THE PASTORAL LETTER OF THE
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF INDIA IN PREPARATION FOR THE JUBILEE YEAR
CBCI CENTRE 1, Ashok Place, Near Goldakkhana New Delhi -
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
a) Jubilee in the life of the people of God of
the Old Testament
For Israel, the Jubilee was a time specially dedicated
to God who had liberated them from Egypt. It was a time during which they
were called upon to enjoy their freedom as the people of God, to renew
their covenant with Yahweh and to look forward in expectation of the messianic
age, by committing themselves to its realization. Hence it was also a time
to effect the freedom from slavery and poverty.
b) Jubilee in the life of Jesus
Jesus Christ began His public life, proclaiming a Jubilee
year (Lk.4, 16-30). He envisioned it as a time of God's intervention in
the history of the people to bring about their total freedom and integral
well-being by means of the Gospel that He preached and the miracles that
He performed. The climax of this divine intervention was realized in the
redemptive events of Christ's Death and Resurrection. With the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit on the first believers, this Jubilee was extended to
the whole world.
c) Jubilee in the life of the Church
The Church has celebrated many Jubilees in the course
of her history in order to remind herself of the great event of her salvation
in Christ and of her mission as a community anointed by the Spirit to proclaim
the Kingdom of God. Thus Jubilees were celebrated at intervals of 25 and
50 years to enable the Church to relive the mystery of Christ in her life
d) Jubilee 2000 and Vatican II
Vatican II, styled by Pope John XIII a 'new Pentecost',
inaugurated a Jubilee for our times by challenging the Christian community
to renew its life and mission. Pope John Paul II has called it a period
of New Evangelization. In his Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente,
the link between Vatican 11 and the great Jubilee of 2000 is underscored.
"The Second Vatican Council was a providential event, whereby the
Church began the more immediate preparation for the Jubilee of the Second
Millennium. It was a Council like earlier ones, yet very different; it
was a Council focused on the mystery of Christ and the Church and at the
same time open to the world" (no. 18). The same Apostolic Letter continues:
'The preparation for the new millennium, therefore, can only be expressed
in a renewed commitment to apply, as faithfully as possible, the teachings
of Vatican II to the life of every individual and of the whole Church"
(no.20). It is necessary, therefore to recapture and relaunch the basic
thrust of Vatican II in order to make the Church effectively respond to
the Lord who is beckoning her to encounter the new millennium.
2. The main Thrust of the Preparation for the
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.
a) Jesus Christ, the centre of the Church and
of human history
Inaugurating the Jubilee at Nazareth, Jesus highlighted
the fact that He was fulfilling all the other Jubilees of the Old Testament
and gave it a liberative and redemptive thrust. This should be the thrust
of our Jubilee. Continuing His mission through the Church today, Jesus
seeks to respond to the aspirations and yearnings of humanity, be they
social, religious or economic. Therefore Christian communities themselves
must both practise and propagate the authentic values of justice, freedom
and equality and, in concrete, stand for the rights of the weak, the poor
and the oppressed. Only when His redemptive plan is realized in our human
situations, does Jesus become the centre of history.
b) A springtime for Christian life
The implications of accepting Christ as the centre of
the Church and of the world can be synthesized into two phrases: the conversion
of the Christian community and the transformation of the Christian community
into an evangelizing community. Before initiating the Jubilee Year, Jesus
invited all to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mt.4,19; Mk.1,15). At
the end of His ministry - the Jubilee Year - Jesus asked all His followers
to go forth and proclaim the Good News to the whole world (Mt.28,1920;
Mk. 16,15). In order that the beginning of the third millennium may be
a veritable springtime of Christian life, two conditions must be verified:
the re-evangelization of Christian communities and the evangelization of
the world by Christian communities.
i) Re-evangelization of Christian communities
The first requirement for an authentic evangelization
is repentance. This requires the renouncing all sin, be it personal or
communitarian. "The joy of every Jubilee is above all a joy based
upon the forgiveness of sins, the joy of conversion" (TMA no.32).
Once this is realized, there will be reconciliation at all levels between
God and human persons as well as among human persons themselves. Conversion
will lead us to a renewed commitment to Christ. This is the deepest meaning
of believing in the Gospel. Vatican 11 has shown us the path leading to
this faith renewal. Among the chief means proposed by the Council in order
to revitalize the faith of the Christian communities, are: a renewed interest
in the Word of God, and an active and lived participation in the liturgy.
Thereby Christians will be enabled to experience the Mystery of Christ
more deeply and bear witness to the joy of being redeemed.
ii) Evangelization of the world by the Christian
A transformed and reconciled Christian community is an
effective instrument for reconciliation and unity among the peoples of
the world. This is the goal of evangelization. This evangelizing thrust
should permeate all the activities of the Church. Her structures should
be so renewed by the power of the Spirit as to become instruments for the
proclamation of the Gospel in all contexts. In other words, she should
realize that evangelization is not merely one of her activities, but it
is her only activity. This will give her a new identity, an identity in
terms of her mission.
3. The Proposal of the Holy Father for the Jubilee
In the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the
Holy Father divides the period of preparation for the Jubilee into two
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.
a) Evangelization of the Church in India.
To become an evangelized community, the Church in India
should seriously take up the issue of reconciliation in the following areas
of her life.
i) The very first condition for a reconciled community
is the personal conversion of its members because all the evils present
in the community have their origin in the human heart. It is necessary
for every Christian to listen and accept once again the call of the Lord:
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
ii) The Church should eschew and eradicate all discrimination
based on caste, wealth, social status, linguistic, ethnic and gender differences
from our Christian communities. These are directly
opposed to the Gospel and an evangelized community can
never tolerate them.
iii) In a society like ours, where the socioeconomic scenario
is still marked by injustice, inequality and oppression, the Church should
reaffirm her option for the poor and express it both in word and deed as
the basic sign characterizing her presence in the midst of the millions
of poor in this country.
iv) Conflictual situations arising from strained relationships
among bishops, priests, religious, laity as well as among communities should
be thoroughly gone into and appropriate measures for healing these ills
should be initiated.
v) Contrary to the plan of God and the explicit will of
Christ, particularly the last thousand years have witnessed the scandal
of a divided Christian people - a real obstacle to the preaching of the
Gospel. The image of a divided Christian community has been a source of
counter-vatness to the Gospel also in our country. Christian Unity must
therefore be given a special place in our plans and programmes.
b) The evangelizing Church of India
The faith of the Church in India should be renewed in
such a way that she can become an evangelizing Church. She has to shed
the image of an institution that lives for itself and acquire the awareness
that she is essentially a community in a state of mission for the others.
This conviction should permeate the entire Christian community. Among the
challenges that confront the Church in India as an evangelizing community
are the following:
The Christian community in India cannot fulfill her mission
of evangelization unless she experiences the Risen Lord present in her
midst. She must experience Him in the Word and the Sacraments; she must
experience Him in fraternal love. She must develop a capacity for contemplation.
This will be realized only when the Gospel touches the very depths of our
hearts, when Christ lives in the very recesses of our being, penetrating
it even to the level of the unconscious. It is then that the Spirit of
Jesus, who is the real source and energy of our Christian life, will become
operative in our day-to-day life. We will not derive our strength merely
from our institutions, but from our ability to bear witness to Christ.
ii) Indian society is multi-religious. Hence our mission
of evangelization should be reviewed taking into account this fact, in
the spirit of Vatican II. Interreligious dialogue should become an indispensable
element in this, not only on the level of the elite and hierarchy, but
above all on the level of every diocese, parish and individual. It should
become a reality on the grass-root level.
iii) A deep insertion into the cultures and traditions
of the people is necessary, if the Church is to make the Mystery of Christ
relevant to our land. Inculturation therefore is an absolute need for an
iv) The purpose of evangelization is to give life to the
world: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly"
(JQhn 10,10). Today more than ever, life is threatened by many forces of
death through the spread of violence, abortion and other such evils, even
in our own country. As we prepare for the Jubilee year which renews the
offer of life made by Christ, the Christian community has to make a special
effort to inculcate, foster and defend the sanctity of human life. This
is,,Qne, of the ways in which we are called to fulfill our mission of evangelization
v) The Christian community should effectively proclaim
the values of the Gospel in our crisis-ridden society. Hence it becomes
necessary to denounce both in word and deed all forms of corruption, unhealthy
competition, consumerism, etc.
vi) It is necessary to create an awareness in Christian
communities, that by virtue of the Sacraments of Initiation which they
have received, they have become communities of faith in Jesus Christ. This
faith should be deepened in such a way that they become effective witnesses
of the risen Lord in the midst of the world. The sacrament of Baptism by
which they have bec ome members of the Church is a call to be evangelizers.
vii) Every Christian by virtue of the Sacrament of Confirmation
has received from the Spirit, charisms that are meant for the evangelizing
mission of the Church. The leaders of the Church should foster the functioning
of roles and ministries by which these charisms become operafive.in the
Church and in the world. This requires that the role of every member of
the community must be discovered within the integral evangelizing mission
of the Church and,not merely within its administrative structure. It is
important to keep in mind that administration is at the service of evangelization.
viii) Every parish, as a community of the baptized and
confirmed, as a community that constantly experiences the Paschal Mystery
through the celebration of the Eucharist, is by its very nature an evangelizing
community. This missionary consciousness should be deeply instilled into
all its members. The formation of basic Christian communities can be of
great help in this.
ix) The parish lives its Christian life primarily and
basically in the family. The renewal of Christian life would necessarily
imply the renewal of the Christian family. It is in the family that the
Christian learns the first lessons of Christian love, selflessness and
sharing, which are absolutely necessary to evangelize the modern world,
steeped as it is in individualism and consumerism. In his Apostolic letter
for the year 2000, the Holy Father says that the preparation should start
from the lowest unit of the Christian community, the family: "Each
family in some way should be involved in the preparation. Was it not through
a family of Nazareth that the Son of God chose to enter into human history?"
x) The devotional life of our people, especially the practice
of popular devotions, should become expressions of faith and ardent love
for the Person of Christ. This can help all of us to free ourselves from
mediocrity and superficiality in our Christian life. There will emerge
more zeal in all the devotees to spread the Good News of God's love even
as the early Christians did.
xi) The ministers,of the Church should realize that they
are primarily the ministers of the Word, whatever their role in the Church.
The priority of the ministry of the Word must be clearly and unambiguously
inculcated into the priests, religious and laity.
xii) Consecrated Religious life in India needs thorough
renewal so that it may express the radicality of the Gospel commitment
to the Kngdom of God. It must become a clear sign for the people of this
land as symbolizing a community of God-seekers guided by the Spirit of
Christ. The guidelines for the renewal of Religious Life, given by Pbpe
John Paul 11 in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vitci Consacrata
should be carefully studied and implemented.
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:
i) There should be an intensive drive to introduce the
whole Church in India to daily personal prayer, a time of silent exposure
to the power and love of God in our lives, a daily re-evangelization of
our deeper selves.
ii) The determination to bring about unity and reconciliation
at all levels of the Church should be fostered. We must sharpen our awareness
of the evils of the caste system and fight this aberration with consistency.
The formation of Conciliation Boards in every diocese will also be a useful
means to facilitate reconciliation wherever it is called for.
iii) An all-out effort should be launched to end hunger
and malnutrition among all sections of the people in our parishes. The
Bread that is broken at each Eucharist, which is our food of sharing as
the community of the Lord, must stimulate us to ensure that no one will
go to bed hungry. This must be the first and most obvious expression of
our option for the poor, our bringing the Good News to the poorest of the
pgor - that Jesus loves them and cares for them.
iv) Steps should be taken to organize a reflection on
'Church for India 2000' in the year 1999. This will be the climax of our
Jubilee preparations. The concrete shape which this will take will have
to be studied and planned at various levels during these coming three years.
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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