The Annual conference of National Lawyers Forum of Catholic Priests and Religious India, 2018 was held at Pastoral Orientation Centre, Kochi from Nov. 8-10, 2018. The event was organized by the Kerala unit, the organizing committee comprised of Frs. Thomas Joseph, Stephen Mathew, Joicy Joy SCN who are in Neethi Vedhi, a collaborative partner of SCNs almost 14 years. There was a lot of preparation and planning done at the regional level. 83 participants from 15 states of India, who are enrolled as lawyers gathered for the Conference. The Inaugural function was graced by Most. Rev. Bishop Sebastian Vayapurackal, Curia Bishop, Syro – Malabar Church, Ms. Bindu, member, Kerala State Minority Commission, Fr. Varghese Vallikkat, Director, POC, Fr. Thomas and Sr. Julie George conveners of National Lawyers’ forum.

Fr. Thomas Joseph Therakam, convener for the Kerala state unit stated in his welcome note that after VAT II legal action has become an important ministry in the chuch, not so much to practice but to help the people. Quoting the Supreme Court judgment on the rights for priests and Religious to practice in the court, he commented that the highest Court in India has held the rights of Priests and religious lawyers but the Church has not given it, it’s due importance.

Bishop urged all to be filled by the spirit of the Lord to impart peace and justice which makes all to be lawyers of Christ. Citing the example of prophet Amos, he stressed the need to be new prophets of this time for Christ. The efforts of priests and religious lawyers should bring truth and light to the people. It is a divine Business calling to join hands with the people of other religions also. He also emphasized that the Constitution is the Bible of our Nation, use this book to unite the people.

The second day was fully dedicated for a one-day training session on Alterative Dispute Resolution, specifically mediation by a team of Lawyers from the High Court of Kerala. This helped all to be more effective in settling issues and drafting agreements etc. Also sharing helped us to be updated as the resource persons interacted with the group. The final day was a day comprised of a business session and Valedictory function. Looked at the role of the Forum and the need to make the forum official and legal, the members shared their views on registration, the governing body, the bye-laws, the source and means to finance the meetings every year and so on. It was decided that the present team to continue and the next meeting to be held in Mumbai. The conference concluded with the valedictory function which was graced by Hon. Justice Mr. Abraham Mathew, High Court of Kerala, who asked the members to follow the instruction of Jesus to be innocent as doves yet be clever as the serpents by becoming more vigilant and entereing into the present system to give justice and equality to the marginalized and less privileged of the society, also to be great assests of the Church in imparting knowledge of the changing legal system and to uphold the Constitution. He also appreciated the religious for their interest in the judiciary and affirmed that it was a wonderful effort to make justice accessible to all.

There was a tremendous appreciation for the organizing committee, for the detailed planning and carrying out the whole conference smoothly. This has motivated the other state units to host such evnts in the coming years and a lot of professional relationship and oneness has been created. I am sure with my experience of being part of our GA, I was able to contribute my maximum. Thanks for all your prayers and many SCN friends were there and felt good SCN presence is there in this fourm too.

Joicy Joy, SCN

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