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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mar George Alencherry in France: Interview with 'Churches of Asia'

Exclusive interview with George Alencherry Mar, the first Major Archbishop-elect of the Syro-Malabar Church: "The real challenge of our Church, the dialogue". (Translated from French, using google translator. Pardon me for the minor language mistakes....)

Churches of Asia: Your Beatitude, you are now at the head of a growing church, which is also a milestone in its relations with the Latin Church.

 Mar Alencherry: This is an important time in effect. The Syro-Malabar Church has had a turbulent history since its founding at the beginning of the Christian era (1). My church, which was Latinized from the sixteenth century, has regained its Eastern Aramaic rite only recently, in the early twentieth century and its hierarchy, restored in 1923. But the most important step is undoubtedly when John Paul II in 1992 raised to the rank of major archiepiscopal Church (2) and authorized it in 2004 to elect its own bishops. It was a decision long awaited by our community and the result of a long period of several decades with the Holy See! After the death of my predecessor, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, died 1 April 2011, our leaders gathered in Synod have been able to choose the first one who would guide them to the head of the Church. I was elected Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar in Cochin on May 24 and confirmed two days later by Benedict XVI, 26 May 2011 (2).

 Do you continue the policy of your predecessor to the extension of the jurisdiction of the Syro-Malabar Church communities of the faithful under the administration of the Latin Church?

  Yes, definitely. The question of territoriality of jurisdiction is the main difficulty we face in our relations with Rome. We return regularly on this issue, as in the Ad Limina visit to Rome last April, where all the Syro-Malabar bishops have again asked the Pope Benedict XVI that the authority granted in our own territory, could be extended to any India, and countries where the faithful of our community are now many, like the Persian Gulf region, Europe or Australia (3).

 This is a problem that dates back to Emperor Constantine that he bequeathed to the church this way of thinking the church more as a canonical power and territorial, and as a communion of faith, vision is more in the tradition of the Eastern Churches. We have also no problems regarding the ecclesiastical territories and evangelism among our various Eastern Churches.

 But the situation is changing gradually. At first, when we found our Eastern Rite, we had jurisdiction only over a part of Kerala, region of origin of our community. Then, after years of claims to the Holy See, we got the whole of Kerala, and then some territories in neighboring states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. This is what we call "the land base," that to which we have jurisdiction, and which now covers 18 dioceses. In all, the Syro-Malabar Church has currently 28 dioceses (eparchies) across India, over a diocese in Chicago, USA.

 Shortly after your election, you have decided to launch "the year of the mission." How you exercise the pastoral care and mission in the dioceses that are not within your jurisdiction?

 This is just the heart of the problem. The overlapping territories of the various ecclesiastical rites complex makes the exercise of pastoral care but also of evangelization. Apart from the "own territory", the Syro-Malabar dioceses are under the jurisdiction of the Latin Catholic Church but remain under the authority of the spiritual and liturgical primacy [March Alencherry - Ed]. In big cities like Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai (Madras), there are many Christians who would follow tradition and the Syro-Malabar rite but can not because they are under the canonical jurisdiction of the Latin Church and they struggle to recognize their right to practice their rites.

 The Latin rite bishops argue that coexistence of several Catholic rites in a country with a Hindu majority component and a component Muslim minority, is likely to cause confusion and it does not help the unity of the Church. We regularly work in communion with the bishops of the Latin rite to advance the issue. It must be given time to act: things have changed and will change again. In a few years, I think we will see the establishment of new dioceses in the Syro-Malabar Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.

 We believe that we have the right to evangelize as the Latin Church and Catholic Church as a whole, by definition, is universal. When I was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Thuckalay in Tamil Nadu, that's how I considered things and I think we did a good job at what I was told. We have two dioceses in Tamil Nadu, one for migrants from Kerala and one that has been clearly specified as "missionary". There was no Christian missionaries and the Syro-Malabar were invited to evangelize. This was also the case for the diocese based in Chicago: it is the American bishops who very generously asked us to come and work there: it is a single diocese, but covering the whole of America!

 It seems that the Latin Church, especially in India, considers the Syro-Malabar Church as a local specificity, attached to the cultural and geographical sphere of Kerala. This is not the case at all! We belong to the universal Church, we are not an ethnic church. While the vast majority of the Syro-Malabar community in the world is home Kerala, the liturgy is celebrated today in different languages ​​of Malayalam to Hindi through English or Tamil.

 When discussing the mission, you also talk to the first unit. What you see as the main obstacles to this unity now?

 To unity is paramount. And we must achieve this unity above all else, be it with other religions, with Christian churches or in the Syro-Malabar Church itself. As for other religions, the main problem facing the Catholic Church in India as a whole, is the fantasy of forced conversions. Hindus as Muslims fueling this fear of conversions and that's what triggered the wave of anti-Christian violence in 2008 which slightly affected Kerala but left marks (4). I think we must continually reiterate until it is heard and understood, that in Christianity, the conversion is a free choice of the person. I said: this is not the preacher who practices the act of conversion, the person who chooses to convert a personal act. And as a Christian, we introduce an additional dimension: it is God who converts the free gift of grace. Christian faith can not be understood by the persuasion of a person. How to collect a human intelligence that God is One in three people? It is a truth revealed by God who intervenes with his grace. That's what I always explain when we have interreligious meetings. We try to have one to two times per year.

 Furthermore, the freedom to preach his religion is enshrined in the Constitution of India. A Hindu sage said to me recently when one of these meetings: "Considering that we have no right to propagate the faith here, why do I have the right to go to Europe to preach Hinduism? ". But for this to be understood in other religions, evangelism must be done without any pressure. This is where we have a real problem with some evangelical churches that strongly affect the evangelization by providing unintentionally a cons-witness. By giving a bad image of the Christian religion, they also discredit us because, for other religions, we are all Christians. They do not see the difference. For me, how to preach some of fundamentalism is and can be very badly received by the Hindus or Muslims. But although we are obliged to serve sometimes we do not agree with their speech or their actions, so that we do not confuse us with them, we do not want to stigmatize them as much, and we behave toward them as they could do ... It would not be very Christian, is not it?

And in the Syro-Malabar Church, what are the divisions that you mention?

 For over three centuries, we were in the bosom of the Latin Church, under its jurisdiction and with a liturgy Latinized. This Latinization of our Church has left deep scars. At a time when there is much talk of the need for inculturation in the Church, it appears that with the arrival of Catholic missionaries of the Latin rite, our church was very close to Indian culture and even Hindu. But the missionaries of the time thought that all that Latin was not heretical or at least was not in the sense of the true faith.

 The return to the Eastern rite and the recognition by the Latin Church of our specificity was very late. This is the Second Vatican Council, which initiated the movement and since then, things are changing slowly. But one consequence of the long time spent in court today Latin is a small part of the Syro-Malabar Church (laity, priests and even some religious) do not want to change the liturgy to which they were used to return to the Eastern rites. The pope himself has understood, that my predecessor said: "I know the problem exists within your church and I know he is due to centuries under the jurisdiction of Latin ... ".

 I'll give you an example that illustrates this "quarrel rites" and it is the administration of the three sacraments of baptism, communion and confirmation. A small part of my church believes to be in the Latin Church, the first infant baptism and communion, and finally confirmation. For me it is not in the tradition of the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, it is clear that baptism and confirmation are received together, and we follow this tradition in the Eastern Churches is called the "sacrament of initiation." Baptism, confirmation and communion are all received, regardless of age. It's this whole "sacrament of initiation" that a Christian, which will later make a proclamation of his faith. Why do we administer baptism to children and not the other sacraments? A small part of my church does not understand this but I think that explanation, it will soon be possible to restore the unity of the Syro-Malabar community.

 Catechesis has always occupied an important place in your ministry. Do you think it is a major issue for the Church in India?

 This is a major issue for the whole Church and not just for India. I am convinced that the Eucharist, catechesis as the experience of faith. I told the Pope that we had not done in the Universal Church in our duty of catechesis and I regret that there is no Congregation for catechesis as there is one for the Propagation of faith (Evangelization of Peoples). The editors of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was a good thing. But we must go further.

 This has always been one of the central points of my priesthood when I returned from France, I got involved heavily in catechesis, which I led in Kerala for the three Catholic rites and have published several books in order to serve the needs of catechesis Syro-Malabar Church (5). I think to develop catechesis, the system of "Sunday School" is the most effective and realistic. In highly secularized countries like yours, it is difficult to fit in the catechesis of the school or leisure. With Sunday school, catechism follows the Mass and accompanies it. But we must, for sure, parental involvement is not always gained! There are departures on weekends and feel that catechesis is not the parents. It is a mistake ...

 What are the main guidelines that you want to give your mandate?

I took as episcopal motto "Serving the dialogue of truth and love." God is the dialogue of truth and love and the Church must continue this exchange: just as Jesus is the logos, it must be dialogos.

 It is in truth and love that Christ gave His life for mankind and was resurrected. At all levels of the Church, the bishops to lay people, all must be in the process of dialogue, a dialogue which must also be made with the Christians who are not of our community and those who seek God in other religions .

 With this vision of faith, we will never be desperate face of hardship and we have the courage and hope needed to tackle any situation, knowing that at all, Christ has gone before us and that we drew a path of victory over evil.

 We are at a crossroads, a time of crisis in which the Church must give the direction that God himself has shown the love of neighbor and the offering of self. We must courageously renew from within the company, prepare to sacrifice our comfort and our certainties and ask for the grace of conversion of hearts to our neighbors.

 As Christians, it is by example that we can get our message of love, incomprehensible to all those who live in the minds of the world. Like Christ who sacrificed himself to liberate humanity, Christians must give everything for others. A life given and sacrificed will be matched by others, although there will also always persecution. Every Christian should be expected because we preach something that goes against the natural desire of man.
I think we are at the crucial moment when the Church must reflect on itself and address the problems of humanity and those that exist in its midst. The Church must be aware of what is happening in the world in social, political, economic and ethical. Today is the tyranny of secularization, the spread of the deterioration of morals, the endangerment of family life and the trivialization of sexuality with spirituality has been lost. We must not be spectators of the decadence of society, we must instead restore these values ​​based on love and truth, that God has placed in us. The Church must reflect the values ​​of humanity and become an expression of love. If it is not hidden under a bushel, it will shine and the world we recognize. This is the real challenge that the Church faces today.


(1) According to tradition, the Eastern Rite Catholic Church Syro-Malabar was founded in the first century by the Apostle Thomas landed in India's southwest coast, Malabar. As the Syro-Malankara (Antiochene rite), the Syro-Malabar Church (Syro-oriental) follows a tradition long before the missionaries brought by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century Latinized. In 1599, she came under the jurisdiction of the Latin archbishop of Goa. It was not until 1919 that the Church Syro-Malabar rite finds his Eastern Aramaic and its hierarchy, restored by Rome in 1923. Today it has about 4 million of the faithful the vast majority are in Kerala, its historic home. After the Latin community, it represents the number of the faithful, the second Catholic Church in India. There are currently five archdioceses Syro-Malabar (India) and 24 dioceses established mainly in Kerala and also in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and one of them to United States. The latter, the Eparchy of St. Thomas of Chicago, one diocese established outside India, was built in 2001. It brings together a large community and extends throughout the U.S. and Canada.

(2) The election of March Alencherry represents an event of great historical significance. Breaking with centuries of Rome appointed bishops by the Synod meeting the leaders of the Syro-Malabar Church elected its primacy is headquartered in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. On the election of March Alencherry, see the dispatch of June 7, 2011 EDA:

(3) See dispatch EDA: http://eglasie.mepasie.org/asie-du-sud/inde/lors-de-son-dernier-synode-leglise-syro-malabare-a

(4) See 492 and 499 EDA

(5) The interest of George in March Alencherry for catechesis is old. After being director of education to the faith of the Archdiocese of Changanacherry and Secretary of the Commission for Catechesis of the Council of Bishops of Kerala (KCBC), he perfected his studies at the Sorbonne and the Institut Catholique Paris, where he earned a doctorate in theology from the Bible. On his return to India in 1986 he was appointed director of the center of eastern pastoral Palarivattom, then taught at the seminary in Vadavathoor, an activity he continued after being called to become the first bishop of Thuckalay. Secretary of the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Bishops and director of the commission for the major archiepiscopal catechism Alencherry March is also the head of the commission for the secularism of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI). He has published numerous books and articles on morality and catechesis. For other biographical information on March Alencherry see EDA dispatch of June 7, 2011 and the website http: / / www.ernakulamarchdiocese.org / archbishop.php

Sunday, September 4, 2011

To save Syriac

Mar Thoma Nazranis of India were blessed to know our lord and our god Ieso mishiha, in the very same language spoken by him, through the words of his beloved apostle Mar Thoma sleeha. This served as the liturgical language of the nazranis for many centuries. The language had contributed much to the Malayalam. Most of the widespread used words related to the church like Ieso mishiha, mar, Qurbana, Dukrana etc were originally derived from Syriac. The decline of the importance given to Syriac started with the use of local languages as the liturgical language.

To some, Syriac is a synonym to Aramaic, the language spoken by Ieso mishiha. To some others Syriac is the renewed version of Aramaic. Syro malabar church belongs to the category of Chaldean churches. Chaldean means East Syriac. Our great forefathers loved and valued this great tradition as their lives.

After the introduction of Malayalam as the liturgical language, the importance given to Syriac was started to decline in our church. This has resulted in such a scenario that the present generations hardly knows a language called Syriac. If this situation continues unchecked, with the next generations, the place of Syriac will be in the archives galleries. This should not happen.

A language can only be saved by spreading it. It can only be saved by letting others to learn the language. So to save Syriac, the best possible method is to teach the language in Sunday catechism classes. Let the young generations grew up by learning the language spoken by our lord Ieso mishiha and our father Mar Thoma sleeha.This will surely give them the chance to know our prestigious traditions and love them.

Syro malabar catechetical commission should take the responsibility of this. There are many Syriac scholars in our church. They can provide the curricula. In the next stage, people who are interested in the language can be called from each parishes and the training can be conducted at the diocesan levels. Once they are ready, they can start teaching the language in the Sunday classes. At the initial stages, classes can be given to some specific age groups. Then it can be expanded to all classes. It will be surely beneficial to start the learning from the lowest possible age.

By this, the young generations can be made familiar with the alphabets, commonly used words and our liturgical songs. With the success of this, the efficient celebration of our prestigious Syriac Qurbana will be possible. Competitions in Syriac can also be conducted as part of the 'Bible kalolsavams'.

This is not just a dream, but the only possible way to save and protect our great Syriac traditions. If the Muslims can efficiently teach Arabic to their young generations, why can't we teach syriac to our generations? Everything needs pain. Fruitful pains will be sweet to taste!! Even if it's not possible in some dioceses, it will be surely possible in the majority of dioceses. If we take the pain now, we can surely taste the sweetness in the near future. Knowing the language will help them to love it and spread it. Let's pray for a good future, where the young generations of Mar Thoma Nazranis, study this great language and celebrate  holy Qurbana in Syriac.... 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy birthday to Mar Joseph Powathil....

August 14, 2011 our dear Mar Joseph Powathil turns 81....

സ്വയം കത്തി തിരുമ്പോഴും മറ്റുള്ളവര്‍ക് പ്രകാശമേകുന്ന മെഴുതിരി പോലെ അനേകര്‍ക്ക്‌ പ്രകാശമേകാന്‍, സ്വന്തം ജീവിതമ് ഉഴിഞ്ഞുവെച്ച അഭിവന്ദ്യ പവ്വത്തില്‍ മാര്‍ യൌസേപ്പ്‌ മെത്രാപ്പൊലീത്തക്കു ആയിരമായിരം ജന്മദിനാശംസകള്‍....

Image courtesy: 'Aadaram'-documentary by madhyasthan tv

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The reality behind the self financing college issues in Kerala...

'Inter church council: The real threat to the society'-Dr Fasal Gafoor, in Kaumudy...Why the Inter church council has one justice when all others have another one...They should try to remove their shields (minority rights!!!) for the public interest!!!...Like ways he continues the arguments. It seems like he has taken some quotations to destroy the church and it's institutions. Media provide amble time and space for his mission. It seems like all channels had recruited him to throw the mud into the catholic institutions and our leaders. Any way let us come to the topic.

Catholic churches were the pioneers in the education sector of Kerala. It started these institutions to serve the church and the nation. These institutions were not started for business, as the media call our institutions now!!! It maintained social justice by admitting all people, without any discrimination. When the catholic managements entered the self financing professional field, the same was also applied.

These colleges are started by the churches, to help the faithful and other people. Money belongs to the faithful. According to 50:50, half of the seats are given to government where the students study in a lower cost. Other half is for management, where the seats are given to community merits. Here the fees will be double. That is, the students from the community (who spend money to start college) have to spend more money to sponsor government merit students.This is a double burden for the people of community. Supreme court had ruled out this cross subsidy. Hence in these colleges run by catholic managements, equal fees for all is adopted. But scholarships are provided for the poor students, by the colleges.

Those who goes to best schools and Coaching centers gets higher rank and gets admission in government merit. Those who have money can only do these. Then how you can say that it is the poor people who gets admission in 'Government merit'? So there is no point in teaching 50% of students in a reduced rate. Fees should be collected from the ones who are able to pay it. Also scholarships should be provided for those who can not pay this. The fund for this should be provided collectively by the government and the institutions. This is the stance of the Inter church council. This also involves the idea that the students in private colleges are also eligible for the money of the government. They are also tax payers. Hence they also have the right for that.

According to the council, the present fee structure is not reflecting the social justice. In all seats, a common fees should be implemented. Adequate scholarship should be given to eligible students (mark should not be the criteria for this. family conditions & economical backwardness should be the criteria). Other students should be encouraged to study by spending the money.

If money was the motive of the church, they would have stood with Dr Gafoor. But their aim, was the social justice. So they vowed for a common fee structure without any cross subsidy. Does this criteria of admitting all according to merit and collecting a common fee, a very big crime to the society? Or should we collect double fee from the owner's child to teach an other person? The supreme court had ruled out that this is the best method and even then the government and media need 50:50. Social justice is the obligation of the government. But there is no point in arguing that, it should be done at the cost of self financing colleges, where the government has not even an investment of 50 paise.

The fee structure should be able to provide the investment to run the institutions. If the government colleges fall into debt, government will compensate it. What if, it is a private college? Surely they would close down the institution. According to an old data, government spends more than 5 lakh per year, for a student in a government medical college. If this is the situation, how the private colleges can be run by collecting the so called 'government fees' implemented to protect the 'social justice'. If social justice is the motive of government, they should provide the fees for the students they send to the private colleges.

If we sing 'hosanna' to Mr Gafoor and stand besides him, saying that we are 'gafoor ka dosth', our institutions can also be a part of the government sponsored 'Professional business', but at the cost of our minority rights. Even then, from the managements point of view, this may be beneficial. But we can not go for it, since we have social and communal commitments. If we didn't come forward to protect the social justice and minority rights, who else should go for it?

If we agree to the 50:50 formula of the government and adopt 50% students at a lower fees, we will get license for the 'professional business', so that we can sell the rest 50% seats as we wish. Every one will be satisfied if we do like that!!! This is the 'social justice' according to the government, media and all others!!!

But we don't need any seats for business. Our colleges were started by investing the money of the faithful. So their children must be given the chance to study in our colleges at a fair fees. Instead of this, if we are forced to sell the seats again to the faithful, then for what we need these colleges? We don't need any profit out of this. But we just need money to run these colleges and improve the facilities.

Hence we adopt admission based on merit in all seats except NRI quota of 15%. We didn't go for any special entrance examinations. We prepare the rank list based on the qualifying exam(+2) marks and the Kerala entrance examination marks. In all these seats, we collect the common fees from the students. But also Scholarships are provided for the needy students. Is this a big crime to the society? Is this an insult or threat to the common men?

We are following the same criteria for the last four years and nobody had complaints. But when then ruling party moves into opposition, they have severe complaints!!! If the government need to consult the Opposition leader (Previous Chief minister) and the previous Education minister for all matters, then why we voted for the change of ministry? Remember that our stands are no based on any political parties. Even if its left or right, there will be no change in our stance. It is not fair to make us change the stance by threatening.

Here we see the hidden agendas to capture the minority rights in the name of social justice. Remember that we are a community that has no reservations any where in the country. The only thing we have is our minority rights. So if we did n't provide chance for our children to study in our colleges, then for what we need colleges? For this, we need the minority rights. Dr Gafoor, who vows us to remove the shield of minority rights in the name of social justice, enjoys the protection of both minority rights and reservations. Will he ask his community members to remove these shield to protect the social justice?

Think wise..understand the truth and support our leaders to protect our rights and to prevent the hidden agendas...

Go through this article to know the facts in depth...Please click here to read the linked article...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Here is what Inter church council is....

Inter church council for education is a common platform for all christian churches in kerala to discuss the problems related to education field and give a proper order to the sector. It is an ecumenical council started by Mar Joseph Powathil before a long period. It is not a council of christian professional colleges. Inter church council captured the headlines of media, when mar powathil took the driver's seat, to protect the church's rights and social justice, when the previous communist government introduced the self financing bill that had clauses to indirectly capture the minority rights.

From that time onwards, Mar Powathil and Inter church council, stood for protecting minority rights and social justice in the field of professional education. Under the guidence of the council, two separate fedarations were formed, each one for engg and medical colleges. All the colleges which are a part of these federations are run by individual trusts or dioceses. The inter church council has no part in managemental process of each colleges. Hence the council has no profit from these colleges. But the council took up the issue only to protect the minority rights and the social justice. But every one argues that the coucil is business oriented. But according to the above facts, There is no point in that argument.

Here is the article regarding the stance of Inter church council, regarding the self financial professional college issue..Please go through this, to understand the problems in depth...

Hope every one understands the facts now..

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why we need a patriarchate?

The Syro Malabar church, one among the 24 Individual Churches in Catholic Communion is the Chaldean* Catholic church of St. Thomas Christians in India. With the lamp of faith handed over by the apostle Mar Thoma Sleeha in the very first century, the church is about to complete her 1970 years of long journey. With the ever-shining lamp of faith, she continues her journey. Even in the midst of thunder storms and tsunamis that struck the church in Kerala, she didn't let the lamp to die. She didn't let anyone to blew off the lamp. Instead she tried to preserve the lamp for the generations and glorified it by pouring more and more oil! But what did she gain from that?

The Syro Malabar Church is the third largest Church in Catholic Communion, behind the Latin church and the Ukranian church, with more than 40 lakh of faithful, spread across the globe. Sadly, both the Ukranian Church and the Syro Malabar church are not given patriarchal status.
Regarding the union with the Catholic Community and allegiance to the Pope, the Syro Malabar church was tightly bound to the Catholic Communion, ever since her birth. She is one among the three churches who hadn’t ever break up the links with the Catholic Communion. The other two Churches are the Maronite Church and the Italo-Albanian Church. Among these, the Syro Malabar church is the prominent one with about 10 lakh more faithful than the Maronite church. But Maronite church is Patriarchal, whereas the Syro Malabar remains as the Major Archi Episcopal church!

Out of the 23 Oriental Churches, 6 are Patriarchate Churches. These are the Coptic, Maronite, Syrian, Armanian, Chaldean and the Melkite churches. Except the Maronite church, all others had broken the catholic faith and had moved away from the Bishop of Rome. They moved out of the Catholic Communion, installed their own Patriarchates and when they returned to the Catholic Church, Rome allowed them to continue their Patriarchates!

Regarding the number of faithful, none of these stands with the Syro Malabar Church. The Armanian church has about 6 lakh faithful, Chaldean Church has about 5 lakh faithful, Coptic Church has about 1.75 lakh faithful, Syrian Church has about 1.6 lakh faithful, Melkite Church has about 16 lakh faithful and the Maronite church has about 32.5 lakh faithful. All these Churches have the Patriarchal status. Yet our Syro Malabar church with over 40 lakh faithful, and which is in full communion with the successor of St. Peter ever since her birth has no patriarchal status!

Where did she fail? Did the pain she took to protect the lamp of faith that Mar Thoma sleeha handed over to her cause this? Why did she stand with the lamp, even when her children were scattered into different groups, to protect their faith, believes and traditions? What would have happened if the Marthoma Nazranis stood in union against the missionaries, proclaimed their identity and jurisdiction over the Church of India, installed a Patriarchate and later came back into the Catholic Communion? Of course, we might have got a patriarchate in Angamaly! Our Patriarch would have been the “Father and Gate of whole India and it's premises”. Our church would have been the second largest Church in the Catholic Communion after Latin church. We would not have been waiting for the mercy of Vatican and the local Latin bishops to establish new Diocese or even to give the necessary pastoral care to the migrants!

But we considered the obligation as our priority and stood with the Pope, even in the midst of all crises. We had to give much for that. That is our history! We had been split up into different groups. Our Patriarch or the Archbishop of Angamaly who had the jurisdiction over the whole India and it's premises was devalued as a suffragan of the newly erected Latin Archdiocese of Goa. From the whole India and it's premises, we shrinked into the area bounded by the 'Pampa' and 'Bharathapuzha' rivers. We lost all our identity and Sacred Liturgy partially or completely.

But the biggest lose was due to their brain washing. Because of which, our own leaders asked the Pope to translate the Latin Liturgy into Syriac for their use. They struggled hard to continue the Latin practices, even after obtaining the freedom! They also opposed the minority of leaders who were firm on returning to our ancient traditions! In a sense we were again captured in a prison of our own minds- because of the severe brain washing! We had our great fighters, but they were the minority and even though the Popes and the Vatican Congregations were with them, they were unable to do much more owing to the threat of another split. This might had prompted the Vatican for not giving the Patriarchal status in the course of time. Again we failed here for another time. We cannot blame the missionaries completely for this, we had the time to learn and correct, we had our leaders. Yet for some one's selfishness we had to suppress our identity. As a result, our 1970 years old Church, which is the third largest Particular Church in Catholic Communion, has to continue as a Major Archi Episcopal church.

This should be changed. We should realise the present and think for the future. All must realise the need of restoring our identity and our holy traditions. Then surely the Rome can not neglect us. Now we have a very energetic and efficient Major archbishop, who knows and loves our great traditions. He is very keen on restoring the identity of the church and uses each and every chance to proclaim our great traditions to the global audience. Let us stand with him in union and strengthen his hands. Let us pray for the good days when the Patriarch of Angamaly rule over a united and energetic Chaldean Catholic church of St. Thomas Christians in India.  

Let the grace of our lord Ieso Mishiha, Love of our heavenly father and the blessings of Ruha d’ kudisha be with us for ever and ever..

Remembering our Mar Thoma Sleeha, on this Dukrana of 2011.

*Chaldean: This simply means East Syriac, the developed form of Aramaic, the language spoken by our lord Ieso Mishiha. Catholic faith was given to the Marthoma Nazranis (St. Thomas Christians in India) by the Apostle St Thomas, in the very same language spoken by Ieso Mishiha. It served as the liturgical language for many centuries, until the celebration of liturgy was made in the local languages, after the Vatican II council. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fr Benedict Onamkulam: Sahanadasan

Fr. Benedict Onamkulam, a diocesesan priest of Changanacherry was the accused in the famous Madatharuvy or Manthamaruthy murder case in which Mariyakkutty, a widow and mother of 5 children was found dead in a tea garden near Madatharvy. From the circumstantial evidences Fr. Benedict Onamkulam was arrested and Kollam district sessions court ordered him a rigorous imprisonment of 5 years and to hang him till death. Later he was found innocent and let free by the high court while judging his appeal. But the ill repute of 'murder' was an inerasable misery for him. He suffered a lot for what is unaware of him. Later Fr. Benedict served the remote Kanyakumary mission (Presently the Thuckalay diocese) of the Archdiocese. During his last years he was resting in the priest home in Kottayam. At that time, the widow of a doctor and her family visited and confessed that Mariakutty was dead while doing an abortion and the estate owner was the cause for the child. Yet Fr. Benedict kept it as a secret, until it was revealed by the family members of the doctor after 11 months. Within a few days, on 2001 January 3, he was called for the eternal life and his body was buried in the cemetery chapel for priests in St. Mary's Forane Church, Athirampuzha

Birth and Early life of Fr. Benedict Onamkulam

Fr. Benedict was born in 1929 into a catholic family. He had his primary studies at St. Ephrems Mannanam. After completing the sixth forum, he joined the seminary in 1950. He became a priest in 1959 and served different parishes of Archdiocese of Changanacherry. In 1962 he was at Kannampally church near Manthamaruthy. From 1962-64 he served as a vicar in Alappuzha Chakkarakkadavu church. It was this time Mariakutty and Fr. Benedict got to know each other. After this, he became the manager of St. Joseph's orphanage press Changanacherry. He continued in this position, until he was arrested for Mariakkutty murder case.

Mariakkutty murder case and the consequences in Fr. Benedict's life

In 1966 June 16, the dead body of a 43 year old woman was found near Madatharuvy in Manthamaruthy. Later it was confirmed to be Mariakkutty, a widow and mother of 5 children. The case became popular and the news spread all over the nation when Fr. Benedict Onamkulam, an Archdiocesan priest of Changanacherry was arrested on June 24. Fr Onamkulam was serving as the manager of Archdiocese run St. Joseph's Orphanage press. Mariakutty had knew Fr. Benedict since he was serving as the vicar in Alappuzha Chakkarakkadavu church. There he was in charge of distributing wheat and milk powder to the poor. He knew the poverty of Mariakutty's family and used to help her at times. It was reported that Mariakutty left her home on June 15. Before some days she had visited Fr Benedict in Changanacherry. Some years before he was the vicar of Kannampally church near Manthamaruthy. The police related the both and concluded that Fr Benedict was the culprit. Stories were made like Some one had seen a priest with a lady in Manthamaruthy on that day, Fr Benedict was the father of her youngest child, she used to blackmail him by this and so Fr Benedict decided to kill her!!!

From the circumstantial evidences, Fr Benedict was found guilty by the Kollam district sessions court judge Kunjiraman Vaidyar and on 1966 November 19 he was sentenced to death and for a rigorous imprisonment for 5 years. This was a shock to the common people who believed that the priest was innocent. It was the first incident in Kerala, in which a priest was punished for a murder case.

Later Archdiocese filed an appeal in the High Court against the verdict of the sessions court. Judicial bench consisting of then acting chief justice P Raman Nair and Justice VP Gopalan Nambiar heard the appeal. ASR Chari who was a famous advocate in supreme court and adv. KT Thomas was appeared for the Fr. Benedict. High court found that the arguments against Fr Benedict was unbelievable and he was set free due to the lack of evidences, on 1967 April 7. On the next day, he was relieved from the Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram and was greeted by a huge crowed on the road sides, while he was returning to Changanacherry. He was given a warm welcome at Changanacherry by the natives and the faithful.

Life of Fr. Benedict after Manthamaruthy case

Even though he was set free from the case, the ill repute of 'murderer' remained on him. This gave him a lot of mental sufferings. But Fr. Benedict accepted and suffered all of these, without complaining to any one. Later he served the Kanyakumary mission and other remote centers of the Archdiocese. Towards the end, he was resting in the priest home at Mudiyoorkara near Kottayam.

Confession by the family members of the doctor

On 2000 January 14, a 94 year old widow of a doctor and her family visited Fr. Benedict in the Mudiyoorkara priest home. She confessed to Fr. Benedict that her husband was the cause for Mariyakkutty's death. Mariyakkutty was dead during an attempt to abort her child. The estate owner was the father of the child. When Mariakkutty became pregnant from estate owner, she asked for her share on his property. So the estate owner forced her for abortion and during that, she was dead. Marks were made on her body to seem like a murder. The body was placed near Madatharuvy and the witnesses were made to point the cause on Fr. Benedict. Estate owner was utilizing the circumstantial connections of Fr. Benedict. Postmortem was not conducted efficiently and the whole case was moving on the cash thrown by the estate owner. Thus Fr. Benedict Onamkulam was arrested for a crime, which was totally unaware by him.

What made the family to confess was the continuing problems in the family. Before and after the death of the doctor, many problems aroused in the family. Doctor was dead, They lose all the wealth made by the doctor, different diseases followed the family members and children were born with mental and physical disabilities. When they attended a retreat, the councilors pointed out these as the result of the sufferings and sorrow of a priest. They advised to confess to him and so the family decided to visit Fr. Benedict.

Fr. Benedict heard all these silently. Even though the confession happened, the story remained as a secret within his heart. Later, after 11 months, this was officially revealed by the family to the media. The world realized that Fr. Benedict was innocent and the crime was actually 'foisted' on him.

Death and burial of Fr. Benedict

After a few days, on 2001 January 3rd, Fr. Benedict Onamkulam was called for his eternal life in heaven. He had suffered a lot and his name was a curse for the church and all the priests. Yet the church stood besides Fr. Benedict because of his saintly life. He was leading a saintly life without complaining to any one. Even though, he was aware of the truth, he kept silence. But his death was like an extended period to see the world hearing the truth. On January 4th , Fr. Benedict Onamkulam was buried in the cemetery chapel at St. Mary's Forane church Athirampuzha near Kottayam, Kerala. A huge mass of people including Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Nuns and the faithful attended the ceremonies. According to them, it seemed like the death ceremonies of a saint.

Developments after the death of Fr. Benedict

Now ten years had been passed after the death of Fr. Benedict. Recently his grave was reconstructed in concern with the priest year celebrations in the Catholic Church and facilities were provided for the faithful to offer prayers. It had been attracting the faithful. Hundreds of people are visiting and offering the prayers every day. According to Dr. Mani Puthiyidom, PRO of the Archdiocese of Changanacherry and the vicar of Athirampuzha church, some miracles were also reported by the people and if St. Alphonsa was called as 'sahanadasi', Fr. Benedict is being called as the 'sahanadasan'.

The Archdiocese had started the decennial celebrations of the entry of Fr. Benedict to his heavenly life. Hope this great priest be declared as the saint in the near future.

Watch this short clip from "Kannadi" from Asianet News about the life of Fr. Benedict
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