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1. Virginia Saldanha (India/Right) on Need of Dialogue between Asian Bishops and Laity for Renewing Asian Churches including FABC.
2. Martha Heizer (Austria/Middle) on The Urgent Agendas of "International Movement of We Are Church" for Church Reform as of Today.
3. Kochurani Abraham (India/Left) on "Bold for Change" in Addressing Misogyny and Patriarchal Culture in Asia.
Asian Theology Forum
31 July 2017
The Brazilian bishops have announced a celebration of the Year of the Laity beginning on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 26, 2017 and ending on the same feast in November, 2018. Its purpose is to increase awareness of the laity's mission and encourage involvement of lay people in the church and in society. The theme chosen for this Year of the Laity is “Christian Lay Men and Lay Women, Agents of the ‘Church Going Out to the Streets’ in Service of the Kingdom”. The bishops hope to encourage the presence and the action of Christians, 'true ecclesial agents, as ‘salt, light and leavening’ in the Church and in Society.
Call To Action has learned about this initiative of the Brazilian church through our partnership with Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI). CCRI brings together progressive Catholics from all over the world to participate in a global movement that works for change in the structures and governance of the Catholic Church. CCRI is in dialogue with progressive Catholics in Latin America who are part of the Base Christian Community movement. These Catholics are supporting the Brazilian church’s Year of the Laity and they are organizing a major meeting of representatives of the base communities in the Brazilian city of Londrina in January, 2018.
CCRI has written a letter to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who heads the newly established Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. This letter is calling for the Vatican to encourage bishops world-wide to join the Brazilian bishops in celebrating a Year of the Laity in their own dioceses as well. Call To Action members are encouraged to read the letter and add their names to this petition. This letter can be found here.
Call To Action and CCRI believe that a celebration of the Year of the Laity by the universal church is an opportunity for lay people around the world to become aware of their role in the church and to become conscious of their right to be consulted by the bishops in matter of governance of the church. In the most recent newsletter of CCRI, you can read about four synodal gatherings called by lay people during this upcoming Year of the Laity, including CTA’s 2018 national conference.
To all supporting the Renewal of our Church:
Please consider signing our open letter to Cardinal Kevin Farrell as head of the Dicastery on the Laity Family and Life. As you will see, the letter is an invitation to this office to join the People of God in carrying forward to the rest of the Church globally a "Year of the Laity" already being undertaken by the bishops of Brazil this coming year from the feast of Christ the King 2017 to this feast in 2018.
We sent this letter to the Cardinal on July 12 and received this prompt response:
I am Fr. Giovanni Buontempo, Responsible for Lay Movements and New Communities within the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. I am writing this e-mail on behalf of our Prefect, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, in reply of your e-mail of July 12th, 2017.
Thank you for sending us the letter with the request of a "Year of the Laity" for the universal Church. We had already received this request directly from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil, several months ago, and I can assure that Cardinal Farrell considered seriously this proposal and took it to his heart. The whole matter is being evaluated by the Holy See.
Be assured of our prayer for all your activities.
As a follow-up to the two Synods on the Family that have already taken place, we are standing with other Church community-based leaders in supporting four synodal gatherings called by the People all in 2018:
We will keep you apprised of these conferences as they unfold. One of the many outcomes of our calling for a Year of the Laity is to have the People of God from around the world actively supporting Pope Francis's vision for a decentralized Church that addresses the needs of the local dioceses and is universally more welcoming and less judgmental. But for the renewal of the Church to actually come from the People, the People must become more active in Church governance. The Church structures and practices of governance must come to embrace regional diversity and recognize that this is not in conflict with the unity of the Church. A Year of the Laity can teach the whole Church to respect the beauty of different cultures guided by the same Spirit.
In addition to signing this letter, you may also want to promote this with your local media, post it on your websites, and personally contact your pastor or bishop. Let's see what kind of global support we can garner when the People declare November 2017 to November 2018 to be the Year of the Laity throughout the world.
Once established, the next steps during this year would be to encourage the People in local dioceses to begin taking key initiatives based on what is appropriate to their region of the world. This might include such issues as:
July 12, 2017
Cardinal Kevin Farrell
Palazzo San Calisto
Vatican City State00120
Dear Cardinal Farrell,
We are most encouraged by what Pope Francis said in his speech to the Pontifical Council on the Laity on June 17, 2016. The pope's words resonate deeply in our hearts. He reminds us all that the call for lay participation in the evangelizing mission of the Church is not through a "delegation" of the hierarchy, but because their apostolate "is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation, all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself" (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 33).
The bishops of Brazil have taken to heart this suggestion of Pope Francis and set a “Year of the Laity” to run from the Feast of Christ the King in 2017 (November 26) to the Feast of Christ the King in 2018 (November 25), marking the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Synod on the Laity. The National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil is sending materials to its bishops “as a suggestion for implementation of this event, according to the reality and the decision of each particular Church.”
It is the mission of the people of God -- the church that we all are -- to go outside the boundaries which we ourselves have established, to see God's handiwork in those who see the Gospel mission differently. This is especially challenging when the leadership of bishop or pastor is regarded as the measure of the Gospel mission. We do not know the mind of God for others unless we begin with what Pope Francis calls "encounter and accompaniment.” It would be helpful toward this end for pastors and bishops to encourage lay initiatives under the guidance of the Spirit, where the lay leaders themselves “test everything and hold fast to what is good” (1Thessalonians 5:21). As Pope Francis said in his speech to the Pontifical Council of the Laity in June 2016:
“We need lay people who are formed well, animated by a clear and sincere faith, whose lives have been touched by a personal and merciful encounter with the love of Jesus Christ. We need lay people who take risks, who soil their hands, who are not afraid of making mistakes, who move forward. We need lay people with a vision of the future, who are not enclosed in the petty things of life. And as I said to the young people: we need lay people with a taste of the experience of life, who dare to dream.”
Would it not be appropriate for you and your Dicastery to extend this idea of the Brazilian bishops to the rest of the Church? It is a joyful opportunity to carry forward what Pope Francis hopes for the laity. We urge you to follow the lead of the Brazilian bishops and send a letter to all the bishops conferences, offering the example from Brazil as a suggestion for calling the laity to take the full measure of their role among the baptized. This is an opportunity not only for engaging all the People of God in the work of the Gospel but also for supporting others who have so organized themselves, to celebrate the many different gifts of the one Spirit who unites us all (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
By taking this approach, you would be putting into practice, between the Vatican and the conferences of bishops, a servant leadership that “inverts the pyramid,” a model which Francis himself has suggested. This would serve as a powerful example for the bishops themselves to follow the guideline laid out by our Holy Father.
Who knows which conferences of bishops will adopt a Year of the Laity? But their freedom to act can be a model for bishops everywhere to use freedom in the same way to encourage the people to fulfill the calling of their baptism. This can truly be a watershed within the Church for a bubbling-up of the Spirit through the grassroots, embodied in local gatherings of Gospel-filled people – Small Christian Communities (SCCs), basic ecclesial communities (CEBs), and Intentional Eucharistic Communities (IECs) of all kinds whose love for one another is rooted in their love for Christ.
For our part, we resolve to support these grassroots initiatives by letting the People of God know they are not alone, that their place among the baptized, which is the Church, is not limited or defined by their place in a parish or diocese. In these days, a sign of the times is an emerging social technology that enables the kind of linkages that can bring a sense of oneness to those who otherwise may feel isolated or alone.
As a global network, we look with anticipation and joy to work collaboratively with you in the furtherance of the work of your Dicastery in the coming months and years.
Respectfully sent from our Church Reform Strategy Team:
Kochurani Abraham: theologian, speaker, and author, India
Clyde Christofferson: attorney and member of NOVA, an Intentional Eucharistic Community, U.S.
Barbara Dreher: CSJ; Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, U.S
Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, Indian Women’s Theological Forum, India
Paul Hwang: Woori Theological Institute, Seoul, Korea
Paschal Kearney: retired Irish member of the Holy Ghost Fathers/Spiritans, Australia
Peter Mbuchi Methu: Interfaith Africa, Kenya
Alloys Nyakundi: liaison with Small Christian Communities, Kenya
Don Pribor, Church Worker Justice Organizer for Call To Action, Mexico City/Brazil
Michael Redfearn: digital literacy consultant, Canada
Rene Reid: author and co-founder of CCRI, U.S.
Christina Reymer: active church reformer, New Zealand
Virginia Saldanha: Indian Women’s Theological Forum, India
Ed Schreurs: Open Church Alliance, Netherlands
Nessan Vaughan, active church reformer, Dublin, Ireland
Young Adult CCRI committee:
Reena Alphonso (India)
Rachael Alphonso (India)
Liz Ngami (Kenya)
Zach Johnson (Executive Director, Call to Action, U.S.)
Reverend Joe Healey, MM: animator of Small Christian Communities in Eastern Africa.
CC: Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State