Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Forget people’s needs at your peril, priest warns

Indian churches may become as deserted as those in the West if Christian leaders fail to attend to the spiritual needs of people, says a priest who returned from a leadership program in the United States.
Father Anand Muttungal of Bhopal archdiocese in central India says Christian leaders should spend more time on people’s social and spiritual needs rather than on institutions.
Father Muttungal, also the spokesperson of the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh state, was speaking to journalists May 12 after his return from a three-week long US government-initiated leadership exchange program.
The priest was among three Indians in the program that ended May 7.
The Church in India should focus on serving people by “joining in their joys and sorrows” and not only on Church institutions, he said.
He told UCA News that many churches in the US are deserted.
The “non-participation” of the Church in the lives of people has “dented the image of the Church.”
“People gradually moved away. And they are practicing the faith in their own way,” he said.
He added that this phenomenon could also “creep into our system,” although the Church in India has a remarkable presence in social work, education and health care and is helping millions of Indians.
He said there is a danger of priests and nuns getting so involved in their institutions that they have little time to interact with people.
The focus on people and spirituality will also help the Church in India withstand the extremist attacks it now faces, he said. “Unless we develop a strong spiritual base, we cannot confront such attacks.”
The priest said the leadership exchange program helped him better analyze and understand the needs of the Church in India. It made him realize that “strong spirituality is the basis of a strong Church.”

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