KOCHI: In the 81st year of its existence in the Catholic Church, the Malankara Syrian Catholic Church is all set to celebrate its first assembly. The Church is the fruition of the long and arduous efforts of Servant of God Archbishop Mar Ivanios to reunite Indian Christianity with the Universal Church.
The reunion movement was triggered by the Biblical exhortation, “That all may be one.” The Indian Church which was beleaguered with the endless bickering over material possessions and divided loyalties found in Mar Ivanios, a great unifier.
The deeply nationalistic prelate spent his youthful days as a professor in Serampore. The ambience was rich with the spiritual glow of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the spirit of independence radiating from Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and the fierce patriotic fervour of the revolutionaries. In his encounters with the great poet and his ruminations on the role of the Mahatma, the young priest evinced a rare gift of reconciliation and harmony. He was a truly Indian sage of the Advaitha School.
Sent as an emissary to the Holy See to usher in a new age of unity, Mar Ivanios accomplished his mission with grace. On his return home, a temporary rapprochement between the warring factions turned his mission redundant. With uncanny foresight, Mar Ivanios refused to retract. With four of his loyalists, he set out to establish a reunited, refined and revitalised Church. Facing all odds, the saintly seer renewed the faith of his forefathers. His mission was to liberate a Church entrenched in blind ritual, hollow pride and simmering enmity. He succeeded in balancing the yearning to uphold the eastern patrimony with the desire of the ages for a world without borders.
Through the design of providence and the prayerful leadership of his successors, Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios and Major Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios Catholicos, the Church grew steadily in size and significance. It took up the missions of education and health care as core manifestations of its evangelisation. The good news has to be shared. Sharing is not proselytizing.
Today the Church has 20 colleges, 525 schools, 18 hospitals, 20 sanatoriums, 22 training centres, 10 orphanages 44 hostels and 10 seminaries spread across the state and country in eight dioceses and an exarchate in the USA. His Beatitude Moran Mor Baselios Mar Cleemis Major Archbishop-Catholicos steers the Church through the challenging pathways of the new millennium.
The Malankara Syrian Catholic Church was raised to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church within the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II in 2005. The Episcopal Synod led by the Catholicos, who is the Father and Head of the Malankara Church, gained autonomy and fulfilled the vision of ecclesial communion nurtured by the Church for over 350 years. In the Syro-Malankara Church there is a comingling of the Antiochean and Indian streams of faith in the Catholic communion.
As the Church enters the ninth decade of the reunion, its new headquarters - Catholicate Centre at Pattom in Thiruvananthapuram, is getting ready to be blessed and inaugurated. Coinciding with this joyous occasion is a historic event- the convening of the first Malankara Syrian Catholic Assembly. A total of 177 members representing the hierarchy, the religious and the laity will meet and deliberate on the theme the ‘Evangelising Syro-Malankara Catholic Church: From Experience to Witness.’
It is designed as a soul- searching exercise to enumerate with gratitude the many blessings granted by the almighty to the Church and to evolve better means of sharing them with our unfortunate brethren across our motherland.
It will be an occasion to assess the efficacy of our institutions and see how they could be of greater help to persons and communities across ‘narrow domestic walls’. Empowerment of the individual, renewal of family values, strengthening democratic processes, ensuring social justice, improving accountability, modernising facilities, enhancing inculturation, promoting pro-life stances, launching new projects like the medical village at Pirappencode and developing the avenues of cooperation and dialogue with all the constituents of our pluralistic society will be the focus of the papers and discussions in the three- day assembly starting on September 21. Diocesan assemblies held earlier this year have forwarded their recommendations to the general assembly which will be a landmark event in making the Church more participatory. The Malankara Syrian Catholic Church seeks the prayers of the people of our land on this momentous occasion as it gears itself up for reaffirming its role in the service of humanity. The reflections at the assembly will hopefully illumine our path till the next assembly which will be convened only in 2016.
(The first assembly in the history of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, blessing of the Catholicate Centre and 81st Reunion Day celebrations will take place on September 20-23, 2011 at St. Mary’s Cathedral campus, Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram).
(The writer is professor in Mar Ivanios College,