Mangaluru, Sept 13, 2018: Lancy D’Cunha, a noted leader based in Mangaluru, re-elected for a second two-year term as the AICU national president at the recently concluded annual general meeting in Vailankanni, Tamil Nadu, south India.
Mangaluru based Lancy D’Cunha, is a farmer-engineer and has been re-elected the National President of the AICU. he was earlier the vice president. Born on October 24, 1966, in Bondel, Mangalore in Dakshina Kannada, his wife Lidwin, is a teacher, they have two sons and a daughter.
Active at the grassroots in the Catholic community and in nurturing a dialogue with other faiths and working with them on the basic issues of the people. He has led the movement for justice for the victims of the Mangalore attacks in August 2008. Although Kandhamal in Odisha, eastern India, was the epicenter, Mangalore was also viciously targeted.
AICU has completed 99 years, its contribution is noteworthy; active across the nation, and involving the social and political, or secular, activities of the faith. The 99 years past have crossed watersheds such as the freedom struggle and Independence of India, the adoption of the Constitution by the young republic of India, and in the life of the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council and the declaration of the sui juris Oriental Rites in the country – making three Catholic Churches with overlapping jurisdictions throughout the land – would have been incomprehensible and certainly unimaginable to the founding fathers of what today is the largest laity movement in India.
All needed may not have been achieved, but certainly have taken important steps to help make the laity a healthy, vibrant partner with the hierarchy, the clergy, the women religious - not either in competition or a challenge to the hierarchy. But we are partners, which is the soul of the second Vatican and critical in an emerging economy and complex political and social diversity that India presents. The hierarchy recognizes AICU as the voice of secular laity, not placing in the same category as pious legions and groups. But perhaps more needs to be done from both sides, the bishops and clergy on the one hand, and the Catholic Union on the other, to make the laity stronger in every parish, in every diocese in every part of the country. That is the goal for AICU, and the ultimate expectation from the hierarchy of the church.
AICU began the year 1919 when some lay leaders from Mangalore, Thrissur, and Chennai convened first Catholic laity conference at Chennai to organize the Catholic groups from different parts of Indian to face the difficulties of some outfits. After that they arranged some meetings in other parts of the country and in 1936 they formed All India Congress, now functioning in the name of AICU. Now there are more than 90 associations functioning in different dioceses of India - reaching the major goal.
We are especially working for social justice and uplifting our community and, to some extent it is a success, Political parties, social organizations and I may say the government does listen to our voice, even though it still sees the Bishops as the only face of the church.
His statement in brief follows: The All India Catholic Union (AICU) represents more than 19.9 million Catholics in the country, representing around 1.55 percent of its total population. It has units nation-wide. They belong to three Church rites — Latin Rite, Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara. The AICU, established in 1919, all set to celebrate the centenary.
Vision for future: The AICU leadership’s vision is, to be present in every parish as a Catholic association exercising our canonical right, different from but also complimenting the Parish Councils. To be vibrant, the council and other bodies of the parish will also be impacted and strengthened, and so will the diocese. The laity must be strengthened if the church is to remain strong without doubt. The presence and articulation of the problems, the demands, hopes, and aspirations of faith community, will enable to contribute in the formulation of government policy and influence its decisions on education, health, science, and the socio-economic development of the country. Government to mix politics and administration with religion, and religious nationalism as is taking shape now is opposed, and voice of AICU must be heared.
Laity in India : The recognition of the laity in the church is not more than 150 years old, after the turmoil of the 19th century. The Laity was visible in the five southern states and Maharashtra in a bigger way. In the north, its emergence has been stronger in the 20th century only. In northeast India, where Christianity is about a century old and the Catholic Church strong, it has a very vibrant laity.
Lay men and women are today more educated than they were a few decades ago, obviously. But the education of the laity in the Church’s social teachings of and theology has not brought the empowerment envisioned in the Vatican II. In most places, AICU is set to work closely with the church hierarchy in the formation of the laity and in training people in lay theology. This, in fact, is the centennial objective of the Catholic Union.
Is laity empowered - what is needed : AICU founding fathers have had to struggle hard to keep the momentum alive. A deep search for future leaders has had a national reach. The last five presidents of the Catholic union are in some way or the other the finds of that momentum. This includes AICU’s first woman president, Dr. Maria Emelia Menezes of Goa, a teacher and prominent industrialist.
George Menezes introduced modern techniques for leadership training and enthused an entire generation of young people to work in the parishes and dioceses. The empowerment process continues but is still to cover many diocese. AICU have regular training programs in all regions of the country.
Indian Church and lay empowerment or a hurdle : The Latin Rite, part of the universal church, was the first to cover the entire subcontinent, with the two Oriental Rites, Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara. The recognition of the three Rites as equal by Rome presents both opportunities and challenges. Some Rites are strong in resources, and some not. Because of language and regional affinity, the Oriental Rites are more cohesive with the community feeling knitting them closely. But the Latin Rite has greater diversity and can be the most vigorously vibrant. It is for the AICU leadership to see how to gain strength from the individual strengths of the three rites.
AICU is a supra ritual organization and hopefully will see strong collaboration between the laity of the three rites to the benefit of the entire Catholic community, and through it, the entire Christian population in India. We are interacting with CBCI and other bishops, but more acceptance and interaction is essential.
’Church property’ AICU view : There can be nothing but zero tolerance for corruption, moral turpitude, and gender violence. That is not just the Church position and affirmation, but the national secular policy. On gender, we are strongly supportive of women religious as well as the women in the laity that the hierarchy is ruthless in dealing with this malaise. The Church must set up redressal mechanisms and the bishops must listen.
On financial corruption and alienation of property which is not just signs of moral decay but also a crime under Indian law, we would want a transparent dispensation. There must be no cover-ups protecting the guilty. But we must also recognize that we do not fall victim to conspiracies that weaken the Church, or in any way undermine honest hierarchy. But it must also be said that there is not sufficient dialogue within the Church.
AICU and role in the political scene : Our main aim is to give political awareness to the laity. Our community members are involved in all parties. Choosing the political party is their right. AICU is not interested in becoming a political party or platform.