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Church asks faithful to multiply

Church asks faithful to multiply

Author: John Mary
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: August 3, 2006
URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1060803/asp/nation/story_6562131.asp

The predominant Catholic church in Kerala has expressed dismay at the declining numbers of the community and has urged the faithful to stick to the Christian concept of sexuality that blends love and procreation.

In a pastoral letter to be read out during Mass this Sunday, in the year dedicated for family renewal, Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil reminds married couples of the tenets of responsible parenthood, rooted in Christian values.

The letter reflects the mood at the just-concluded synod of bishops of the Syro-Malabar See, the dominant among the three Catholic churches in India, whose origins cane be traced to St Thomas the Apostle and the Syrian-Oriental tradition of worship.

The synod records with concern the anti-life and selfish tendencies creeping in among the faithful. But apart from that, the demographic anxieties of the community are joblessness and the resultant migration, highly prevalent among Syrian Christians, which have led to the dwindling Syro-Malabar Catholic population.

The last census had shown a decline in the population, especially among Syro-Malabar Catholics and Marthomites.

The church had sought to catch up with the Syrian Catholic diaspora by establishing dioceses and appointing bishops outside the state and the country. But as demographer K.C. Zachariah infers in one of his studies, the community is facing the "Parsi syndrome"- of fast depleting population, threatening the very existence of the community.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic community's growth rate from 2001 to 2030 is likely to end up at minus 4.9 per cent whereas Hindus will grow at 11.2 per cent, Muslims at 45.9 per cent and Christians, in general, at 0.2 per cent in Kerala, according to Zachariah.

The church fears that this phenomenon is already seen in the average 1.7 children per Syro-Malabar Catholic family. The cardinal reminds the congregation that the community would face a situation similar to that in European countries, where half the population will comprise the old, who cannot work, by 2050.

Read against the background of the Catholic church's pro-life stance, as opposed to the use of contraceptives and abortion, the pastoral letter is a call to beget as many children as possible by married couples who have the resources.

Sex is not merely an instrument of pleasure but integral to procreation, which the church reckons as participating in the holy act of creation.

There's been a growing tendency among couples in their pursuit of pleasure to opt out of having children, and the pastoral missive traces the malaise to the influence of mass media, globalisation and a perverse view of life, and not lack of wealth or health.

There's a growing feeling that children are a nuisance to a pleasurable life. Even those who have the resources do not beget for selfish reasons, it says, adding that growing extra and pre-marital relationships and divorce for silly reasons are destroying the sanctity of family life.

Pointing to a general decadence, the letter points out that baptism, birthdays, first Holy Communion, betrothal, weddings and wedding anniversaries have turned into occasions for splurging. Common meals should be savoured in the spirit of the Last Supper, in a spirit of prayer and solidarity in Jesus.

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