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Friday, August 31, 2012

The Crown of Nazrani Church!

Mar Joseph Powathil, Archbishop Emeritus of Changanacherry, Syro-Malabar Church, India needs no introduction in a scholar group of oriental Catholics. Being elevated to Bishop rank, even before completing 10 years as a priest, he had served his mother church and the society for a long 40 years as a bishop. He had celebrated his Ruby Jubilee of Consecration and Silver Jubilee of Priestly Ordination in 2012. For all these years, he had lived for the church and with the church. The man who preaches after a thorough study, The man whose actions are always in line in with his preachings, The man who committed not even a single mistake in his words, The man who believes what he said is cent percent correct. It is Mar Joseph Powathil, The First Syro Malabar bishop consecrated by a Pope, The bishop who raised his voice for the equal status of all the individual churches, The bishop who argued for restoring the lost identity and traditions of his mother church, The bishop who came forward for Ecumenism and Inter Religious co-operation, The bishop who had the courage to lead the church and protect its rights and faith....This is a tribute to this great Archbishop

A short profile of the ministry in truth and charity*

Archbishop Joseph Powathil was born in the quiet hamlet of Kurumbanadom, near Chanaganacherry, Travancore. He was dearly known as Pappachan in his childhood, and he officially goes by the name of P. J. Joseph. He went to school at Holy Family LP School and St. Peter’s UP School, which were both in his home village, and the St. Berchmans’ High School in Changanassery. An economics graduate of St.Berchmans College, Changanassery and Loyola College, Madras, he went on to receive his post graduate diploma in economics from Oxford University in 1969.

Mar Joseph did his seminary studies in St. Thomas Seminary Changanassery and Papal Seminary Pune. He was ordained priest on October 3, 1962. Just after his ordination Joseph Powathil was appointed lecturer in economics at St. Berchmans’ College, the same college where he had his graduation studies. Though his later years were full of Episcopal responsibilities it is an irony that Father Joseph had very little pastoral experience as a priest. The authorities thought the other way, to utilize his leadership qualities and organizing abilities, besides his experience as a teacher and mentor, in the making of a prelate.

He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Changanassery (Titular Bishop of Caesarea Philippi) on January 29, 1972 and was ordained bishop by Pope Paul VI on February 13, 1972. On February 26, 1977 a new diocese was created under the name Kanjirappally bifurcating Changanassery archdiocese. Bishop Powathil was transferred to there as the first bishop. He served the new diocese for nine years. He rose to become archbishop and returned to Changanassery on November 16, 1985 succeeding Mar Antony Padiyara.
As the archbishop of Changanassery Mar Powathil pushed assiduously for the restoration of East Syrian traditions in the Syro-Malabar Church. He fought vigorously for the complete revival of the Divine Liturgy that was Latinised after the Synod of Diamper, although it was partially revived after Vatican II. However, these efforts got him several critics even among his fellow bishops, alleging that what he espoused amounted to adoption of Chaldean Christian and Orthodox Christian practices. This was apparent during his race as a candidate in the election of president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India in 1994.

Though most of the Latin Catholic bishops from all over India supported his candidature, he had to overcome a very strong opposition from a group within his own church. Despite this severe setback, he went on to win the election. As the president of C.B.C.I. Mar Powathil voice became heard throughout India and his work began to win accolades and respect even from other religious leaders. In 1996, as a poetic justice, he was unanimously asked to further serve the C.B.C.I. for another term. Archbishop Powathil was also chairman of Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (K.C.B.C.) from 1993 to 1996.

He served as President of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) (1994–1998), Chairman of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (1993–1996), and Chairman of Education Commission of the CBCI. He is at present a member of the Post Asian Synodal Council in Rome, Italy (since 1998), Chairman of KCBC Commission for Education (since 1986), Founder and Chairman of Inter Church Council for Education, Chairman of Inter Religious Fellowship, member of the Pro Oriente Foundation at Vienna, Austria (since 1993) and member of the Scientific Commission of International Publication ‘Oasis’ from Venice, Italy.
Realizing the importance of the Youth Apostolate he took the initiative in establishing a Diocesan Youth Movement called ‘Yuva Deepthi’ in 1972. In course of time it spread to all the dioceses in Kerala leading to the formation of Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM) and he was the first chairman of the KCBC Youth Commission. He started Apostolate for the senior citizens, apostolate for the emigrants and apostolate for the tourists in the Archdiocese. CANA, the Indian Section of the Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, at Thuruthy with head quarters in Rome is another achievement of him.

He did a great deal to promote formation based on his Syro-Malabar identity, to priests, religious and the laity. Oriental Study Forum, Dukrana - periodical, Christian Orient - periodical, Missionary Orientation Centre (MOC, recognized by the Congregation for Catholic Education, Rome), Amala Theological College for the novices, Mar Thoma Vidya Nikethan for Laity (Master Degree in Religious Sciences: recognized by the Congregation for Catholic Education, Rome) etc. are the means used for the same. He also founded an Eastern Monastic Congregation – Sisters of St. Thomas

On January 22, 2007, Monday, the resignation of Archbishop Joseph Powathil, in conformity with Canon 210 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, was made public by the Holy See and on the same day, it was announced that the then Auxiliary Bishop of Changanacherry, Mar Joseph Perumthottam would succeed Mar Joseph Powathil in the office as the Archbishop of Changanacherry.

Syro-Malabar Church: Before and After Mar Powathil

Liturgical Reformations

After the formation of two vikariats- Kottayam (Changanacherry) and Thrissure for the Mar Thoma Nazranis, concerns were raised for the native bishops to lead the church. Our forefathers believed that it was necessary for the restoration of our lost traditions and liturgy.  As a result, in the course of time, native bishops were entrusted the church. But due to the intensity of Latin formations, they were more or less ignorant to ask the Vatican to release Syriac translation of the Latin texts for the use in Malabar. Many works for regaining the lost liturgy was conducted in the course of time. But it got momentum only with the leadership of Mar Joseph Powathil. As the head of Central Liturgical Commission, he tried to restore the Holy Qurbana of the Syro-Malabar Church, as per the guidelines of Vatican. Result was the Restored Holy Qurbana, inaugurated by Saint Pope John Paul II, at Kottayam on February 8, 1986. After this, he tried to give awareness about our prestigious liturgy and traditions to the common laymen in different levels, starting with small children at Sunday Schools to the aged people using Mar Thoma Vidyanikethan.

The 'liturgy of the hours' (Yamaprarthanakal) of the Syro-Malabar Church got wide acceptance due to the work lead by Mar Powathil. Morning prayer (Sapra) became common in Churches and Evening Prayer (Ramsa) became popular in houses. Present young generation of the Archdiocese may find it hard to believe the fact that Yamaprarthanakal were hardly used some decades ago.

For the Identity of the Church

Head of the Mar Thoma Nazranis was known as the 'Gate of All India and its premises'. From this, the church was restricted to a small area bounded by the two rivers in the small state of Kerala. Even after the formation of hierarchy, most of the powers vested with the Vatican. In a Latin dominated Bishops Conference of India, Mar Powathil argued for the equality of all the individual churches in India. He raised voice for the right for mission work and the pastoral care for the migrants. As a result, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote the historic letter to all the bishops in India. Bishops Conference of India was restructured to give equal importance to all the individual churches in India- The Syro Malabar, Syro Malankara and Latin Churches. Syro Malabar Church was raised into the Major Archi Episcopal status in 1996 and many new dioceses and mission stations were started outside the territorial boundaries of the Church.

         For the Migrants

Mar Powathil was the one who thought about the migrants of the church. Due to the large scale migrations for the better job opportunities and educational needs, a large amount of faithful were forced to live in the Latin dioceses, outside the proper territory of the Church, without having proper pastoral care by the mother church. Mar Powathil raised the issue to Vatican and in the Bishops conferences. As a result, Mar Antony Padiyara was appointed as the Apostolic Visitor for the Migrants, to study the present status of the migrants and report the needs. As a result of the Apostolic Visitor's studies, large population of the faithful were identified in many cities and immediate action was taken to erect a new diocese of Kallyan for the migrants in and around Bombay.

A golden chance missed in 1990s

Mar Powathil was a great leader and the proud son of the Syro Malabar Church. Yet he didn't become the Major Archbishop of the Church. What ever be the reasons, it will be marked as the golden opportunity missed by the Syro-Malabar Church in the modern era.

Kerala  Churches- Mar Powathil= ???

Mar Powathil is a highly influencial and most respected personality among Kerala Christians.

Eccumenist Leader

For all who are outside the Syro-Malabar Church, Mar Powathil is the man of Ecumenism. He worked hard for the unity and co-operation among all the christian factions. He formed Nilackal Eccumenical Trust and Inter-Church Council for Education. Nilackal Church is considered as the first Ecumenical church in the world. There was a great progress in the Catholic-Orthodox and Catholic-Jacobite dialogues, under the leadership of Mar Powathil. Mar Powathil is also the life time member of Pro-Oriente eccumenical conference in Vienna. He succeeded in co-coordinating all the christian churches for the protection of faith and rights.

An ever Judicious Advocate of Minorities and Educational rights

Mar Powathil is regarded as the ever judicious Bishop. When ever there were challenges for the faith or minority rights, he came up with his powerful leadership. Whether it was College struggle(1972) against Congress led government's educational policies or in the Self financing college issue(2006) aginst the Communist government, Mar Powathil was there in the leadership to protect the rights of the faithful. Mar Powathil was the first one to identify the violation of Indian Constitution in the unanimously passed Self financing colleges bill. It was a new knowledge for even the members of the legislative assembly, when Mar Powathil explained the facts. He is ever judicious to each and every happenings around him. State witnessed his knowledge and powerful leadership in 2006, when the Communist led state government tried to take away the minority rights in the name of Self financing colleges bill.

A model for Social Service: Educational and Service Ventures

Alumni at famous Oxford university and the Professor at St. Berchmans' college changanacherry, Mar Powathil have a bunch of great students including Oommen Chandi (Chief Minister, Kerala) and Justce Cyriac Joseph (Supreme Court Judge)

There is no other bishop who had involved so much in the formation of Kerala state's higher education policy. 'College samaram' in 1972 and Self financing college issue in 2006, saw the courage, leadership and wisdom of Mar Powathil. He succeeded in finding the violation of Indian constitution in the Self financing colleges law, which was passed unanimously by the legislative assembly. Even the opposition leaders identified this violations, when Mar Powathil explained!!

The social development activities of Mar Joseph Powathil is a model for all. He founded the famous and prestigious Peerumedu Development Society (P.D.S) and the Malanadu Development Society (M. D. S) in 1977 while he was the bishop of Kanjirappaly. The Kuttanadu Vikasana Samithy (KVS) is another brainchild of Archbishop Powathil for the integral development of the place and people of Kuttanadu. These serves the Highrange and Kuttanad ever since their formation. Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi is regarded as the voice of the Kuttanad.

Mar Joseph Powathil's special care and concern for the margininalised, especially for the mentally challenged children is manifested in 19 special schools for the mentally challenged in the Archdiocese itself and four schools for the physically handicapped. The first school for the mentally challenged in the central Travancore region was opened by his initiative in 1972 (Asha Bhavan) at Ithithanam near Changanassery. Now it is the largest residential school with hundred students and twenty-five teaching and non-teaching staff.

Mar Powathil's support made the CHASS (Changanacherry Social Service Society) to develop a lot of projects for the welfare of the society. After the Episcopal Ordination of Mar Powathil in Vatican in 1972, he asked to avoid the wastage of money for receiving him. So the reception was done in a simple manner, and the rest of the money was given to Mar Powathil for the welfare activities. This was the birth of the Archdioce's 'Jiivakarunya nidhi' Now this had developed to a trust which gives support to the needy fraction of the society.

The innovative vision of Mar Joseph Powathil in the field of education gave way for the first University affiliated media college in south India, St. Joseph's College of Communication(SJCC) and the first Community college in Kerala, associated with a regular Arts and Science College- Assumption Institute of Technology(later renamed as Archbishop Powathil Assumption Community College)

In the scenario of 1998, where no one from Kerala was qualified for Indian Administrative Service(IAS) in the Civil service examination, Mar Powathil identified that it was due to the lack of proper training and guidance. Hence he gave form to the Palai St. Thomas Civil Service Institute as a joint venture of the Changanacherry, Palai and Kanjirappally dioceses. In the course of time it rose to become the synonym of the Civil Service training in Kerala and guided hundreds of aspirants into the prestigious Indian Civil Service. Even now, the institute keeps the words of Mar Powathil "This should not be for our profit, but service should be the objective." The institute provides the best training at the cheapest rates.

Mar Powathil's efforts for Communal harmony and Ecumenicism had a great impact. He formed Inter Religious Fellowship with other religious leaders. Nilackal Ecumenical Trust and Inter Church Council for Education was formed by the co operation of all the christian denominations. Nilackal St Thomas Ecumenical church became the world's first ecumenical church.

Rise of a Mar Powathil Generation...

'Pope John Paul II generation' is the term used to point to the generation which is blessed to live during his reign, witness his activites and to get motivated from him. Pope John Paul II was such a phenominal and influencial personality in the modern era. When the matter of Syro Malabar Church is considered, there is no one who is so influencial and inspiratonal as Mar Joseph Powathil. From a latinized church, he could restore an oriental church, From a church which was forced to be within a small territory of Kerala, he could manage to initiate mission dioceses in North India and USA. He could make the church into a Major Archi Episcopal church. He could gain the equality for all the individual churches in India. He could inaugurate the resored Holy Qurbana of Syro Malabar Church. He could protect the constitutional rights of the minorities in Kerala, He could prevent the Atheist attack, He could line up all the christian churches under the banner of Inter church council for Education and Nilackal Eccumenical trust, He could join hands with other religious leaders under Inter Religious Forum for the peaceful co-operation.  His love and affection to the marginized and poor gave form to 'Jiivakarunya Nidhi' and many schemes of CHASS. His vision and mision gave form to the First university affiliated media college in south India and the First Community college associated with a regular Arts and Science college in Kerala. Malanadu Development Society, Peerumed Development Society and Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi also shows his commitment towards the society. Hence it was not only the church, but also the entire society was blessed by the activities of Mar Powathil.

Precisely, i would like to use the term 'Mar Powathil Generation' to point out the Catholic generation which was blessed and influenced by the Phenomenal Archbishop Mar Joseph Powathil. During the time when Mar Powathil became bishop, Syro Malabar Church's territory was limited inside a small boundary in Kerala. In a Latin dominated hierarchy of Catholic Bishops Conference in India, he raised voice for the equality of all the 3 individual churches in India and for the freedom for Missionary work. Mar Powathil had to argue a lot. Finally Mar Antony Padiyara was appointed to study the status of Syro Malabar migrants. Pope John Paul II wrote his historic letter to the bishops in India, stating the equality of all the Individual churches...And now every one accepts the equality of 3 individual churches in India, Mission diocese started to be created in India and USA, Chruch now considers the matter of Migrants as of great importance...We have to thank Mar Powathil for this...Again, his arguments and activities were crucial in raising Syro Malabar Church to a Major Archi Episcopal church.

Ecumenism in Kerala witnessed its peak with the leadership of Mar Powathil. His leadership improved the co-operation with all the christian churches and other religions in Kerala. His ecumenical  leadership was not limited in Kerala. His works for the Catholic-Jacobite dialogues gave form to a lot of agreements between the Vatican and Jacobite churches.

Mar Powathil's important contribution was in liturgy. Syro Malabar Holy Qurbana was restored by his great initiative. His pastoral and catechetical care made people of many dioceses aware of the sacred liturgical traditions of Syro Malabar Church. Use of the traditional 'Litugy of Hours' was popularized by him. He took initiative to teach the faithful about our sacred traditions, liturgy and Holy Qurbana. He popularized the use of Mar Sleeva. From the design of the churches, to the vestment of the priests, an oriental form was appeared because of his great leadership. His leadership, guidance and support was a great help for the scholars who researched for the traditions of the church. With his support, they could do a lot for the benefit of the mother church.

When Mar Powathil came with his concepts, majority was against him. He had to suffer a lot. But the truth cannot be hidden. In a poetic justice, every one now understands the correctness of this great leader. Now majority of the bishops and faithful follows his teachings. A new generation, interested in the great traditions and the identity of Syro Malabar church had risen. It includes Major Archbishop, Bishops, Priests, Laity, Youth and even small children. Let the future of the Syro Malabar church be safe in this 'Mar Powathil generation'...

And Finally,,

Let me conclude, quoting the words of Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo, Latin Archbishop of Ranchi and the former President of Catholic Bishops Conference of India. "...The children of the Syro-Malabar Church would gratefully remember the efforts and leadership Mar Powathil has given during a defining moment in the history of this church, especially for the restoration of its legitimate rights and its identity as an individual Church...His tenure as Bishop and Archbishop was a historical period for the Syro-Malabar Church marked by no small number of challenges and problems...This was a challenge that required tough choices and he took tough choices, and history proves that he stood in the right track...He is a champion of the identity of the Syro-Malabar Church in the contemporary period..." Yes, he is the champion of the Syro-Malabar Church in the modern era, the one who can be undoubltfully called as the 'Crown of Syro-Malabar Church'

*Section taken from wikepedia and edited

Thursday, May 24, 2012

When Mar George Alencherry completes 365 days in the Throne of Mar Thoma Sleeha

After the sad demise of Mar Varky Vithayathil, we got a new Major Archbishop, Mar George Alencherry to lead us. If Mar Vithayathil was a man of peace, who was chosen by the almighty to lead us in the midst of the internal crises, Mar Alencherry is a man of courage and wisdom, who was chosen by the god to lead us to a fully developed individual church. His election marked a mile stone in the history of the 1960 year old catholic church of the Mar Thoma Nazranis. For the first time in the history, the Holy Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church elected their Major Archbishop. He is a man who knows the presence of the church and its needs for the future. He is well aware of the holy traditions and identity of the church. His election was the most valuable gift for the Syro-Malabar Church in 2011. In this auspicious occasion of the first anniversary of this great election, let us brief the important events happened in the year.

A man of Wisdom and Determination

Syro Malabar Church was blessed abundantly by the god almighty through the election of HB Mar George Alencherry. A simple man, who loves the most valuable traditions of the church. A man who has the right knowledge is not the one whom we need. In addition to the knowledge, 'determination' is also equally important. Thankfully our new Major Archbishop is a well determined leader. He have his stands. A man who knows the importance of his designation, 'Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church*'. Even though its too early, within few months after his election, he was able to convince that Syro Malabar 'Oriental Catholic Church' have a powerful and energetic Major Archbishop.

Mar George Alencherry was well determined to lead the church in union and also raise the voice for the needs. Even before completing one year, he was able to fulfill the dream of the church to have a diocese at Delhi for the migrants. Where ever he go, whomever he meet, he is determined to proclaim the great traditions and identity of the 1960 year old catholic church. We are blessed to have a Major Archbishop who not only knows the traditions, but also live and lead according to the oriental traditions of our church.

We are also blessed to have a person who have his own stand in the issue of the celebration of sacred liturgy and the holy Qurbana. A man who values the synodal decisions above his likes. A man who wishes to see the Holy Qurbana of the Syro Malabar Church being celebrated in the same way, wherever it is celebrated in the globe. A man who had the courage to tell everyone that Qurbana should be celebrated properly according to the synodal decisions. Throughout the year, in all his visits to the Syro Malabar dioceses and communities around the globe, he celebrated the Qurbana according to the synodal decisions. He also had the determination to celebrate the Qurbana according to the synodal decision on the occasion of the jubilee celebrations of the Kodungalloor Mar Thoma shrine, where all his fellow Syro Malabar bishops were the co-celebrants. For this determination, he had to face some bitter experiences from his own priests in Ernakulam. Even though they succeeded in preventing fast changes, they failed in correcting him. He continued to celebrate the liturgy according to the synodal decisions, wherever possible. This courage and determination makes him different from his predecessors.

A Major Archbishop from a mission diocese

'A Major Archbishop from a mission diocese', that too when the church was all set to celebrate the Mission year, in concern with the golden jubilee of the first mission diocese of the syro malabar church,  was a big surprise and blessing to the missions. He managed to visit most of the mission dioceses even in his very first year. In all his visits, he was given hearty welcome by the natives. First Mission fest conducted in Karnataka state jointly by the three Syro Malabar dioceses in Karnataka was a great and unique event in the history of the church. People from all the three dioceses managed to make the event a great success.

Diocese of Faridabad: Happy news for all migrants

Inauguration of the diocese of Faridabad on May 26-27th is a gift on this occasion. Mar George Alencherry was able to raise his voice for the needs of the migrants. As a result, our longtime dream for a diocese at Delhi was fulfilled through the erection of the diocese of Faridabad. Even though we got the diocese of Faridabad, the need for new dioceses and mission stations are increasing rapidly to cope up the pace of the migration of the faithful. If the number of migrants is considered, new dioceses should have been created in other metropolitan cities in India, Gulf and Europe. We have very high need of dioceses at Banglore, Chennai and Gulf. Hope Mar Alencherry can succeed in this effort as soon as possible. Let us pray for this. In this year, he had managed to visit some syro malabar communities like Singapore. In all these regions, he was able to convince the local bishops, the needs of the community. He is also raising his voice for the migrants, in Vatican. Hope all these efforts become successful.

HB HE Mar George Cardinal Alencherry

In this February, Mar George Alencherry was given the title of Cardinal. Thus he became one of the few, who will be called as 'His Beatitude His Eminence' in Vatican. It was a due recognition to the Syro Malabar Church, when Mar George Alencherry was given the title, even before completing one year as the Major Archbishop. Mar George Alencherry used the occasion to proclaim the identity of his church. He made it clear that he is not a simple cardinal, but also the Major Archbishop of the Oriental Syro Malabar Church. He chose long red dress and biretta with Mar Sleeva on top , his 'Rudraksha mala' and 'Kai sleeva' (hand cross) rather than using the vestments of Latin cardinals. Here also Mar Alencherry showed that he is different from his predecessors who used the Latin vestments. This was a big surprise to all including the global media. All reported the 'odd one' among the Cardinals with due respect and importance. Reuter’s album 'An Indian Cardinal' became popular. Mar Alencherry thereby made the nation and our church proud by proclaiming the uniqueness.

Into the Holy Congregations for Doctrine of Faith & Oriental Churches#

Soon after the consistory, Mar Alencherry was nominated to the Holy Congregations for Doctrine of Faith and Oriental Churches. This was surely the acceptance of Mar Alencherry's capabilities and the Holy See expects lot more contributions to the church from Mar Alencherry. It is evident from the fact that these all happened before the completion of his first year as Major Archbishop. We have to also consider the fact that these are the most important two of all holy congregations.

Few words about the controversy

At the same time when we were so proud of Mar Alencherry, the incident of Italian mariners happened. When two Italian mariners were arrested by the Kerala police, for killing two fishermen, Mar Alencherry was in Rome for the consistory. Some of the Kerala and Central government ministers were along with him, for attending the function as the representatives of the governments. Italian news agency reported that Mar Alencherry will mediate and solve the issue. They also reported that he had 'influenced' the ministers to let the mariners free. This fake or misinterpreted news created a big controversy. Actually it was a misinterpretation of what Mar Alencherry said to the news agency. When asked about this, the reply given to an interviewer by Mar Alencherry is as follows.

'What was given to the news agency (Fides) was not an interview. It was just a presentation of the scenario related to my cardinal post. Questions came in between the talk was like this.
Q: Did you hear what all happened in Kerala (about mariners)
A: Yes
Q: Why is it made a political issue?
A: These are happening in all countries. Is n't it?
Q: Two ministers were with you. Will they solve the issue?
A: Ministers will solve the issue.
This was misinterpreted that Mar Alencherry and ministers are with the Italy. Local media also tried to ignite the issue.

Final words of Conclusion

When Mar George Alencherry completes his first year in the Throne of Mar Thoma, let us thank the god almighty for choosing the right person. Let us be proud that we have a powerful, energetic and well determined oriental Major Archbishop. Let us pray to the almighty to strengthen his hands.

May the grace of our lord Ieso Mshiha, love of our holy Father in heaven and the fellowship of Ruha De Kaddish be with us for ever and ever..

Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church- Head and Father of 4 Million Syro-Malabar Catholics...Head of the Third Largest Catholic Church and the Largest Thomasine Christian Community....The largest among the 3 churches who are in Catholic Communion ever since their birth(AD 52 for Syro Malabar Church)...Our head once had the title 'Gate of whole India and it's premises'.

# Congregation for Doctrine of faith- is the final word of all faith related matters of the church especially of the Latin church. Oriental churches have not much obligations towards the decisions of this congregation.
Congregation for Oriental churches- is the holy congregation who look after all the matters related to the oriental churches.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Historic Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Bishops of India

25 years had passed since the historic letter of Blessed Pope John Paul II, to the Bishops of India regarding the issues related to the Communion of Rites and Pastoral care to the migrants of Oriental Churches. This was a major event happened in favour of the Syro-Malabar bishops who raised their voice for the equal rights for all Rites and the freedom for the pastoral care of the migrants. This was at a time when we were raising voice for the diocese at Bombay-Pune region. Soon after this letter, the Holy See created the diocese of Kallyan. Years had passed and many more dioceses in North, including the recent one of Faridabad had been created. Even then, this is of much importance, since we are unable to provide pastoral care to the migrants in many of the regions of the world, due to the lack of support from the Latin Bishops and also we have a number of faithful in many regions so as to obtain new diocese. Let us go through this historic letter...

To my venerable brothers, The bishops of India

                As you are aware, for sometime a study has been going on with regard to the inter-ritual questions which have arisen in India, in recent years. On the occasion of my visit to your country, the happy memory of which still remains deeply engraved in my mind and heart, I spoke to all of you assembled in New Delhi about this matter and assured you of the Holy See’s desire to be of assistance to you in this regard. I mentioned that the final stage of this study would be carried out as soon as possible and that I myself would do possible to ensure a just and fair settlement of the issues, one that would take into account all the pastoral exigencies of unity and truth.

                To this end I appointed a Pontifical Commission under the presidency of the Cardinal Secretary of State, composed of the Cardinal prefects of the two Roman Congregations directly concerned in the matter, the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in India, Archbishops representing the three Rites in India and others. This commission met more than once in order to exchange, in an atmosphere of frank and fraternal dialogue, various viewpoints concerning issues which have been brought forward both in the inter-ritual meetings that had taken place in India and in correspondence sent to the Holy See. These meetings were characterized by a desire on the part of all to arrive at a just and fair pastoral response to the various issues in question, but such as also to take into account the various elements and dimensions historical, theological and canonical which are inseparable from any truly pastoral policy that respects the manifold ways in which God’s plan becomes realized through history. In this study, the wealth of the Conciliar teachings was given an eminent place, particularly those documents which bear directly on the issues that were discussed, namely the Decree Christus Dominus on the pastoral office of Bishops in the church, and the Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum on the Catholic Eastern Churches.

                Since very ancient times a considerable community of Christians, known as the St. Thomas Christians has existed in southern India. Indeed there is a very strong tradition that the St. Thomas, the Apostle himself visited and labored in India, both in the extreme south and in what is known today as the Madras Mylapore area. There is even a tomb in Mylapore, which is venerated as his resting place. Later on, at various times, the church in India was strengthened by other groups of Christians from the middle east who became assimilated into the church already there.    

                The coming of Latin missionaries can be traced back to at least the thirteenth century. With their arrival in the present area of Calicut, the missionary activity of the church began to extend. The centre of this activity was first located at Cochin, and then at Goa, and from there it spread throughout the region, and into areas which today are independent neighboring countries. In this process of Evangelization, there has always existed a generous collaboration on the part of priests, religious and laity baptized in the Syro Malabar Rite, and in the recent years also on the part of Syro-Malabar church itself in certain areas of the North. This collaboration should not be forgotten, for it points to a willingness, on the part of all concerned, to accept the age-old adage:  “salus animarum suprema lex”

                Since the celebration of the Second Vatican council, the Catholic Eastern Churches have manifested an ever greater desire to undertake, whenever possible, the pastoral care of the Eastern Rite faithful in accordance with their ecclesial traditions and heritage. In India this desire has intensified in the recent years in the face of the ever increasing phenomenon of the migration of Eastern Rite Catholics to areas covered by Latin Rite dioceses in the northern part of the country, such that at times they form a considerable number of the faithful of these ecclesiastical territories, as for example in the area of Bombay-Pune.

                The Second Vatican council, in speaking of the pastoral duties of Bishops, declared that where there are faithful of a different Rite, the diocesan bishop should provide for their spiritual needs, either through the priests and parishes of that Rite, or through an Episcopal Vicar endowed with the necessary faculties. Moreover, wherever it would be fitting, the latter could also have Episcopal rank (cf. Christus Dominus, 23,3). The same document went on to say that if, on account of some special circumstances, none of these alternatives was practicable, a special hierarchy could be established for each different Rite, should the Apostolic see judge this to be opportune (ibid).

                The last provision – to be employed where circumstances should so warrant was enlarged upon in the Conciliar document on the Catholic Eastern Churches. There we read: “Attention should everywhere be given to the preservation and growth of each individual church. For this purpose, parishes and a special hierarchy should be established for each where the spiritual good of the faithful so demands…All Eastern Rite members should know and be convinced that they can and should always preserve their lawful liturgical rites and their established way of life” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 4 & 6)

                This need to be faithful to the traditions and heritage of one’s own Rite can in no way be considered as interfering with the task of the church to “gather into one all the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn.11:52), or with the mission of the church to bring about the communion of all persons with the Redeemer. For as the same Decree rightly remarks:

                “That Church, Holy and Catholic, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit through the same faith, the same Sacraments and the same government and who, combining into various groups held together by a hierarchy, form, separate Churches or Rites. Between these, there flourishes such an admirable brotherhood that this variety within the church in no way harms her unity, but rather manifests it” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2).

                In fidelity then to the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and in view of the present circumstances prevailing in the Indian context, after having closely examined all the documents which has been presented to the Holy See, as well as the results of the meeting of the Pontifical Commission appointed at my direction to study the inter-ritual problems existing in India, by virtue of my Office as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church I wish to state the following:

a)      The Bishops of each of the three Rites have the right to establish their own Episcopal bodies in accordance with their own ecclesiastical legislation. The national Conference of all the Catholic Bishops of India is to continue for questions of common concern and of a national and supra-ritual character, e.g. Doctrine and Morals, Organizations of a national and supra-ritual character, questions involving the Catholic Church and the Government etc. These areas are to be determined in the National Conference’s new statutes, to be approved by the Holy See (cf. Christus Dominus,38; Code of Canon Law, Canons 449 ff).

b)      As the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches points out, all the Churches under the pastoral governance of the Roman Pontiff have the same rights and obligations, including what concerns the preaching of the Gospel, always under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 3). It will be the task of the Catholic Bishops of India, if necessary through a special commission of the National Conference referred to above, to organize and coordinate the missionary activity in the country, in such a way as to promote an evangelization that will be truly effective and yet avoid all danger of confusion and any spirit of rivalry.

c)       Regarding the pastoral care of the faithful of the Eastern Rites who are living in Latin Rite dioceses, in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Conciliar Decrees Christus Dominus 23,3 and Orientalium Ecclesiarum 4, the Latin Ordinaries of such dioceses are to provide as soon as possible for an adequate pastoral care of the faithful of these Eastern Rites, through the ministry of the priests, or through parishes of the Rite, where this would be indicated, or through an Episcopal Vicar endowed with the necessary faculties, where circumstances would so indicate( cf. Christus Dominus,23,3; Code of Canon Law, Canons 283, #2; 476; 518). This latter may even have Episcopal rank should this be determined as fitting (Christus Dominus,23,3). Where circumstances would so indicate, the Apostolic See will establish a proper hierarchy for such faithful. This would be done through two Roman Congregations responsible for the affairs of the Eastern and Latin Rites, and after consultations with the Latin Bishops involved. Given the number of the Catholics Syro-Malabar Rite in the Bombay-Pune region of India, the situation presently existing there can be considered mature enough for the establishment now of an Eparchy of the Syro-Malabar Rite. Hence I am authorizing the Congregation for the Eastern Churches to proceed accordingly.

My dear Brothers in the Episcopate, let us continue to reflect on the marvelous mystery of the Universal Church and all the Churches or Rites which make up her variety in unity. May the centre of all your pastoral solicitude be the Church’s unity and communion. For in this we recognize the greatest of blessings, the desire of the heart of Jesus, the expression fidelity to the Lord, the sign of credibility of his Church and of the very mission of the Christ.

As you know, the Second Vatican Council emphasized the Church’s vocation to be a sign of the unity of mankind, so often divided by ethnic, political, cultural and linguistic rivalries, and thus oppressed by all sorts of tensions. This vocation brings with it the need for reconciliation where unity has been impaired or damaged. Hence there is a need for the closest possible communion and collaboration between the different Rites in the beloved country.

In stating the above after much prayers and reflection, I have every confidence that it will be given the full support of all the Bishops of the country, and that you will do everything possible to educate and form your priests, religious and faithful to accept and cooperate fully in its implementation.

In conclusion, I once again commend you and your ministry to the loving care of Mary the Mother of Church, and I pray that she will sustain you all in joy until the day of Christ Jesus
From the Vatican, 28 May 1987
Joannes Paulus II

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Syro-Malabar Church into a New Year

The Syro Malabar Church, Along with the rest of the world has been crossing the footsteps for a new year. After a much blessed 2011, we are in a new year of 2012. First of all, a blessed new year wishes to all...
2011 was a blessed year for us. We got a very energentic leader, His Beatitude Mar Geevargese Alancherry as our Major Archbishop. Mar Thoma Kurialacherry the first bishop of Changanacherry was elevated to the Venerable position. The second Anaphora of our liturgy, Anaphora of Mar Theodore was approved for experiment.....And we are now entering a new year 2012, where we await a bunch of more blessed events. 2012 is the Post Centenary Silver Jubilee (125) Year of Changanacherry and Thrissure Vicariates and the Golden Jubilee of the first mission diocese of Chanda. This is also the Golden Jubilee year of Vadavathur St Thomas Apostolic Seminary. We also awaits the declaration of Puthanparambil Thommachan as Servant of God. He will be the first layman from Syro Malabar Church, to become the Servant of God. In addition to this, we awaits the declaration of new bishops and dioceses ..

A strong leader to lead us...

After the sad demise of Mar Varkey Vithayathil, we got a new Major Archbishop Mar Geevarghese Alancherry to lead us. If Mar Vithayathil was a man of peace, who was choosen by the God to lead us in the midst of the internal crises, Mar Alancherry is a man of Courrage and Wisdom, who was choosen by the God to lead us to a fully developed Individual church. His election marked a mile stone in the history of the church. For the first time in the history, the Holy Synod of Syro Malabar Church elected their Major Archbishop.  He is a man who knows the presence of the church and its need in the future. He is well aware of the holy traditions and identity of the church. He is well determined to restore the holy traditions and lead the church in union. His election was the most valuable gift for the Syro Malabar Church in 2011.

Venerable Mar Thoma Kurialassery

Mar Thoma Kurialassery, the first Bishop of Changanacherry and the Founder of SABS congregation was called Venerable. He became the first Venerable Bishop from India. This was in the midst of Centenary celebrations of his elevation as the Bishop. According to the Major Archbishop Mar Geevarghese Alancherry, Vatican Congregation for the Saints is certain about the cause of Mar Kurialassery. The saintly life of Mar Kurialassery was praised by Cardinal Amatho, the Prefect of the Congregation. They are waiting for the miracles to continue with the process.

Second Anaphora: Anaphora of Mar Thiodore

The second Anaphora in our liturgy, Mar Thiodore's anaphora was accepted by the Holy Synod and it was given for experimental celebration. Final approval will be after considering the suggestions from various corners, after the experimental celebrations.

The most awaited events of 2012 are as follows....

Jubilee of Changanacherry and Thrissure Vicariates

The modern era of Syro Malabar Church was started with the establishment of two vicariates, Changanacherry and Thrissure for the Oriental Catholics in Kerala on 1887 May 20th. Hence it is not a matter of two dioceses. But it is a time for celebration for all the Syro Malabar Faithful. In 2012, we celebrate the 125th anniversery of this historic event.

Servant of God Puthenparabil Thommachan

Puthenparambil Thommachan was the founder of Franciscan 3rd order for the laymen. He is going to become the first layman from Syro Malabar Church to be called Servant of God. The Archdiocese of Changancherry had started the long process for his Canonization. The official inauguration and declaration is expected to take place in 2012.

Golden Jubilee of Vadavathur St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary

2012 is the Golden Jubilee year of St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathur which was established by Mar Mathew Kavukatt with the guidance from Cardinal Tiserang (Prefect of Oriental Congregation) and Rev Fr Placid Podippara CMI in 1952, with a view to give formation to the Seminarians, according to the Theology and Traditions of the Oriental church. During the last 50 years, it was succeeded to fulfill the dream of the great founders. The Jubilee celebrations will be taking place on 2012 January 14th. Cardinal Leonardo Sandhri, Prefect of the Oriental Congregation will be presiding over the function.

New Bishops and New Diocese

We also awaits the declaration of new bishops and dioceses. With the election of Mar Geevarghese Alancherry as Major Archbishop, the see of Thuckalay is vaccent. Also some of the senior bishops are awaiting the confirmation for the retirement. Most probably we will have a bunch of new bishops in 2012. We are also awaiting a diocese in Delhi. In a globalized world, where the migrations to the far corners of the world are increasing day by day, the need for new dioceses and mission stations are becoming more and more necessary. Let us pray to the god to fulfill our dreams...

Let us thank the god almighty for the blessings he had given us and pray for a blessed and prosperous new year.

Wish you all a very happy new year!!!
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