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Charismatic practice is a big force in Indian Catholic life

Charismatic Catholicism has become highly visible in south India over the last decades. Church leaders argue that it has kept a large number of Catholics within the church who might otherwise have fled the Catholic Church for one of the small Evangelical churches that have sprouted up in the area.1

Charismatic Catholicism is characterized by its strong appeal to emotion and personal witness, an emphasis on the bible, and worship that includes waving of hands and intense prayer, and healing. Charismatic Catholicism also appeals to “prosperity” as a major theme. One survey suggests that charismatic Christians in three Christian areas in India are overwhelmingly likely (more likely than other Indians, Pentecostals, and other Christians) to believe that God grants material prosperity and health to believers who have enough faith.2

Charismatic Catholicism in India draws in many ways from American Pentecostalist religion, but is not simply a copy of it. In the ways that Indians have woven together traditional European, Pentecostalist, and elements of Indian religiosity, the charismatic Catholics have developed something quite particular to India.  

Whereas the bishops in some countries have tried to hold back the charismatic movement or held it at a distance, charismatic Catholics in India say they have been embraced by the bishops, and that this connection has kept many Catholics, especially middle class Catholics, from going over to Pentecostal churches.

  • 1. In a study of members of Pentecostal groups in India, Paul Parathazham is unable to cite definite statistics on the rate of defection, but notes, "It is no secret that a large number of believers are leaving the Catholic Church and other mainline churches to join [Pentecostal] sects." His study of those people who have left is outside the scope of Catholics & Cultures' work, but can be found in chapter 3, "From Churches to sects: Sociological Analysis of Pentecostal Sects" in Christianity in India: Sociological Investigations (Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 2013) 65-102. It contains data on why people say they leave the Catholic church.
  • 2. Spirit and Power: A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Oct. 5, 2006, http://www.pewforum.org/files/2006/10/pentecostals-08.pdf.  The survey was conducted in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Meghalaya. It showed that 95% of charismatic Christians (the category includes Protestants and Catholics who identify as charismatic but do not belong to a Pentecostalist church) believe that "God will grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith" and 97% believe that "God will grant good health and relief from sickness to believers who have enough faith." The report contains extensive data on charismatic beliefs in those states.

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