The "Basic ecclesial communities" are at the heart of the Church's mission today and are "the new way of being a Church": according to the Latin Church of Kerala (state in the south of India) that, through the Council of Latin Bishops of Kerala, organized the missionary Congress from 6 to 8 October that gathered at the National Sanctuary of Our Lady in Vallarpadam, in the Archdiocese of Verapoly, over 4,000 priests, religious, laity from all over the region.
The concluding Mass of the Congress was presided by Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
As reported to Fides, the Congress is the highlight of a three-year process, initiated by the local Church: this "desires small basic communities to be fully integrated in the educational, social, family, youth, lay pastoral". The Latin Catholic Church of Kerala currently has 1,438 parishes and about 13,650 small basic communities.
During the Congress the delegates question each other about the missionary aspect in the context of Indian society and, at the end of the assembly, the "Ten-Year Pastoral Plan" of the Latin Church of Kerala will be published.
The "basic ecclesial communities" came to light historically in South America as a response to the pastoral needs of local churches, linked to the "decentralization" of the parish, to foster a deeper communion and testimony within the context of the people of God.
The first experiences in the Indian Church were born in the late 1970s and spread gradually as a form of community that managed to involve mainly the poor, marginalized, weak, faithful scattered in peripheral areas or rural villages.
In the Latin Church in Kerala, the diocese of Trivandrum, began promoting communities in the 1980s which then spread to Kollam, Neyyatinkara, Alleppy, and several other dioceses. Today, following the model of Trivandrum, many dioceses organize pastoral activities with the support of small basic communities, thanks to a substantial pastoral contribution of lay people.
(Reprinted with permission of Agenzia Fides)