“The unity of the Bishops in the AEC embodies the hope and promises of the Region,” said Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Nichola Girasoli in his opening address to Bishops attending the 60th Annual Plenary Meeting at St John Vianney Seminary, Mount St. Benedict, April 10-15.
The Nuncio identified four areas which Pope Francis wanted the bishops to focus on:
- Ministry on the essentials of evangelisation;
(2) Transparency as a requirement for credible ministry;
(3) Avoiding the trap of paralysis in response to the questions of the day; and
(4) Unity of purpose in mission that sustains communion.
The Nuncio urged, “Speak face to face to each other, argue if necessary but work for unity.”
Taking up the theme of communion, Archbishop Patrick Pinder, President of the Conference, highlighted the Holy Father’s call for the Jubilee Year of Mercy as a call for unity in mission. He noted the key points of the meeting agenda were a concrete response to the special Jubilee.
At the meeting Fr Francis Morrisey made a special intervention aimed at empowering Bishops to assist priests who have left the priesthood to regularise their state in the Church and helping married couples whose marriages are not valid.
Archbishop Pinder also restated the AEC’s commitment to continue working for the perseveration of the environment. Expressing his delight and appreciation for the recent Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of Love”, by Pope Francis, Archbishop Pinder noted “there is something new and exciting in the church today”. He said, The Year of Mercy, and the ministry of Pope Francis has ignited interest in the Church and its documents. “This is a new experience and we need to be alert to this new thing as opportunities to make effective the thrust of the New Evangelization” he said.
Fr Jacob Parappally MSFS, from India, leading the Bishops in retreat, reminded them they were called to be disciples before they were sent to be apostles. The heart of discipleship is Christophany,” he said. “We must allow the light of Christ to shine out from us.” Referring to Romans 12, Fr. Jacob told the bishops they were not to conform to the world, but to transform the world according to the will of God. “We are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to Christ and to recognise that together we are Christ’ Body. It is by unity in purpose and action and communion that the light of Christ shines.”
Fr Jacob called the Bishops to give consideration to the dynamics of the inculturation of faith in the region. He said the principle of discernment was central to the process so as to access the will of God, regarding what is good and acceptable and mature (Rm 12:2). He said in India theology began with both western and Indian philosophy as a foundation for the discipline. He challenged the Bishops to examine the current paradigms for interpreting Christ, the Church and the tradition, that informs the approach to pastoral ministry. This examination, he said, is necessary “for the light of Christ to shine authentically” in our region.
In the workshop with Fr Ronald Knott, the Bishops were invited to reflect on Canon 245, which focuses on presbyterial unity, essential for the Church to accomplish the goal and vision of Vatican II. Fr Knott focused on three points that Priests and Bishops need to work together on:
(1) ministry as the principal means of sanctification;
(2) a good example for the people they serve and for each other; and
(3) working together to build an authentic presbyterate in each Diocese.
He said the convention of the “lone ranger priest” is unsustainable in our time. It is the greatest deterrent to vocations and the cause of deep unhappiness in the priesthood. Hence, he called on the Bishops to build an intentional presbyterate committed to unity in diversity.
At the conclusion of the deliberations, the Bishops committed themselves to work on an integrated pastoral plan for communication in the AEC region. This plan will facilitate the vision of the New Evangelization, unifying the work of the various commissions so as to ensure depth and consistency for pastoral outreach, and information sharing so as to build unity and effective ministry.
The dream of the AEC Bishops is that the whole people of God become Christophany: that all – the Faithful, each one in his sphere of influence, and collectively as the Body of Christ, will shine forth Christ in our Caribbean region. The virtue of Mercy is acknowledged as the key to unlocking the door to the prospect for unity, mission, and evangelisation for the effective renewal of our Caribbean civilisation