Date of Award
Dissertation - SCU Access Only
Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2018.
Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)
George Griener, S.J.
Today, the Indian church is situated within an increasingly complex socioeconomic and religio-cultural reality. On the one hand, India’s cherished values of democracy, secularism, and religious diversity are being threatened by the forces of radical Hindu fundamentalism. On the other hand, the Indian church itself is divided by ethnic, linguistic, caste, gender, and ritual boundaries. These concerns call for rigorous theological discourse that advances an adequate self-understanding of the church in India. We can envision a communion of local churches, one which welcomes and affirms the distinct identity of each language group, ethnicity, caste, culture, and rite; encourages solidarity and mutual support; and strengthens a coordinated commitment to the church’s prophetic presence in a pluralistic India.
This dissertation argues that the synodal ecclesiology of Pope Francis, which is marked by decentralization, participation, subsidiarity, and encounter, can provide an underlying vision for a new way of being church in India today, one which fosters unity and reconciliation within the church itself, and becomes a force for Sarvodaya (the welfare of all) in Indian society. The central claim of this study is that in order to be an agent of Sarvodaya, the church must first be healed and unified within.
Given the complexities of the Indian ecclesial and social reality, my study is necessarily interdisciplinary in nature. It employs socio-economic, political, religious, historical, and cultural analyses to investigate the multidimensional reality of India. It also draws on scriptural/exegetical analysis to examine the biblical roots of the pope’s x vision of synodality, notably a Pauline Body of Christ theology. Furthermore, the study employs the discipline of organizational theory as a lens through which to evaluate the pope’s call for the decentralization of power and authority within church structures and the participation of the whole people of God within all levels of church life and mission.
The first Jesuit and Latin American pope is striving to renew the structures, mission, and self-understanding of the church. His vision is both radically new and rooted soundly in the Second Vatican Council. His pastoral acuity with regard to the signs of the times, his call to go forth to the peripheries, his transformative leadership style, his denunciation of the economic structures that rob the poor of life and plunder the earth, and his call for a church of dialogue and encounter are among the qualities which hold particular relevance for the church in India today.
Pope Francis’s emphasis on a culture of encounter underscores the significance of his vision for the present moment in India. The Indian church, fostering a genuine encounter among the various rites, cultures, language groups, and ethnicities, will transform itself into an inclusive community and bear witness to one Body of Christ, unified in its splendid diversity. Through his theology of encounter, his call to move to the peripheries to empower the alienated and excluded, his fierce critique of unfettered capitalism, and his call for synodal structures to be mirrored in civil society, Pope Francis effectively announces an ethics of sarvodaya which coincides with his vision of the Kingdom of God, whose realization is the very basis of evangelization.
Shantharaj, Th, "The Synodal Church: The Significance of Pope Francis’s Ecclesiology for the Indian Church" (2018). Jesuit School of Theology Dissertations. 38.