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Indian bishops prioritize family life

BHOPAL, Feb 10, 2017–India’s bishops have decided to give special pastoral attention to people estranged from the church and their families.

The Latin-rite bishops were attending the 29th plenary assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India in Bhopal and which concluded Feb. 8. The 137 bishops attending were from 132 Latin dioceses and issued a statement after deliberating on a way to revitalize Catholic families after church studies suggested that Catholic families are drifting away from vital Catholic teachings such as those on family planning.

Their family theme was inspired by Pope Francis’ 2016 exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (“Promoting the Joy of Love in Our Families”).

“We will reach out to those who for several reasons feel estranged from the church … including people who are divorced, those civilly remarried and cohabiting partners,” the statement said.

They said they would do this keeping in mind Pope Francis’ words that “what is urgently needed today is a ministry to care for those whose marital relationship has broken down.”

They also pledged “to support and accompany” families that need special care such as those living in dire poverty, with spouses of two different religions, single parent families, families with disabled children, grieving and bereaved families, migrants and families with sick and elderly members.

To strengthen family life, the bishops also planned to intensify preparatory classes given to couples before marriage and encourage priests and nuns to “accompany families” through regular visits and contact.

“We will ensure that our priests, catechists and pastoral workers receive better training in family ministry,” they said.

Bishop Paul Alois Lakra of Gumla said during the deliberations that the bishops “found a disconnect between the church and families.”

The bishops agreed that the current formation of priests and nuns is not adequate to handle the complex problems that families face and wanted to bring in changes, the bishop told

Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur said the bishops’ office for Catholic families has been asked to “work out a uniform program to help young boys and girls to prepare themselves for family life that is in line with the teachings of the church.”

“When we strengthen the marriage preparation course with more programs to help them realize their vocation to the sacrament of family, it will naturally help the church and society,” he added.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of India is the national body of the country’s Latin-rite prelates and is different from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the national body for prelates of all three rites — Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and the Latin — in the country. Of the 172 dioceses in India, 132 belong to the Latin rite. (AsiaNews)

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