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GC 27: Ringside Views and News - 16: RADICAL? Not So Far! But May be Yet!!

By Fr. Jose Parappully, SDB
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Kolkata, Apr. 6. .  ROME:  After the excitement of the election of the new General Council, and the private audience with Pope Francis, the Chapter members went back to drafting and discussion of the Chapter theme document.

Members have been divided into five Commissions. Three of this work on the Chapter theme and one is the Juridical Commission which examines various proposals from the Provinces and individuals and brings for discussion and voting to the Assembly the Commission's own proposals based on these.

A Drafting Committee had also been formed some weeks ago. This Committee had drawn up preliminary drafts of the Listening, Interpretation and Way Forward sections.
These drafts were studied in the four Commissions and feedback given. The Drafting Committee then brought further drafts incorporating the modifications and suggestions from the Commissions. These were further studied in Commissions and feedback given.

There has been much discussion on these Drafts on the floor of the Assembly.

Some common ideas expressed during these discussions are:
There doesn't seem to be anything radical in these drafts. Much of them are repetitions of matter already presented in previous chapters.
With regard to the ''Listening'' Section, attention was drawn to the lack of ''religious care'' of the young, especially in the context of non-Christian cultures.
We are not taking enough advantage of cyberspace - the ''new playground/oratory'' of the young.
The ''Interpretation'' section especially came in for heavy criticism. After all these years of discussion and preparation, including all the work done in the Provincial Chapters,  there still seems to be confusion as to what the term really means. The Drafting Committee appeared to have very different understanding from what had been presented by the Moderator.
Now, the section is a collection of statements as to how things should be, based on Magisterial, Scriptural, Theological and Congregational guidelines. Much effort has been made to incorporate the teachings of Pope Francis in ''Evangeli Gaudium.''  So the section has lots of quotations, and little in way of explaining the reasons for the situations presented in the ''Listening'' section.
Even though the Assembly has been requesting very concise document, each successive draft comes out longer and longer!
Of course the Drafting Committee has a tough job of integrating the suggestions and modifications from four different Commissions, all of whom seem to have differing perspectives on what the document should contain. While some suggest deleting sections, others bring in more and more material!

The members expressed following concerns:

Give more credible witness to the primacy of God in our lives; we are tending to become social workers with little connection to the Divine.
However, this primacy cannot be separated from our commitment to the young. We encounter God in the young. Our mysticism is total availability to the young in untiring work (visible mysticism) and temperance (inner mysticism).
There is a real need for real visible brotherhood and communion in communities.
Real effort has to be made to give greater attention to the complementary nature (clerical and lay dimensions) of the one Salesian vocation.  Greater visibility for the Salesian Brother, more representative participation in the General Chapter etc...
Clericalism in the congregation was quite heavily criticized.
The figure of the Salesian Rector was much discussed. There has to be greater focus on collegiality and co-responsibility and rather than harping on the primacy of the Rector all the time.
Need for more effective and relevant formation of the Salesian.  Need for ongoing formation was specially emphasized.

After all these discussions, the document is slowly taking its final shape. We have just one week to come up with a really radical document.

I think by Monday this week we might have a totally new draft coming up for discussion and voting, one that might be radical to some extent at least.

There is something radical that has already emerged. There were a number of interventions focused on a need for a statement acknowledging sexual abuse by some members of the Congregation and the need to express unconditional regret and apology, as well as the need to provide preventive formation and adequate rehabilitation of the survivors and the offenders.

Taking into consideration these sentiments the Congregational Leadership has formed a Commission, with the approval of the General Assembly, to bring out a statement on the issue.

Faith and Hope may yet be restored!

- Fr. Jose Parappully, SDB (INN)



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