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Following their annual meeting from 28 April to 1 May 2019, the Indian Women Theologians’ Forum (IWTF) has released the following statement:
Letter from Gerard Kelly, President of ACTA:
Theological and Ethical Confab on Socio-Political Questions Held in Manila, Philippines
Three hundred people who are engaged in current socio-political issues in the Philippines participated in a two-day confab last April 19 and 20, 2018, held at the CICM Maryhill School of Theology in Quezon City. With the theme “The Prophetic Mission of the Church in Present-day Philippines,” sixteen presentations and discussions dealt with various theological and ethical questions vis-à-vis the populist authoritarian regime of President Rodrigo Duterte. One of the major highlights of the gathering, and which the participants shared as a Christian imperative with a sense of urgency, is to challenge the culture of silence, deceit, intimidation, violence, and the weaponization of the laws and the social media through which the present political administration has been forcibly imposing its will upon the people. This prophetic work implies converting from within the structures and practices of the churches by moving out of its “self-referential” praxis and to become a “church of the periphery” (inspired by Pope Francis) that serves and find solace in the pains and hopes of the most vulnerable people in society. The participants are unanimous that solidarity with the poor, weak, victims, and forsaken is what is called for in order to advance the common good and to reassert engaged democratic citizenship in the country today. The Confab was spearheaded by Laiki Agora – Philippines, an association of lay theologians that creates spaces of dialogue, discernment, and action on socio-political questions.
Emmanuel Serafica de Guzman
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has decided to celebrate a Plenary Council for the Church in Australia in 2020. In announcing the Council the bishops said:
“At the conclusion of the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope Saint John Paul II encouraged the Church in his Apostolic Letter ‘Novo Millennio Ineunte’ (2001) to discern what the Spirit has been saying to the Church and to put into practice resolutions and guidelines for action that fit the context and culture of each place (§3). Reflecting on what the Spirit has been saying to the People of God, he exhorted “the Pastors of the particular Churches, with the help of all sectors of God’s People”, to plan for the future in a collegial way that harmonises among the dioceses the work of pastoral revitalisation (§29).
Pope Francis has encouraged and fostered the same collegiality among bishops and synodality throughout the whole Church. In his address last October commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops, he stated: “A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realises that listening ‘is more than simply hearing’. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he ‘says to the Churches’ (Rev 2:7).” Speaking of Ecclesiastical Provinces and Regions, Particular Councils and Conferences of Bishops, the Holy Father went on to observe that, “We need to reflect on how better to bring about, through these bodies, intermediary instances of collegiality, perhaps by integrating and updating certain aspects of the ancient ecclesiastical organisation. The hope expressed by the [Second Vatican] Council that such bodies would help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realised. We are still on the way, part-way there.”
The circumstances of the Church in Australia in our time, including the patterns of change that are evident within the community of the Church, the issues confronting the Church in modern multicultural and secular Australia, the increase in entrusting responsibility for and leadership of the Church’s mission to laity, and even the changing face of the Episcopate, prompt the Church to review, analyse, and discern the signs of the times, to listen anew to the Spirit, and to chart its course into the future.”
The Australian Catholic Theological Association put the Plenary Council on the agenda of its 2017 conference and will follow up at the 2018 conference. Members of the association – the theologians of Australia – will have an important contributing role in providing theological reflection on matters pertinent to the Council.
On Oct. 16 and 17, 2017, the Damdaming Katoliko sa Teolohiya (DaKaTeo) – Catholic Theological Society of the Philippine held a tribute-conference for their most senior members (in age and in theological works) on the theme: “Seeds and First Fruits: Contributions of Wisdom Figures of the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines.”
The honorees are: Dr. Jimmy Aguilar Belita CM (laudatio – his thoughts and legacy presented by Dr. Danny Pilario CM), Dr. Jose Mario Francisco SJ (laudatio by Dr. Ruben Mendoza), Dr. Karl Gaspar CSsR (laudation by Dr. Randy Odchigue and represented by Dr. Victorino Cueto CSsR), Dr. Manuel Ginete CM (laudatio by Dr. Raul Pura CM and represented by Peter Solis CM), Amelia Vasquez RSCJ (laudatio by Dr. Tessa Rosana), Ton Danenberg (laudatio by Dr. Rico Ponce O’Carm), Dr. Jose de Mesa (laudatio by Dr. Rebecca Cacho), Dr. Lode Wostyn CICM (laudatio by Dr. Dominador Bombangan Jr., read by Dr. Estela Padilla), and Dr. Corazon Manalo DC (laudatio by Dr. Mawel Pajarillo FSC, read by Dr. Rolando Tuazon CM).
A prayer-tribute by Dr. Agnes Brazall was also given to the late Georges de Schrijver SJ and Br. Andrew Gonzales FSC, two figures who gave inspiration and support to the founding of DaKaTeo in 2000 and 2002.
Dr. Dennis Gonzalez gave the welcome address and the open forums were moderated by Dr. Emmanuel S. de Guzman, Dr. Eric Genilo SJ, and Dr. Victorino Cueto CSsR. DaKaTeo also elected its new officers for 2017-2019: Dr. Ruben Mendoza, Dr. Levy Lanaria, Dr. Rolando Tuazon CM, and Dr. Rico Ponce O’Carm.
(By Emmanuel S. de Guzman)
Statement of the Indian Women Theologians’ Forum (IWTF) Annual Meeting, 21st – 24th April, 2017
We, the members of Indian Women Theologians Forum met for our annual meeting from 21st to 24th April 2017 at De Nobili College, Pune, to deliberate on the theme: The Politics of the Reign/”Kin-dom” of God in the Indian Context: A Feminist Theological Search. We based our reflections on the notion of ”Kin-dom” popularised by mujerista theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, as it reminds us that we are all kin to each other in the family of God. Understanding the ‘Reign of God’ as Kin-dom has special significance in the Indian context as it serves to challenge the hierarchical implications of domination and power associated with the term ‘Kingdom’, which is an expression with patriarchal overtones.
Enacting the foot washing ritual Jesus instituted as the exemplar of service and subversion of existing hierarchies, was a spiritual experience of bonding, reconciliation and an invitation to constant transformation. Conducted at the start of our meeting, this ritual offered us an occasion also to connect to the community of some of the tribes in North East India for whom foot-washing is a gesture of purification and connectedness. It was an exercise that motivated us to assert that we are Church and to commit ourselves to the Kin-dom of God that welcomes with humility and loving care, the least and the last.
Our sharing on the lived experiences of the ‘Kin-dom’ of God in our personal lives brought out the different facets of the Reign of God in the context of India. It was an invitation to engage consciously in the politics of inclusion against the backdrop of the practices of exclusion, as exercised by the mainstream systems of power including that of religions.
Our reflections were based on a series of papers presented on the changing Indian scenario where economic and social inequalities are growing, and hyper-nationalism and communalism are surreptitiously being mainstreamed through the shrinking of democratic spaces and the tacit complicity of those in power.
We observe the deliberate attempt in the global political economy to institutionalize exclusion by focusing on growth and the supremacy of the market, and using religion to polarize people. The irreparable damage inflicted on the environment, led by the greed for profit, forces displacement of masses of people. It destroys particularly the livelihood and the cultural practices of the Adivasis/tribal communities who live in harmony with nature. This has increasingly led to the feminization of migration, exploitation of labour and increased vulnerability of the poor.
We problematized the concept of ‘kin’ in the Indian context as the caste system in our society is a hierarchy that is defined by one’s family identity. Ethnicity and religion also create barriers to kinship. Within the family itself, traditional kinship relations are marked by discrimination on the basis of gender. While we reaffirm the need for kin-ship, and interdependence even with nature as a responsibility beyond self interest, we also affirm that Jesus’ call to “Kingdom” is universal and inclusive. Being subversive of hierarchy it challenges exclusive sectarian practices and oppressive traditions. In using loving, humble service as the key to the Kingdom, Jesus binds humans to each other and the cosmos in interdependence and responsibility to the well being of all. In this context, we feel called to push with prophetic courage the existing boundaries of divisions and discriminations that mark our society and Church, in the name of blind adherence to tradition.
We see the Kin-dom as a gift and a task; a home coming of Sophia, a new wisdom that awakens us to be and become a transforming presence. The Kin-dom is at work in all social movements and various individual and collective initiatives that counter marginalization, discrimination, exploitation and exclusion – of people of minority faiths and genders, ethnicities, and caste hierarchies. We also acknowledge the liberative politics of the Kin-dom being enabled in the several initiatives that demonstrate alternate ways of enhancing sustainable development while preserving God’s creation.
We are challenged by:
- the nexus between patriarchy, religious hegemony, market fundamentalism and the exploitation of the poor;
- the various exclusions defined by caste, class, gender, religion, language and culture;
- the need of groups to assert their own identities at the risk of excluding the other;
- the market that draws us into a cycle of consumption and waste, destroying nature from both ends by depleting its resources and using it as our dump yard.
We commit ourselves to:
- Building communities of inclusion, reconciliation and service, modeling the liberative symbol of washing of the feet , as illustrated by Jesus;
- Adopting lifestyles that are marked by simplicity and harmony with nature, while making efforts to rejuvenate and conserve our natural resources;
- Entering into partnerships/alliances with individuals, groups and movements who bravely challenge the existing patriarchal development paradigm.
We draw our energies from the Spirit – Wisdom Sophia who is at work in realizing the Kin-dom of God, where all in our shared ecosystem are at peace and in harmony, and experience life in abundance (Jn10:10).
Kochurani Abraham washing the feet of women (file photo)
The members of Indian Theological Association (ITA) gathered at Montfort Spirituality Centre, Bangalore from 26-29 April 2017, for their annual meet cum seminar. This was also an occasion to celebrate the Ruby Jubilee of the Association, on the theme 40 years of Indian Theological Association: Milestones and Sign Posts.
(ITA) was founded with the vision of promoting the development of an Indian Christian theology.
Fr. Joseph Constantine Manalel CMI was the great visionary behind this venture. Over the past 40 years, ITA has striven to live its prophetic call and leave a mark not just on the theological landscape of the Indian Church, but also on the universal church, through its commitment and dedication to theologizing in the Indian context.
At the end of the conference, a new team of office bearers were elected for a term of three years. They are:
- President: Dr. Vincent Kundukulam
- Vice President: Dr. Kochurani Abraham
- Secretary: Dr. Raj Irudaya SJ
- Treasurer: Dr. Joy Pulickan SDB
Other members of the Executive Committee are Alangaram SJ, Jacob Parappally MSFS, Jerome Silvester IMS and D.J. Margaret FMA.
The Assembly thanked the outgoing team – Shalini Mulackal PBVM (President), Anandam (Vice President), Roy Lazar (Secretary), James Anaparambil (Treasurer) and the other EC members -Astrid lobo Gajiwala, John Baptist and Tony Neelankavil for the commendable service they rendered to ITA over the last three years.
The Jubilee provided the occasion for an introspection of ITA’s trajectory thus far and for a critical examination of its relevance to the Indian church and society. The conference ended on a note of deeper bonding between the members and a renewed commitment to live ITA’s vision with greater vitality in today’s context.