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Latin Bishops’ Plenary To Discuss Anti-Christian Violence

01/29/09 MANGALORE, India (UCAN) — Fanatic violence targeting Christians will top the discussion agenda for Latin-rite bishops in India at their plenary in February, an official said.

“The systematically planned and executed brutal attacks on Christians last year” will be the major concern at the Feb. 12-18 meeting, according to Father Uduma Bala, deputy secretary general of the Latin-rite bishops’ conference.

Around 120 members of the Conference of the Catholic Bishops in India (CCBI) will meet in Mysore, cultural capital of the southern state of Karnataka.

Several places across India witnessed Hindu fanatic violence against Christians during 2008. The worst was in Orissa state, eastern India, where seven weeks of violence beginning Aug. 24 claimed at least 60 lives and displaced another 50,000 people, mostly Christians.

In September, Hindu extremists also attacked at least 24 churches in Karnataka. Father Bala pointed out the venue for the bishops’ meeting was selected even before these attacks. Now, it will help the prelates recall the attacks and review their impact on Christians, he added.

“Undoubtedly, with great hope Catholics look toward the hierarchy for guidance,” he said on Jan. 27, adding that “much is expected” from the meeting that will be attended by the heads of 128 of India’s 160 dioceses.

The other dioceses belong to the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches. These two Oriental rites and the Latin rite comprise the Catholic Church in India.

Father Bala said the bishops have chosen the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church as the theme of their 21st plenary. That theme, the same as for the synod of bishops held last October in Rome, has “much relevance now” because it is “oriented to evangelization,” the priest said, noting that Hindu fanatics accuse Christians of forcibly converting poor people.

Apostolic Nuncio to India Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana is scheduled to open the meeting at Prabodan (enlightening), a theological center the Pallottine congregation runs.

The Latin-rite bishops meet every two years for a week, and for a day on alternate years, when the national conference comprising all three rites meets.

According to Father Bala, the Latin conference has 173 members including cardinals, archbishops, bishops, one coadjutor and auxiliary bishops.

The two Oriental-rite Churches based in Kerala state, also in southern India, have their own independent synods, which are empowered to manage their ritual and some administrative affairs. They follow Syrian Church traditions and trace their origin to Saint Thomas the Apostle.

The Latin rite follows the Roman liturgy introduced by European missioners in the 15th century.