Prot. No. 692/2014
Issued by the Major Archbishop George Cardinal Alencherry
to all the faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church
after the XXII Synod (2014), Session 1, of the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church
held from 7 to 11 January 2014 in the Major Archiepiscopal Curia
at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, Kochi
Reverend Fathers, men and women of consecrated life and my dear brothers and sisters,
I am very happy to communicate to you that the First Session of the XXII Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church was held from 7 to 11 January 2014 at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad. Forty Six Bishops participated in the Synod. As usual, the Bishops entered the proper business of the Synod after having prepared themselves through recollection, prayer and the celebration of the Holy Qurbana in the morning of the first day.
Including the new Bishops who got ordained after the previous session of the Synod, Mar Joseph Kollamparampil CMI, Mar Jose Puthenveettil and the retired Bishops, now there are 51 Bishops in the Syro-Malabar Church. Bishop Emeritus of Jagdalpur Mar Simon Stock Palathra CMI and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Ernakulam-Angamaly Mar Thomas Chakiath are celebrating the Golden Jubilee Year of their priestly ordination. We shall remember gratefully the great service they have rendered to the Church and pray for them. The Eparchy of Kalyan, the first eparchy erected for the migrants outside Kerala, befittingly celebrated its Silver Jubilee in November last year. I made also pastoral visits to some of our eparchies. It is worthy of praise that Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara was successful in procuring new facilities for the Eparchial Curia and Bishops House in Faridabad.
I participated in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. On that occasion I did bring to the immediate attention of the Holy Father the urgent need of creating suitable canonical structures to provide effective pastoral care to our migrant faithful, especially those in the Gulf States. We can expect that the Holy Father will consider this matter seriously.
Effective dialogues were initiated with the political and civil authorities regarding the provisions to be made in the Gadgil-Kasthurirangan Report for the protection of the environment in the Western Ghats as well as for the farmers settled there. The protest actions and manifestations of strong support, both individually and collectively by our Bishops for the people were encouraging and opportune.
The tragic deaths in recent times of three priests of the Eparchy of Thuckalay and the death of a young priest of the Eparchy of Sagar in a road accident were incidents that plunged these Eparchies and all of us in deep sorrow. We shall remember these Eparchies and priests in our prayers. Recently you must have heard of the death of Fr. Zuchol from Italy who was a great missionary and who had done great service for a long time in the Chirackal mission in the Diocese of Calicut until the last years of his life. We shall also remember him in our prayers.
Retreat Centres: The Synod considered many current pastoral issues. The Synod would like to bring to your attention some general information regarding the same. The Synod evaluated the service rendered by the different retreat centres of the Syro-Malabar Church. The renewal of life brought about by these retreat centres is very praiseworthy. However, they are to be regulated according to the teachings of the Church. Superstitious beliefs should not be promoted. Sound pollution, the inordinate importance given to healing ministry, etc. are to be avoided. The parish-centred faith life and pastoral ministry should not suffer; rather, the retreat centres should take greater care to emphasize their importance to the people. Retreat centres have to preserve their ecclesial and liturgical identity. Retreat centres run by Religious congregations also should grow in their ecclesial nature. The priests in the Retreat centres should offer Holy Qurbana in their own proper liturgical rite. To celebrate Holy Qurbana in another liturgical rite, they need to get permissions as per the law. To organize retreat preaching in migrant centres, permission should be obtained from the lawful authorities there. The Synod will give clear directives regarding these matters.
Let me also inform you that the Synod has formed a Theological Forum which would pay attention to give authentic teachings and directives of the Church in matters of faith and morals as per the needs of the time.
Particular Laws: I am very glad to inform you that all the various laws that have been discussed and passed from time to time by the Synod right from its inception are now formally approved and published as the Particular Laws of the Syro-Malabar Church. Behind this project there is the hard work of many. I remember all of them gratefully on this occasion.
St. Ephrem’s Theological College, Satna: St. Ephrem’s Theological College established in the Satna Mission Eparchy in North India has been recognized as a Mission Seminary working under the Synod. Its official declaration was made on 29 March 2014. On this occasion I heartily congratulate Mar Abraham Mattam VC who pioneered the founding and the initial stage of development of the Seminary and Mar Mathew Vaniakizhakel VC, the present Bishop of Satna who worked hard to develop it further and place on record my gratitude to them.
Seminary Formation and the On-going Formation of Priests: The Synod discussed in detail the formation of seminarians, especially their spiritual formation. Considering the great importance of this topic, the Synod will take appropriate measures after a wider discussion in the different forums of the Church. The cooperation of the whole Church is needed for organizing finances that are needed for the formation programmes. The tradition of our church also is not different. Taking into consideration the necessity and importance of the on-going formation of priests, the Synod thinks that it should be made more practical and efficient. I consider that the meetings of the new priests and jubilarians held at the Major Archiepiscopal Curia at Mount St. Thomas have certainly helped to strengthen the communion of priests in the Church. The Synod also discussed the Major Archiepiscopal Assembly to be held in 2015. There need to be more clarity regarding the topic of the Assembly, the preparations, the conduct, the participation, etc. As it is going to complete 25 years after the Syro-Malabar Church was raised to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church, this Assembly will be a good occasion to prepare well for celebrating it in a befitting manner. Let the Assembly help our Church which is growing in her autonomous status, to reflect deeply about her identity and mission and to find appropriate solutions for the many contemporary problems she face.
Youth Apostolate: There were also discussions about the effective ways in which the mission of the Youth Apostolate in the Syro-Malabar Church should be carried out. There is the need for a mechanism that would encourage and coordinate the various youth activities at different levels. The Synod also discussed the activities of Jesus Youth Movement. More could be accomplished under a leadership of the Jesus Youth that works in unison with the Church. More detailed directives will be given later. I bring to your attention the Asian Youth Meet to be held from 10-17 August 2014 in South Korea.
Family Units: Considering the great significance and usefulness of the family units in the ministry of pastoral care, some directives will be given later prepared under the leadership of the respective Commission to encourage their activities more vigorously.
Commission for Family and Laity: Hereafter there will be one commission for family apostolate and laity which will be called the Commission for Family and Laity.
The Eparchy of Faridabad and Evangelization Mission: The possibilities of evangelization in the vast territory of the Eparchy of Faridabad are immense. In this regard the main problem the Eparchy faces is the shortage of missionaries. Religious and Eparchial priests and other consecrated persons have to come forward with great enthusiasm for this purpose.
When the migrant faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church wish to have the Sacraments of Initiation, Matrimony, etc., administered in their native eparchies, the authorities concerned are requested to see that proper certificates or letters are produced from the Syro-Malabar parish priests or chaplains from their places of residence, if they are duly appointed.
Eparchy of Melbourne and Apostolic Visitor for India: Ensuring proper pastoral care to the Syro-Malabar migrants in India and various countries abroad is a subject that the Synod is considering very seriously. The Synod is trying to do whatever is possible in spite of the many restrictions that exist. The establishment of a Syro-Malabar eparchy in Australia is a great achievement of these efforts. Bishop Bosco Puthur has been appointed the first Bishop of the new Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle, Melbourne. He is also the Apostolic Visitator for New Zealand. We shall continue to pray for the new eparchy, having around half a lakh Syro-Malabar faithful and for its Bishop. We are grateful to the Holy See that sanctioned this eparchy and to the Australian Bishops’ Conference. The Holy See has appointed an Apostolic Visitator also for India. There is no doubt that this will help to expedite our efforts to make available the necessary pastoral care to the migrants in India. We shall pray for the success of the ministry of Mar Raphael Thattil, the Apostolic Visitator. Now the responsibility of the pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar faithful residing outside the Syro-Malabar eparchies in India falls on the Apostolic Visitator.
The Ecclesial Ministry of the Consecrated Persons: The ministry of the consecrated persons in the Church is very precious. They work in the pastoral ministry and in the evangelization mission of the Church. The Church gratefully remembers their great service. Even when they work outside the territorium proprium of the Syro-Malabar Church, they have to take great care to safeguard the identity of the Mother Church and foster fidelity to the patrimony of the Church. The Religious carry out their mission of evangelization in the Latin Church under the directives of the Roman Curia. Likewise the consecrated persons of the Syro-Malabar Church have to carry out their mission of evangelization and ministry of pastoral care according to the directives of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy.
Sacrament of Reconciliation and Solemn Reception of Holy Communion: In the context of the sacraments of initiation being administered together, for those children who have received holy communion together with baptism, a common celebration of the solemn reception of the Holy Communion is to be conducted along with the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation after proper preparation, when they reach the age of reason. This will be helpful for the faith formation of children. A book will be published under the auspices of the Commission for Catechesis to assist in the preparation of children for the reception of the sacrament reconciliation and the solemn reception of Holy Communion. When there is the solemn reception of the Holy Communion, extravagance is to be avoided and importance is to be given to the spiritual aspect of the celebration.
Some Liturgical Matters: Some points regarding the liturgy are also brought to your notice now. There is no need of qualifying the celebrant of liturgical celebrations as ‘Chief’ celebrant. It is enough to call him simply the ‘Celebrant,’ as there is only one celebrant. The others are con-celebrants. In the liturgical celebration of ordinations, of the two concelebrants with the Bishop, one is Archdeacon and the other, con-celebrating priest. It is also brought to your attention that the newly ordained priest does not say any of the concluding prayers at the end of the ordination ceremony.
The publication of the Lectionaries containing the readings for the Holy Qurbana might have come to the knowledge of everybody. I exhort everyone to begin using them at least by the Holy Week celebrations this year. I am also glad to inform you that we have received the approval of the Apostolic See for the liturgical texts for the consecration of a church, the consecration of Deppa and the Rededication of a church. They will be published soon.
It has already been informed that an Anthem contest is organized with the aim of creating an anthem for the Syro-Malabar Church. It can be in Malayalam or in any other language. I invite the cooperation of those who have aptitude for this kind of creations.
Many other effective and lively exchanges of ideas and discussions also took place in the Synod. On many issues decisions were taken. On 11January at 6.00 p.m. the Session of the Synod was concluded. I request your prayers so that the work of the Synod may continue to be beneficial to the good of our Church and for her growth.
George Cardinal Alencherry
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church
Given from the Major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mount St Thomas, Kakkanad on 12 April 2014.
N.B: This circular is to be brought to the attention of the priests, religious and laity of the respective eparchies/archeparchies through suitable means.