We are happy to communicate to you that St Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bangalore, is organizing a National Conference cum Workshop in collaboration with Asian Centre for Cross-cultural Studies (ACCS), Chennai whose founder director is Prof. Dr Felix Wilfred. The theme of the Conference cum workshop is: Priestly and Religious Formation in India Today in the Light of Pope Francis’ Vision.
As we are well aware, the world has changed and continues to change at a speed unknown ever before. The socio-cultural and ethical issues are taking a new trend. The traditional values are being contested in the light of new developments and some long-established pastoral principles are gradually being seen as out-modelled. As the society is fast changing with the signs of post modern times, the priests and religious – both men and women – are also expected to advance new, positive and viable methods in dealing with issues within their ambience. The basic concern is how the priests and religious can know, evaluate understand and manage pastoral challenges evolving as a result of the changes in the society.
Problems facing the priests and religious are more related to the social, cultural, economic and political spheres. The issues affecting them concern also their personal integrity. India’s social living context is also religiously and culturally more pluralistic and diverse. The mindsets of those under formation continue to be shaped by a religious superiority complex, despite the Church’s positive attitude towards other religions and cultures. An emphasis on intellectual skills alone, and that too in an entirely segregated atmosphere, has contributed greatly to the emotional deprivation of candidates of priestly and religious formation. Many of them after their formation are seen to be very poor in relating, aggressive in behaviour towards women, women religious and people entrusted to their care, undue attachments to persons, things and money and ambitious in aspiration – attitudes we know now as clericalism. Pope Francis has denounced clericalism as a cancer among the clergy. Most of the time, the principal reason for the above sorry state of the priests and religious seems to be that their formation has been too abstract and one-sided.
The future of the Church depends much on the quality of the formation of the candidates. The concern of the Church for constant renewal in the formation given to these candidates is an age-long one, as clearly enounced by the Second Vatican Council Fathers. It states:
Animated by the spirit of Christ, this sacred synod is fully aware that the desired renewal of the whole Church depends to a great extent on the ministry of its priests. It proclaims the extreme importance of priestly training and lays down certain basic principles by which those regulations may be strengthened which long use has shown to be sound and by which those new elements can be added which correspond to the constitutions and decrees of this sacred council and to the changed conditions of our times. (Introduction, Optatam Totius)
The National Conference – this is actually a three year conference organized in a phased manner – aims at addressing the above mentioned issues related to the present-day formators and candidates under formation. The formation imparted to them today in the face of these formidable challenges must help them to evolve new pathways to resolving the challenges to the signs of the post modern times. In these last ten years, Pope Francis has come up with many newer initiatives, new ideas and new vision for the Church’s mission and life expressed through his encyclicals, interviews, and daily homilies. They have undoubtedly set the key principles and priorities for priestly and religious formation. They do have a lot of relevance for the formation in the developing countries, in particular.
With its unique human resources, magnificent infrastructure, and academic ambience, St Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bangalore, stands tall as a vibrant and versatile centre for ecclesiastical studies and the renewal of the Church in India. Hence it is an ideal institute to organize such a nationwide conference. It is not the first time that the institute is going to venture into organizing a conference of such enormity. Through its excellent organizing of the National Conference on Church in India on the Path of Synodality, it has shown nationwide what it is capable of. The outcome will be incredible, indeed! We firmly hope that the deep insights and serious reflections that will be shared during the conference are going to enable the participants – both the formators (rectors, professors and novice mistresses) and formees – discover newer and appropriate ways of imparting and receiving formation. Ultimately, it will help the various areas of mission the dioceses and religious orders are engaged in. Target Audience of the Conference: Presumably, the target audience are the rectors, professors of major and minor seminaries, major superiors and councillors in charge of formation of the men and women religious congregations and also formees from all over the country.