed enthusiasm for proclaiming the Good News to the world. This is what the New Evangelization implies in its deepest significance.

3. The Proposal of the Holy Father for the Jubilee 2000

In the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the Holy Father divides the period of preparation for the Jubilee into two phases:

The first - called the ante-preparatory phase - extends from 1994 to 1996. This period "is meant to revive in the Christian people an awareness of the value and meaning of the Jubilee Year 2000 in human history" (TMA no.3 1). The chief focus is on making the Christian community realize the need of repentance and reconciliation as well as that of strengthening its faith commitment.

The second - the preparatory phase - lasts three years, from 1997 to 1999. The first year (1997) is dedicated to Jesus Christ. The faithful are to be initiated into a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ: (a) by creating a renewed interest in Sacred Scriptures whereby they came to know Him for the first time, (b) by fostering a renewed appreciation of Baptism whereby they were first related to His Person and (c) by a deeper understanding of their commitment in faith to Him through a process of Catechesis. Mary will be present as a model of faith specially manifested in her Divine Motherhood.

The second year (1998) is dedicated to the Holy Spirit who is the gift of Christ to the Church so that she may continue her mission in the world. The main focus will be on the sacrament of Confirmation whereby the Spirit confers on the Church manifold charisms for the fulfilment of her role in the world, namely, the mission of evangelization which is meant to give the world the hope for a new creation. In order to fulfill this task effectively, it is necessary to build up unity within the Church, which is founded on the activity of the Spirit. Mary is presented as a model ofperfect docility to the Spirit in the work of salvation.

The third year (1999) is the year of the Father. The main focus of this year is the establishment of the Fatherhood of God in the world. Alienation present at different levels in our human relationships is the cause of the lack of experience of this Fatherhood within the human community. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation this alienation is to be removed and a community of Charity to be established. This charity will have to be expressed through a preferential option for the poor and the outcast, through an approach of dialogue with the great religions and the secular ideologies of the world. It is to usher in a civilization of love. Mary will be presented as the perfect model of love for God and neighbour.

The great Jubilee year 2000 will be the year of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It will be celebrated with the International Eucharistic Congress in Rome. A meeting of all Christians can put in evidence the ecumenical and universal character of the Jubilee.

4. India and Jubilee 2000

The Indian Church is called upon to play her own specific role in the preparation and celebration of this great Jubilee. The Church in India is a heavily institutionalized community. A recent survey has highlighted the fact that this community is very much in need of deepening its Godexperience. The image that we reflect both within and without the Church clearly manifest this. The Church in India must become a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led community. For this, our Christian communities need to be reevangelized; only then will they become evangelizing communities.

At this point we would like to point out that during the post-Vatican II period, the Church has, on numerous occasions, proclaimed and reaffirmed almost all of the above values. But their practical implementation has not been very apparent. Reflecting on this situation, we feel that our approach to renewal has hitherto mainly consisted in a critique of the structures of the past. It has to some extent lacked that creativity which originates from the Spirit with a view to building up a new Church and a new world around us. The Christian community has not been sufficiently touched to the core by the Spirit of Pentecost, as a result of which it has not always succeeded in bringing the Good News to the people. It is necessary therefore, that the Church in India experience anew the power and the unction of the Spirit, if a new evangelization is to take place in this country through her.

5. Focus on implementation

As we conclude this letter, lest we get lost in a welter of ideas, we would like to sharpen our focus by concentrating on some practical points that are related to the above and which can be implemented throughout the length and breadth of India:

Conclusion

As the Third millennium dawns on our country, where Christianity has been in existence practically from its very inception, we want to project a renewed face of the Church which will radiate Christ so that our brothers and sisters of India will be able to experience the loving kindness of the Saviour. It is our goal to build up in our country a Catholic community that is intent on becoming a fully reconciled community, free from all discrimination, a Christian community that is healed of all its divisions, a religious community that lives in harmony and a human community that has discovered its true source of life in love and sharing. If this is to be realized, we need to undergo a thorough conversion, for it is only through the body of the transformed Christian community, that Christ can shine in His radiance to the world around us. We shall then communicate the joy of the redeemed to all our brothers and sisters: the Good News of Jesus for the emerging India of 2000.


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