THe Growth of the Biblical Pastoral Ministry in india (1972-2017)

When the second vatican council opened the windows of the church to allow the fresh air of change to come in, the church opened itself to a new pentecost. with the promulgation of the dogmatic constitution on divine revelation (dei verbum), it provided the basis for a true and genuine biblical renewal in the church. the conciliar document became, the magna carta of the biblical pastoral ministry in our present times.

The church by her authority and with maternal concern to her children, seeks ways and means to provide easy access to the bible to all the christian faithful (DV 22), so that its saving message may animate thier daily lives. this is the timely and timeless apostolate that brings the sacred scriptures closer to the people of god.

Biblical renewal movement in india

The church in india, aware of the dynamic and transformimg presence of god's word in its life and mission, has always been engaged in the dissemination of the word of god enshrined in the bible. this area of her life which gained greater emphasis and momentum since the second vatican council, has undergone a deepening growth.

It involved fulfilling the following directive of the second vatican council (Dei Verbum):
▪ Seeking to ensure "easy access to sacred scripture... for all the christian faithful." (DV 22)
▪ Being personally engaged in "diligent sacred reading and careful study" of the scriptures. (DV 25)
▪ Making known the meaning and teaching of scripture in order to "provide the nourishment of the scriptures for the people of god, to enlighten their minds, strengthen thier wills, and set men's hearts on fire with the love of god."(DV 23)

National biblical catechetical and liturgical center
The present national biblical catechetical and liturgical center, bengaluru, started in february 1967 as a national center for catechetics and liturgy only. but the bible apostolate had no all india set up though much work had been done on a humble way. it was somewhat mixed up with evangelization, catechetics and liturgy.

National biblical centre
In 1971 efforts were made to organize and coordinate the biblical apostolate by founding a national biblical centre and integrating it with the catechetical and liturgical centre. the need for such an institution was felt ever since the inauguration of the national catechetical and liturgical centre in 1967 and the catholic biblical association of india (CBAI) in 1968. the establishment of such a centre was made all the more urgent in view of the fact that rome had set up in april 1969 the world catholic federation for the biblical apostolate (WCFBA) to help the episcopal conferences carrying out the task of biblical pastoral ministry.

By a letter dated 5th may 1971 his eminence valerian cardinal gracias, archbishop of bombay and president of the catholic bishops' conference of india (CBCI) gave his final approval to this project. therefore from the 1st june 1971, the institution in bengaluru was known as 'national biblical, catechetical and liturgical centre' (NBCLC).

The newly set up national biblical centre (NBC) functioned with and aws integrated with the national catechetical and liturgical centre which therefore come to be known as the national biblical, catechetical and liturgical centre (NBCLC). Rev. Fr D. S. Amalorpavadass was also the director of the national biblical centre and the secretary of the newly set up CBCI commission for bible.

Rev.Fr. L. Legrand, mep, professor of sacred scripture at St. Peter's Pontifical seminary, bengaluru, extended his generous services as associate director of the bible department. the centre was helped by an advisory committee and large panel of consultors, similar to that of the CBCI commissions and liturgy.

CCBI Commission for bible
Rev.Fr.D .S. Amalorpavadass put forward the need of an episcopal commission for bible at the general body meeting of the CBCI held in madras from 6-14 April, 1972 . having seen the need the bishops decided to set up an episcopal commission for bible with the following office bearers: Archbishop R. Arulappa of madras mylapore as chairperson and bishops A. Patroni, Sj., of calicut, cornelius Elanjikal of vijayapuram as members and Rev. Fr. D. S. Amalorpavadass as secretary. since then the national biblical centre came under the auspices of the CBCI commission for bible, and formed part and parcel of the official set-up of the CBCI.

This situation called for setting up identical structures for biblical pastoral ministry at the national, regional, diocesan and institutional levels. it was also the need of the day to bring together people interested and involved in biblical pastoral ministry, planning a programme of activities, and launching a serious bible movement.

The ten years of organized biblical pastoral ministry (1971-1980)
A decade of planned and coordinated biblical pastoral ministry had been organised at all the levels. one decade is indeed an important period in the biblical pastoral ministry of the church in india.it is not that biblical pastoral ministry was not done before.what is new is that it was planned and organized at all levels, and coordinated under the auspices of the Bishops' conference of india, at the national level by the commission and the national biblical centre. it was indeed a new stage.

This biblical movement of a decade had been marked and punctuated by milestones. the priorities had been implemented at four levels: national, regional, diocesan and institutional/parish. this fulfilled the expectation of Dei Verbum which encourages biblical pastoral ministry in an organized manner.

The Decade of continued biblical pastoral ministry from 1981 to 1990
Biblical pastoral ministry forged ahead with consolidation and continuity which began on the one had and broke new ground and defined a new orientation on the other hand with a decennial plan of action. like a pilgrim people among whom some move ahead, others walk in the middle and some others lag behind, somehow they remained in communion with one another.

The new orientation for the biblical pastoral ministry in india for the decade (1980-1990) was spelt out in four statements. first of all, the biblical renewal movement and biblical pastoral ministry should become a mass movement. secondly, the bible is to play a prophetic role of critique: the bible in its social and personal dimension and in its radicality and challenge. thirdly, the biblical pastoral ministry should be geared to initiate a process of all-round liberation and to herald the coming of the kingdom. lastly, in the biblical movement lay leadership should not only have its place and be recognized but also be given priority of attention and realization.

The whole biblical pastoral ministry was given an entirely new orientation in the actual reality of india. there had been a regular discernment and evaluation of motives as well as of action.

A New Phase of the Church in india
With the emergence of the three episcopal bodied as a conseqence of the papal letter of may 28, 1987, the situation of the church in india changed. the CBCI was restricted to "supra-ritual matters" and other ritualepiscopal bodies take care of all mattres pertaining to thier respective rites. each episcopal body started its own commissions for bible, catechetics and liturgy.

The executive committee of the CCBI decided to bring under its purview the commission for christian life. the commission could include for the time being, under the CBCI bible, catechetics and liturgy. if there was a need the CCBI could think of having three separate commissions later on for each one of them.

The commission for christian life
The general body on goa (1991) was unanimous that the CCBI must be the pastoral conference of the bishops of the latin rite according to the latin code. to make this ardent desire a reality two important commissions (commission for chritian life and commission for proclamation) were set up at the general body meeting of january, 1992 in pune. the commission for christian life consisted of bible, catechetics and liturgy.

These commission started functioning with maximum vigour to give the CCBI an image of being a "pastoral conference". the CCBI articulated the following principles with regard to the commissions: namely, "whatever pertains primarily to the inner life of the church could belong to the episcopal bodies; whatever pertains primarily to the external life could remain with the CBCI".

The CCBI commission for the ministry of word and worship
In the executive committee meeting held on june 12, 1998 a proposal was made to change the name of the commission for christian life. the commission proposed the following name: "CCBI cimmission for the ministry of word and worship". the proposal was accepted by the executive committee and thereafter it was known as "CCBI commission for the ministry of word and worship".

Division of the commission for the ministry of word and worship
The division of the commission for the ministry of word and worship was discussed in the meeting of the executive committee held on september 16,2000. after all the discussion the following decision was made regarding the division of the commission for the ministry of word and worship namely: one for liturgy (ICEL matters) and another for bible and catechetics.

Archbishop dominic jala, sdb, was nominated for ICEL matters and bishop soosa pakiam continued to manage both commissions till the next plenary assembly.

CCBI commission for bible and catechetics
Considering the pastoral significance of the bible and catechetical apostolate and in compliance with the wish of the bishops expressed in the 17th plenary assembly held in ranchi, the existing commission for bible and catechetics into two commissions: one for bible and the other for catechetics. the decision was taken at the 47th executive committee meeting of the CCBI held on february 9, 2006 at St. peter's pontifical seminary bengaluru. bishop prakash mallavarapu was appointed as the ad hoc chairman of the separately established commission for catechetics. bishop devadass ambrose was asked to continue as the chairman of the commission for bible. he was also asked by the executive committee to find secretaries for bible and for catechetics resepctively.