Ecclesial Mission of the Syro-Malabar Church in India and abroad
14-16 Nov. 2008

The thirty fourth research seminar on the Ecclesial Mission of the Syro Malabar Church in India and abroad under the auspices of the Liturgical Research Centre was held at INDIAN SOCIAL INSTITUTE, Delhi, on 14th November Friday 10 AM – 16th November 2008 Sunday 5PM November 2008. Bishop Mar Gratian Mundadan, Bijnor; Bishop Mar Gregory Karotemprel, Rajkot; Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazath, Trichur; Bishop Mar Sebastian Vadakkel, Ujjain, Bishop Mar Vijay Anand, Ujjain; Bishop Mar Antony Chirayath, Sagar; Bishop Mar Mathew Vaniakizhakel, Satna; Bishop Mar Thomas Elavanal, Kalyan; Bishop Mar Thomas Thuruthimattam, Gorakhpur; Bishop Mar Jacob Mar Barnabas, Apostolic Visitor of the Mlanakara Catholic Church; Bishop Mar Jose Porunnedam, Manathavady; Bishop Mar Joseph Kunnath, Adilabad; Bishop Rev. Peter Celestine Elampassery, Jammu Kashmir, 67 priests, 28 sisters, and 12 lay persons participated in the Seminar. The inaugural session began with a prayer invoking the blessings upon the auspicious gathering led by Sr.Amala S.H, Sr.Nirmala S.H, Sr.Usha S.H at 10am. Prayer was followed by a cordial welcome speech by Rev. Dr Pauly Kannookadan Executive Director, LRC. The inaugural session continued with the inaugural address by Archbishop Most Rev. Pedro Lopez Quintana In his inaugural address he exhorted to be strong in unity to face the challenges of the modern world. By lighting the Lamp His Beatitude formally inaugurated the seminar.

Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath, Chairman LRC delivered the presidential address. In the presidential speech he said that Syro-Malabar Church has got a unique role to play in the evangelizing mission of the Church as well as the pastoral care of the migrants. It was followed by the Reading of the Message of the Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil by Rev Dr. Antony Kollannur the Chancellor of the Major Archiepiscopal Curia. Major Archbishop in his message strongly emphasized the fact that the Church is missionary by her very nature and evangelization is the only reason for the existence of the Church. This is true of all individual Churches, including the Syro-Malabar Church. Rev. Fr Jose Edassery the coordinator of the Syro Malabar church, Delhi Mission gave vote of thanks.

Bishop Mar Sebastian Vadakel, the Chairman, Commission for Evangelization and Pastoral Care of the Migrants moderated the first session in which Bishop Mar Jose Porunnedam presented the paper on the Juridical Dimensions on the Ecclesial Mission of the Syro - Malabar Church in India and abroad. Bishop in his presentation the paper was divided into two main parts. The first part named the notion of “Church” which included communion of churches, preservation and fostering of Eastern heritage and the juridical dimension of the pastoral care. The second part of the paper consists the rights and duties of the faithful which includes worship in one’s own Church. Rev. Dr. George Karakunnel a well known theologian and a professor of St. Joseph’s seminary, Alwaye began the afternoon session by presenting the paper on the Theological Dimensions on Ecclesial Mission of the Syro - Malabar Church in India and abroad. His paper emphasized the status of the Syro Malabar Church today. It is a world –wide reality. Therefore it has not got just one context, but several contexts. The Syro - Malabar Church functions at local, national and global levels today. There is an ecclesial life to be lived by St.Thomas Christians not only in their original homeland, but also in different Indian cities and states or countries abroad belonging to different geographical zones. This session was moderated by V. Rev. Fr George Manimala, Episcopal Vicar, Delhi.

The third session, an experience sharing of the Pastoral Care of the migrants, was in the evening at 5pm moderated by Bishop Mar Joseph Kunnath. Rev. Fr Jose Edasserry- Delhi Mission; Rev. Dr Varghese Perepadan -Chennai Mission; Rev. Dr. Paulachen Kochapilly - Bangalore Mission; Mr Siby Vaniapurackal -Gulf Mission were the resource persons to share the views about the pastoral care of the migrants of the Syro Malabar Church. Bishop Mar Mathew Vaniakizhakel had presided the Holy Qurbana in Hindi at 7pm. The sharing session continued at 9 pm moderated by Bishop Mar Vijay Anand regarding the missionary activities of the dioceses outside proper territory.

The program of the second day began with at 8.30am with the presentation of the paper by Archbishop Mar Joseph Powathil on The Missionary Dimensions on the Ecclesial Mission of the Syro - Malabar Church in India and abroad. Due to his ill health Archbishop was not personally present but the paper was presented by Rev. Fr Mathew Paikada OFM Cap. In his paper he dealt with our ecclesial vision which has bearing on the missionary impulse of the Church. He also insisted that the ecclesial vision of the Syro - Malabar Church which is not to be formulated according to our own fancies, but that it should be deduced from the genuine apostolic and ecclesial traditions which are primarily manifested in its liturgy, spirituality and theological consciousness. Our wishful thinking is no substitute for the hard facts of history. The general position taken by the Holy See so far can be also a safe guide for us in this terrain. This session was moderated by Bishop Mar Thomas Thuruthimattam.

After the Coffee Break Bishop Mar Thomas Elevanal moderated the Panel Discussion on the analysis of the present situation of the Ecclesial Mission of the Syro Malabar Church in India and abroad. Panelists were Bishop Mar Gregory Karotemprel, on the Pastoral Care, Bishop Mar Gratian Mundadan, on Missionary Activities Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas, on present Challenges and Rev. Dr Paulachen Kochapilly, on the survey of the Missionary activities and Pastoral Care of the faithful. The participants of the Seminar gathered again to continue the panel discussion at 2.30pm. It was followed by group discussion in six different groups from 3.30 – 4.30pm. At 5.00 pm. All gathered again with their own reports in the auditorium and presented their views and opinions. During reporting of the Group Discussions & General Discussion Bishop Mar Antony Chirayath was the chair person to moderate.

Bp Mar Vijay Anand presided over the concelebrated Eucharistic liturgy on Saturday. In the evening session Bishop Mar Jose Porunnedom, the Chairman of the Committee to draft the final statement presented statement and was passed with a few modifications after a detailed discussion. The seminar session at ISI was concluded at 8.45 with the Vote of Thanks by Dr V.J Papoo
The concluding session was organized in collaboration with Delhi mission at the Cathedral premises of the Archdiocese of Delhi on Sunday 16th November. The function started with a procession with relic of St.Alphonsa. More than 6000 faithful from the various parishes of Delhi Mission participated devotedly. At the conclusion of the procession the new Indian Postal Stamp of St. Alphonsa was released by the Supernatant of the Indian Postal Department giving the first copy to Sri Cyriac Joseph, the Honourable Supreme Court Justice. Bishop Celestine and the Superior General of the FCC delivered the welcome speech and Vote of thanks respectively. Mrs Sheela Dixit, the Chief Minister of Delhi felicitated at this occasion. Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath Presided over the concelebrated Mass and Bishop Mar Gratian Mundadan gave the homily. The Concluding meeting was inaugurated by Central Minister Sri Oscar Fernades and presided over by Archbishop Most Rev. Vincent M. Concessao. The newly published Journal was released by the Archbishop during this session giving the first copy to Bishop Mar Gregory Karotembrel.



We, the 120 participants of the Seminar on the Ecclesial Mission of the Syro-Malabar Church in India and Abroad, organized by Syro-Malabar Liturgical Research Centre at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, from 14 November to 16, 2008, which was inaugurated by Archbishop Most Rev. Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio and the concluding session presided over by Archbishop Most Rev. Vincent M. Concessao, Archbishop of Delhi, and attended by Bishop Mar Gratian Mundadan, Bijnor; Bishop Mar Gregory Karotemprel, Rajkot; Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazath, Trichur; Bishop Mar Sebastian Vadakkel, Ujjain, Bishop Mar Vijay Anand, Ujjain; Bishop Mar Antony Chirayath, Sagar; Bishop Mar Mathew Vaniakizhakel, Satna; Bishop Mar Thomas Elavanal, Kalyan; Bishop Mar Thomas Thuruthimattam, Gorakhpur; Bishop Mar Jacob Mar Barnabas, Apostolic Visitor of the Malanakara Catholic Church; Bishop Mar Jose Porunnedam, Manathavady; Bishop Mar Joseph Kunnath, Adilabad; Bishop Rev. Peter Celestine Elampassery, Jammu Kashmir, 67 priests, 28 sisters, and 12 lay persons, reflected on the meaning of the ecclesial mission of the Syro-Malabar Church as well as its current concerns and anxieties and tried to articulate our plans and hopes for the future. In our exchange of views and perceptions, we were guided by the Spirit of God to become more aware of our tasks and responsibilities along with the possibilities and prospects that lay ahead of us. We are inspired to share with all our brothers and sisters in faith the significant insights and ideas from our deliberations and we do hope that it would ignite the missionary zeal in our Church and highlight the urgency to give pastoral care to the faithful outside the proper territory and help the Church to draw up effective plans and methods of evangelization.

We proclaim proudly the providential development of an indigenous Christianity in India by the preaching of the Apostle Thomas. We acknowledge the great missionary enterprises with the East Syrian Church. We firmly believe that the Syro-Malabar Church, with the apostolic heritage, integrity of Christian life and abundance of vocations, has a unique role to play in the evangelizing mission of the Church. Endowed with Eastern Catholic faith and rooted in Indian culture and tradition, the Syro-Malabar Church has developed a unique way of witnessing to the Gospel. We also acknowledge humbly the static and stagnant periods of Syro-Malabar Church, the good and bad effects of the geographical and juridical limitations of the Church in evangelization and pastoral care of migrants.

The most valuable heritage of the Syro-Malabar Church, known as the way of Thomas, is the intimate and personal Christ experience of St. Thomas our father in faith, who touched the Risen Lord and proclaimed him as “my Lord and my God” (Jn. 20,28). The spirit and courage of St. Thomas manifested in his declaration “let us go and die with him” (Jn. 11,16) should motivate all missionaries and pastors. The legacy of St. Thomas is to believe with conviction, confess with enthusiasm and witness with courage. This has to be a permeating presence in the life and activities of the missionaries. A missionary is one who has experienced the Risen Lord and who proclaims him courageously through words and deeds.

This faith experience and its expression are enhanced by the East Syrian Liturgy and spirituality, and the Indian culture and lifestyle. A celebrated faith is proclaimed and proclamation aims at gathering people for celebration. The missionary thrust of the Syro-Malabar Qurbana is expressed in the fourth Gehanta prayer: “let all the people on earth know that you are the only true God the Father and that you have sent your only begotten Son Jesus Christ…”

Living in the midst of believers of other religions for two millennia, Syro-Malabar Christians have learned to recognize the saving presence and action of God in the other religions and cultures and to bear witness to the unique saving intervention of God in favour of man and his salvation through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The dialogical existence in harmony with the Indian culture, traditions and spiritual heritage is a unique way of life followed by the Church to bear effective witness to the Gospel. Syro-Malabar Church considers mission work as a spiritual movement, rather than an organized and structured social action. Mission is the incarnational living of the liturgical, ascetical, mystical spirituality to make visible the Trinitarian-Eucharistic experience of God’s saving action.

Syro-Malabar Church having its origin in India and rooted in Indian culture is well equipped to evangelize India. Evangelization and pastoral care are the fundamental rights and obligations divinely commissioned to each individual Church. These are specified in the Nos. 3 and 4 of the Decree of Vatican Council II on the Oriental Churches and the two Codes of Canon Law (CIC 383 §2 and CCEO 148 and 193). The Syro-Malabar Church even today is impeded from realizing this fundamental right and obligation. The commentators of the Council Documents point out that the Council Fathers specially took into account the anomalous situation that existed in India for a long period when they formulated this Decree (Johannes Hoeck, “Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches” in the Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Vol.I, edited by Herbert Vorgrimler, Burns & Oates/ Herder and Herder, London 1969 P.315). The Syro-Malabar Church is neither given new mission territories in India, Africa, etc., nor the freedom to exercise her right to give pastoral care by her own bishops and priests to the hundreds of thousands of migrants in India, in the Gulf Countries, Europe and elsewhere even after forty three years of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council.”

We unanimously resolved to bring the following to the attention and knowledge of all persons concerned, especially the ecclesiastical authorities concerned, namely the Latin and Syro-Malabar Hierarchies as well as the Apostolic See. The seminar was conducted with a view to highlighting the predicament in which the Syro-Malabar Church finds herself today in India and abroad in spite of the teaching of the Vatican II concerning the right and duty of each Church sui iuris in matters of pastoral care of its faithful all over the world and evangelization. We have come to the conclusion that there is a long way to go for achieving fully what the council envisaged in those teachings. Before we present our apprehensions and concern as well as wishes we would like to thank all those who have already co-operated in this matter.

We wish to place on record the magnanimous gestures of the Apostolic See, as well as those Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the Latin Church, both in India and abroad, who have taken very positive steps in their own way to give pastoral care to the Syro-Malabar faithful under their jurisdictions. Our sincere thanks are due to the Bishops of USA and Canada who graciously helped establish the St Thomas eparchy of Chicago for the Syro-Malabar faithful of those countries. We are thankful also to the Archbishops of Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkota and Pondicherry and the Bishop of Baroda for erecting parishes for the Syro-Malabarians in their archdioceses and diocese. Similarly we thank the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore and the Bishop of Chengalpet in Tamil Nadu for permitting the Syro-Malabar priests to take care of the Syro-Malabar faithful under their jurisdictions even though they have not been granted any parish. Likewise we remember with gratitude the Ordinary of Limburg in Germany and many Bishops in UK, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Australia and New Zealand as well as the Cardinal Vicar of His Holiness the Pope for establishing Syro-Malabar missions in their archdioceses and dioceses. We thank also the Vicars Apostolic of Kuwait and Arabia also for their care and concern for the Syro-Malabarians though what they have done is nowhere near to what has been required of them by law.

Yet, we feel that much more is to be done, if the implementation of the Church documents is to be satisfactory, especially in India and the countries in the Gulf region, as well as in Europe and Oceania. It is our impression that the local Latin hierarchies in these areas object to their implementation mainly because of a mistaken notion of the communion of Churches, namely, that the communion of Churches rediscovered by Vatican II and reiterated by many post Vatican documents is, a communion among the dioceses and the Roman Pontiff. The ancient principles of the Western Church that “there shall be only one bishop in one city” and that the ‘Rite of the Roman Church is to be preferred to all other Rites” also seem to influence them even now. In this context it seems to be opportune to quote from the intervention of our Major Archbishop Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, made in the Roman Synod held in October 2008. He said:

As the Instrumentum laboris, n. 43 says “Proclaiming the Gospel is the raison d’être of the Church and her mission.” This is not only of the Universal Church, but also of the individual Churches. Every individual Church or which is called the sui iuris Church exists for proclaiming the Gospel, through her unique and rich heritage or patrimony of liturgy, theology, spirituality and discipline. Moreover, evangelization and pastoral care are two integral dimensions of one and the same mission – preaching the Gospel to the whole world. Without pastoral care, those evangelized cannot be formed into a community of believers and cannot be nourished in their faith through the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments…..Justice will also build up communion. In the case of the Syro-Malabar Church this justice has been denied for many centuries. It is high time that the Synod reflected over this unjust situation within the Church and proposed lasting solutions. (cfr. Thomas Christian Heritage: Journal of the Syro-Malabar Liturgical Research Centre, Vol. I, 21 Nov. 2008, No. 1, p. 105).


To the Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop:-

  1. To set up a networking of interested Bishops, clergy and religious serving the Latin ecclesiastical units throughout India and abroad.

  2. To conduct orientation programmes at regular intervals either at the eparchial or major archiepiscopal level for those who are going outside the proper territory of the Syro-Malabar Church, both in India and abroad for pastoral ministry.

  3. To initiate a networking between the Syro-Malabar faithful in diaspora and their mother parishes and communities. Similarly those who move to places outside the proper territory are to be requested to carry official letters from the mother parishes to the local ecclesiastical authorities.

  4. To formulate clear guidelines at the Major Archiepiscopal level for those priests both diocesan and religious as well as for the religious who are going to other Churches for pastoral ministry

  5. To take steps to ensure adequate participation of the laity in all activities of the Church. Jesus Youth may be asked to collaborate in the evangelization programmes.

  6. To honour prominent members of the laity from the Syro-Malabar communities around the world for their distinguished service in the Church.

  7. To set up a network of the organized Syro-Malabar laity bodies from all over the world under the Laity Commission of the Syro-Malabar Synod. Regular contact and interaction has to take place between the Major Archiepiscopal authorities and these bodies as well as among themselves.

  8. To establish a Mission Fund and provision for supplying personnel to the mission eparchies at the Major Archiepiscopal level.

To the Latin hierarchy in India and the Gulf sates:-

  1. To establish parishes and other canonical units in view of erecting eparchies as mentioned above, exclusively for the Syro-Malabar faithful in all places in India wherever there is no Syro-Malabar jurisdiction

  2. To allow the Apostolic Visitor to take steps to educate the Syro-Malabar faithful in those areas where there are already some form of structures for pastoral care about the Rite of our Church in consultation with the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the areas. An electronic Bulletin and if possible a printed Bulletin may be planned for this purpose.

To the Vicars Apostolic of Kuwait and Arabia:-

  1. To erect personal parishes and to appoint priests approved by the Major Archbishop wherever there are sizable number of Syro-Malabarians in their Vicariates. This is in view of establishing eparchies exclusively for the Syro-Malabarians in those areas.

  2. To permit to conduct seminars similar to the one conducted in Delhi under the auspices of the Syro-Malabar Liturgical Centre in order to conscientize the Syro-Malabar faithful in their Vicariates about their right and duty to know, appreciate and live their ecclesial tradition.

To the Apostolic See:-

  1. To issue a document explaining that the communion ecclesiology rediscovered by Vatican II does not mean a communion of dioceses but the communion of individual sui iuris Churches having their own Rites. In the same document emphasis should be given to the fact that it is an injustice to deny pastoral care in one’s own tradition that is a fundamental right of the faithful.

  2. To erect an eparchy in Doha that is to be co-extensive with the territory of the Vicariates Apostolic of Arabia and Kuwait and in the meantime to give directives to the respective Vicars Apostolic to erect personal parishes for them and appoint Syro-Malabar parish priests in consultation with the Major Archbishop.

  3. To erect an eparchy each in Frankfurt (Germany) and Manchester (UK). Adequate structures are to be established also for the Syro-Malabarians in Oceania as well.

  4. To declare the whole of India as the proper territory of the Syro-Malabar Church.

  5. If that is not possible immediately, erect Syro-Malabar eparchies in:

    a) Delhi: Coextensive with the territory of the neighboring Latin dioceses.
    b) Bangalore: Coextensive with the territory of the neighboring Latin dioceses
    c) Chennai: Coextensive with the territory of the neighboring Latin dioceses Latin dioceses

  6. To appoint one or more Exarchs with Episcopal character and jurisdiction to look after the Syro-Malabar faithful who will be outside these prospective eparchies in India

  7. To make the territory of all the above mentioned eparchies as well as those of the existing eparchies outside the territorium proprium as the proper territory of the Syro-Malabar Church.

  8. To make the two eparchies among the above mentioned Metropolitan Sees with others as their suffragans taking into consideration the linguistic and cultural realities as well as distance

To the theologians of the Syro-Malabar Church:-

  1. To take a conscientious effort to get established the communion ecclesiology as rediscovered by the Vatican II and as existed in the first millennium highlighting the Trinitarian model of existence where the perfect oneness or unity is preserved without sacrificing the individuality of each divine person.

  2. To disseminate these ideas with well founded arguments by such means as an electronic bulletin.

  3. The formation houses under the Syro-Malabar Church, especially the major seminaries can take the initiative in this matter and network among themselves for exchange of ideas and collaboration among scholars.

  4. The theologians of the Latin and Syro-Malabar Churches may come together to reflect on the communion theology rediscovered by the Vatican II as well as the issues related to the pastoral care and evangelization that are the two dimensions of the mission of the Church.

The Syro-Malabar Church has kept alive the flame of faith inherited from the apostolic faith experience of St. Thomas in spite of the historical vicissitudes. We recall with gratitude all the missionaries of the past and present. Blessed abundantly with priestly, religious and missionary vocations, Syro-Malabar Church has a God-given mission to widen her missionary endeavors with increased enthusiasm. Today time has come for the Syro-Malabar Church to engage globally in evangelization. It is our hope that our prayer and request will be heard by the authorities concerned at the earliest possible. We fear that any delay in this matter will speed up the process of destruction of the Indian Catholic Church, let alone the Syro-Malabar Church. The process has already begun in various forms and by different forces. At this juncture we remember in prayer our sisters and brothers in Orissa and other states who have suffered and are suffering for the sake of their faith in Jesus Christ. May God protect His Churches in India and all over the world.

Delhi 16th
November 2008

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