Prot. No. 0750/2015
Pastoral Visit to the Eparchy of Rajkot
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
The days from April 7 to 13, 2015, were the days of my pastoral visit in the Eparchy of Rajkot, Gujarat. Rev. Fr. Antony Kollannur, the Chancellor and Rev. Fr. Sebin Kanjirathinkal my secretary accompanied me in this visit. Bp. Jose Chittooparambill CMI, Bp. Emeritus Gregory Karotemprel CMI, representatives of priests and lay faithful welcomed and received us at Rajkot airport. All the days of my visit, from day one till the date of our return, were fruitful both for us and for the faithful of Rajkot. The detailed report about the pastoral visit, prepared by Fr. Chancellor, is uploaded in the website of the Syro Malabar Church. Through this pastoral letter, I would like to share with you the thoughts that emerged in my mind during my pastoral visit in the Diocese of Rajkot.
1. That the Diocese has been blessed with three efficient and visionary bishops needs a special mention. Since all of them followed the same vision and mission with similar charism and style of functioning, the diocese has always been in the path of growth and development. The farsighted, efficient and intelligent Bishop Jonas Thaliyath led the diocese for four and a half years and laid strong foundations for the future development in all areas. Bishop Gregory Karotemprel CMI too, equally efficient in the field of education, financial management, organization and coordination of Syro Malabar migrant faithful, is the architect of the Diocese of Rajkot. Bishop Gregory, after having led the diocese for 27 years still works hard while enjoying his retired life. Bishop Jose Chittooparambil who took up the episcopate in 2010 is a very illustrious person with profound and vast knowledge and practical experience in the field of social work.
2. It can be rightly said that the Diocese of Rajkot is a significant contribution of the CMI Congregation to the Church in India. It has to be mentioned with great satisfaction that the foundation of the diocese was laid by the three CMI bishops and the CMI religious priests, who were very actively involved in the diocese from its very inception. Later on other women religious congregations also joined the diocese in its mission and evangelization. Among them are the society of Dev Priya Sisters (61 members) and the Society St. Alphonsa (18 members) founded by Bishop Gregory Karotemprel CMI. Along with the CMI priests there are 33 diocesan priests enthusiastically involved in the mission of the diocese. Presently many important offices in the diocese are managed by the diocesan priests.
3. After the example of St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the bishops and the missionaries have followed a holistic pastoral approach in this diocese. The many Churches, monasteries, convents, Schools (75), College (1), Management Institute (1), polytechnic Institute (1) hospitals (3) and the chain of social work departments are examples of the diversified and holistic mission approach of the diocese. The Christ hospital, inaugurated just three years ago is in a fast phase of growth and development. I may add that I had the good opportunity to bless the cardiothoracic operation theater, a new addition to the hospital, during my visit.
4. The educational institutions and their policies are oriented towards social development. There is no doubt that the arts, commerce and science college, the polytechnic institute, and the institute of management aim at molding and equipping the young generation to be part of development at a time when the government is all for the development agenda. Quality is the hall mark of the institutions of the diocese of Rajkot.
5. The names of the institutions themselves like, Christ hospital, Christ College, St. Mary’s etc are a means of Christian witnessing. No institutions in this diocese have been dedicated to the memories of those served in the institute. Thus the names of the institutions themselves have become an agent for evangelization. How good it would have been if this were practiced throughout our Church.
6. From the very beginning of the diocese the bishops and the missionaries have given due importance to the question of inculturation of faith. The use of Gujarati, the local language, is very common. The prayers and hymns are recited and sung in Guajarati style and tune. Yet there are opinions that there is still need for more inculturation in the diocese. An important point has to be noted in this regard. In the name of inculturation if we ignore the content and core of Christian faith and worship then the aim of evangelization itself will be jeopardized. With such a kind of inculturation we will have nothing to add to the Christian way of spirituality and practices and will be adding only one more way of worship to the already existing multiform Hindu ways of worships in India. By preserving the integrity of Christian revelation, the Holy Qurbana and the celebration of the salvific events of Christ, especially the suffering, death and resurrection, we must help people to transform the experience for their daily self sacrifice through the eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Only those elements from the Indian culture that can make the aim of the liturgy clearer to the people shall be included in the Christian worship.
7. The cathedral of the Diocese of Rajkot is a telling example of inculturation. From the outside it resembles a Guajarati temple with a cross on its top. The inside of the cathedral is set with the Nave (Haikla) and the Sanctuary (Mad’bha) suitable for Syro Malabar worship. The image of the risen Christ depicted in the Indian style at the back wall of the sanctuary is an excellent form of art. The images of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ are drawn on the stained glass inside on the Cathedral wall. The symbols of world regions are depicted in a beautiful way inside the dome of the Cathedral. Among the Syro Malabar cathedrals in north India, the Sacred Heart Cathedral at Rajkot is an exceptional monument of art. It was designed and constructed during the episcopate of Bp. Gregory Karotemprel CMI.
8. The social work in the diocese is coordinated mainly by the Navjeeavn Trust and Kucth Vikas Trust. One may wonder at the volume of social work undertaken by these trusts in the diocese of Rajkot for the poor, the marginalized, the mentally and physically challenged, the HIV affected people etc. The Kutch Vikas Trust with its allied centres of social work is spread around 250 acres of land. Among them are the training centres for the differently abled, school and boarding, hospital for the visually impaired etc. Along with these, agriculture and farming are also undertaken on a large scale.
Though a peripheral look at the diocese will create an impression that the thrust of the mission work is in the material level, the missionaries are keen on imparting the life and message of Christ to the people. Efficient efforts to form Christian faith communities are fruitfully undertaken. Sincere efforts by our institutions to preserve the religious harmony and to teach the future generation the goodness in other religions, without losing the identity and fullness of Christian faith, will surely help spread the message of Christ in this border state of India.
George Cardinal Alencherry
Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church
Mount St Thomas, Kakkanad
April 26, 2015