Saturday, July 7, 2012


12/06/2007 12:52:07  Pradeep Krishnan 
                                                         [Joseph Pulikunnel, 
                                                         Director, Indian Institute for Christian Studies]
           The need for Indianisation of the church was mooted by RSS and late Cardinal Joseph Parekattil Archbishop of Ernakulam diocese supported the move. He wrote on 15 the August 1986 that it is imperative to launch a movement of indigenisation of the Churches. “When a non-Christian embraces Christianity, following the dictates of his conscience, he should not be penalised for that, by uprooting him from his social and cultural traditions. What affinity, relationship or indebtedness has he to the foreign culture? From an apostolic point of view, the thought patterns, language terminology, symbols, gestures, postures etc. of our liturgy should be intelligible to the non-Christian population as well. This process of Indianisation is a basic right of ours and not a concession made by anybody, and no one should misinterpret it as bait to attract more flies.” (Syro-Malabar Liturgy as I see it, Appendix, page 118).
            Indian Institute of Christian Studies (I I C S) an organ of catholic Reformation Literature Society was established in 1994 by Sri. Joseph Pulikunnel to reform the church on Biblical concepts.
            About the need for such an Institute, He says “The church is at present western in organisation and administration and also, completely clergy centered. Indian churches have a great tradition of spirituality and ecclesial organisation. The Institute is exposing through its study and publications, the umbilical and unchristian character of the Indian church. It is to say the least sometimes ante Christ. The study of Bible and theology was once the exclusive portfolio of the clerics. ‘Brahmanical’ hierarchy in Hindu society has disintegrated. But the same Brahmanism has been in ascendancy in the Christian society.” When the I I C S was started the clergy tried in the beginning is isolate Sri. Joseph Pulikunnel from society. But thinking Laymen gave active co-operation. The intellectuals in the Episcopal churches have come out in open to protest against the monarchial pristocracy that exist in the church.
            The main purpose of the institute is to give to the Christians the high ideals of Christ. The Christians are intellectually awake on this issue. But the other communities in India have not opened their eyes on the going on in the church Sri. Pulikunnel suggests to the leaders of the Hindu community to start a dialogue on National rather than with the Bishops and priests of the church.
The I I C S is situated in a sprawling 10 acres of Land at Hosanna Mount,Bharananganam, 80 Kms east of Kochi. Apart from I I C S, which has a library of nearly 10,000 books, a herbal clinic and herbal garden brings fresh air and blessings of nature to the picturesque surroundings. After graduating from Presidency College, Madras Joseph Pilikkunnel taught at the St. Joseph’s College, Devagiri, Calicut during 1958 to 1967. A monthly Journal titled ‘Hosanna’ was started by him in 1975 to educate Christens, about the real character and role of Indian church. He has authored ‘Identify of Nazarani Church of Kerala a book in English and several other books in Malayalam. He spoke at length to Haindavakeralam special correspondent Pradeep Krishnan on different aspects of Christianity in India: Excerpts.
1.         When RSS chief Sudarshaji made a call for the need for Indianisation of the Church, many Church leaders condemned him. What are your views in the matter?
The first question to be answered is “ who are the so-called Church leaders? ” The media as well as the political parties treat the ecclesiastical authorities like Bishops as leaders of the Church. The bishops and the priests also would like to parade themselves in public as church leaders. But Bishops and priests are not leaders of the Christian community. They are only the spiritual mentors and not community leaders. A leader is one who is elected by a community. The bishops and priests are not elected by the faithful nor are they answerable to them. The Pope of Rome who is the spiritual head of the Catholic appoints the bishops of the Catholic Church.
The general public in India as well as the political parties do not know how the Catholic Church functions. Pope of Rome, as successor of Peter, the Apostle, is only the spiritual head of the Catholic faithful. A Catholic is bound to obey the Ex-Catholic-pronouncements of Pope on faith and morals. Christ had no material possessions and was never a temporal leader. Lord Jesus categorically stated “My Kingdom is not of this world.”
            Unfortunately from 4th century onwards, the Church became a part of Roman Empire and Popes began to overstep their spiritual authority and became temporal rulers in Europe. Rev. Dr. Koodapuzha, former Professor of St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary (Catholic) writes as follows: “The leadership of the Church is supposed to play its role as
servants of the People of God. In his official teaching addressed to the whole Christian community the Pope starts with the formula “servant of the servants of God”. At the same time it is a fact of history that due to various social, religious and political factors Papacy was forced to develop a secular kingdom in the West, which is known in history as Papal States. Pope was its king. The papal monarchy existed from 754 to 1870. It came to and end at the time of the unification of Italy under the leadership of Victor Emmanuel, Cavour and Garibaldi. . During these centuries the papacy was playing political as well as religious roles in Europe” (Christian Orient, Dec. 2000)
Coming to India, the Pope has divided India into 140 diocese. All revenue districts in India are brought under the jurisdiction of different catholic diocese. For example, the diocese of Satna in Madhya Pradesh has only 2640 Catholics, and the revenue area on which the bishop exercises his jurisdiction are districts of Satna, Chabalarpur, Panna, Rewa, Sidhi and Tikamgargh. For these 2640 members of the faithful, there are 23 parishes and 3 stations, 27 convents, 9 ecclesiastical institutions, 4 Higher Secondary schools, 9 high schools, 4 middle schools and number of other institutions including press and publications. All these are temporal wealth. The faithful have no say in the affairs of the diocese. To run these institutions the diocesan bishop is getting huge amount of money from foreign countries. The Bishop according to the canon law of the Church is not accountable to anybody including the government. So, the bishops appointed in India by Pope are like erstwhile native Maharajas of India ruling over the revenue districts in India. The Maharajas in pre-independent days had only to answer to the paramountcy of the Britishraj, likewise bishops are accountable only to the Pope of Rome who is the head of the state of Vatican.
 Thus, religious affiliation to the Pope is being used to perpetrate his domination over the temporalities of India.
The Bishops in India being the vice-roys of Pope in India naturally opposes the concepts of a National church. You remember once the native Maharajas opposed the Indian Independence. The Bishops likewise are naturally against the concept of a national Church but the Catholics in general are in favor of a National Church.
2.         You supported the Indianisation of Churches in an article in your Magazine. How do you view Indianisation of the Churches?
Christianity in India is as ancient as Christianity itself. Centuries before Christianity reached Europe, Christianity flourished in India. The Indian Christians have great Christian spiritual experience within the cultural milieu of India. Ancient Christians in India were known as Nazranis. The Nazranis of India had no connection with the Western Christianity. It was Portuguese who launched religious colonialism in India. Christians in India ardently fought against the religious colonisation of the Portuguese. In 1653 the representatives of the Christians assembled in Mattanchery near Kochi and took the oath that they would never be under the Portuguese. This incident is known in history as “slant cross oath” of Christians. Perhaps, this was the first non-violent freedom struggle against the Western colonialists. The reason for the revolution of the Christians against Portuguese was the Portuguese began to tamper with the ancient system of administration of the native church, which is known as the ‘Thomas Law’. As a result of this oath of the Christians, Portuguese had to leave Kerala.
According to Thomas Law, each church in India was independent and the temporal matters were completely under the care of the parish assembly. The priests were only spiritual mentors and they had no authority over the temporalities of the church. The Portuguese tried introducing the Western monarchical Episcopal system in India, which was opposed by Kerala Christians. Before the advent of the Portuguese the             bishops had no temporal authority over the churches.
The power and authority of the Catholic bishops at present transcends the spiritual and have become temporal. The very idea of a National Church is repugnant to the bishops because they know that it will undermine their dictatorial powers, which they received from Pope.
The idea of a National Church is not an agenda of RSS. It has been there in the minds of the Christian leaders for a long time, especially in the minds of ancient Christians in Kerala. No Catholic questions the spiritual authority of the Pope, the successor of Peter. We hold that he cannot have legally any temporal authority over the properties of the Indian Church. Elected representative of the faithful should manage the temporal wealth of the Church in India.
Each diocese owns churches, institutions, commercial complexes etc. Yearly income of the Churches and diocese comes to millions of rupees, and the Bishops as per the Canon Law framed in Rome administer this material wealth. As religious institutions the income of the diocese are exempted from income tax. The educational institutions under diocese are protected under the Article 30 (minority rights) of the Constitution. As per the provisions of the canon Law, the bishop governs the diocese entrusted to him with “legislative, executive and judicial powers” and he personally exercises these powers or through agents appointed by him. The faithful in the dioceses have no say what so ever in the matter of administration of the temporal wealth of the Church. Each bishop is a native “Maharaja” appointed by the Pope and the faithful are treated as his subjects.
According to the ancient customs of the Christians in India, the Bishops had no such temporal powers. The Parish Assembly exercised the temporal powers, in a democratic manner.The indianization of the Church means, Churches and its Institutions in India should be administered as per the ancient traditions of the Indian Christians and should be governed under the Indian law.
Religious charitable institutions in India are usually governed under two acts, The Trust act or Religious societies Act. The Churches and its wealth as well as institutions should be brought under the provisions of these Acts with members of the Church as members of the societies. 99.99% of the members of the Church are the so-called laymen. They are always kept outside the corridors of power. They have at present no legal right with in the church. The members of the Church through elected representatives should administer the temporal matters of the Church.The Canon Law of Rome is more priest centered than Manusmruthi of India. The laymen are treated as “ chandalas”, untouchables even today, by keeping the laymen out of the corridors of power.
3.         Many Christian groups allege that there is Christian persecution in India, Particularly North India. In many incidents like Jhabua it was later proved that they were criminal incidents and not part of any hidden agenda! But still the church continues their diatribe against Hindu organizations?
Firstly, the Church authorities wants to blackmail the government so that, the government may be deterred from bringing in any legislative reform in the administration of the Churches. Secondly by raising such questions in the media, the Bishops and priest could parade themselves as the leaders of the community.
Everybody in India knows that terrorism, and criminality is increasing. Everyday the story ghastly murders in different parts of India appear in the papers. Many of the incidents of violence on individual Christians in the North have nothing to do with religion. Yet the Bishops do like to parade it as ‘persecution’ of Christian. Another reason for such global propaganda is to collect money in the guise of protecting the Christians. For Instance, the Bishop of Palai sent e-mail messages to Christians outside India for contributions to rehabilitate Tsunami victims of Kanjirappally, a hilly area where Tsunami can occur only in dreams! I am told that the Church authorities make such appeal for money to western countries regularly.
4.         Even while raising a hue and cry on some unfortunate isolated incidents occurred in North India, the clergy is totally silent on the killings and persecution of nuns and others taking place in different monasteries in Kerala?
According to statistics, 12 sisters have died in doubtful circumstances in Kerala. The Bishops have never come out in protest. In a recent case a nun was found dead in the convent bathroom. The postmortem report stated that there was poison in the stomach, but no trace of poison was found in the mouth. This was a clear question of murder by feeding the poison through food. A citizens’ committee was formed to request the Kerala government for an enquiry by competent police wing. They approached the bishop for support. But he blatantly refused to sign the petition. You now know what happened in Potta where nearly 1000 people died under mysterious circumstances. The clergy had no tears for these hapless victims of priesthood.
5.         The priesthood, especially in Christianity has now changed into politicians, wielding absolute power and control the entire society. Can we hope for liberation from the clergy?
The priests and the Bishops command huge wealth of the Christian community. They spend it as their Privy Purse, and they are not accountable to anybody. To preserve and protect this huge wealth, they enter into politics  to either blackmail or favor some politicians who dance to their tunes.
6.         Do you think the church in India is facing a crisis of Identity? Is the church able to absorb the very ancient and yet perpetually modern spiritual heritage of India in its real sense?
Of course, Christianity has become churchianity and spiritual ideas are only in the periphery. The Christian Bishops and priests are engaged in all out attempt to make money. They have scant respect for the glorious spiritual heritage of India.
7.         The Church has now become a huge commercial enterprise, by running Industry, Hospitals, shopping complexes, schools etc. How much spiritually can we aspect from these organizations?
It was Christ who called the priests of his day as ‘hypocrites’, ‘blind guides’ ‘fools’, etc. I don’t know what words, Christ will coin to call the Church authorities if he visits the world again.
8.         The Church, particularly the Catholic Church is facing a crisis in Europe and USA and they target the third word countries for a rich harvest. Will this exclusive thrust given to proselytisation make divisions and conflicts in a tradition bound indigenous social setup?
Europe is going through a post Christian cultural restructuring. The church centered Christianity is slowly disappearing. The Catholic Church was once a great power structure in Europe. It has crumbled in Europe. Today Pope has very little influence in European politics. Hence there is a definite move to enlarge his earthly kingdom in the third world.
They are not interested in spreading gospel, but establishing religious colonialism.
9.         What do you have to say about minority rights and its use and misuse?
So far as the Catholic Church is concerned minority right is more misused against the members of the Church. The Minority rights are given to the whole community. But today the Bishops, priests, and nuns enjoy this right. 99.99% of the community has no say in the administration of the Catholic schools. The blanket enjoyment of he minority right without reference, to the community by the Priests and nuns, has completely under mined the pious intentions of the fathers of the constitution.
New law has to be framed to define the term minority. This right has to be exercised by the elected representatives of the community. Even in colleges in Kerala of 100 years history, the principal’s chair is reserved to the Priests and nuns. The claims of the lay teachers are way laid
Tomorrow, if a Muslim theocratic State, for example Pakistan, establishes a sect among the Muslim community and canvasses supporters from India, and builds educational institutions with foreign funds and appoints managers to administer these educational institutions, what will it lead to? If Bin Laden, the Al-Queida leader declares his followers in India as a religious sect and establishes a chain of educational institutions whose managers are appointed by him, what will be its legal position? If an American Christian establishes a sect of his followers in India and starts a chain of educational institutions whose managers are appointed by the ‘Pontiff’ in America, will they also get minority right?  The minority right is given to the citizens of India and not to any extra-territorial authority running a chain of educational institutions. The minority right is granted to the religious minority for the conservation of their culture and not for the destruction of the culture of the majority community..
10.       During the last 100 years, Christianity has been promoted in India by the successive colonial powers. Many Christian countries in the west provided unceasing flow of finance and personnel. The cost of the enterprise over the years is mind-boggling. Yet Christianity has failed to reap a rich harvest among the Hindu ‘heathens’ - Why?
Different churches from the west want to convert the illiterate Hindus to their churches. They are not interested in spreading Gospel or Gospel values. They preach their church not Jesus; the so called Church ministry, and Church planting has become a big money spinner in Europe, a big business. There is no Christ in it.
11.     Please comment of Semitic religions and Indian religions?
There are a lot of differences. In all ancient societies, religion was an important factor in the social life of people. The understanding of the Supreme Being by a people tended to be production of the social system wherein they lived. Today, there are two main families of religions in the world. They are Semitic religions—which comprise Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions—and the Indian religions. It is commonly believed that in Semitic religions, the male dominance is a divine dictate and women are degraded in society on religious reasons.
The unequal treatment now measured out to women in Christian and Muslim society is a product of imperial Christianity and imperial Islam. Christianity became a part of the Roman Empire by the 4th century. The male-dominated Roman society distorted the Christian social thought. Imperial Roman laws became the law of Christianity as common law. Likewise, Islam became an imperial power under the Arab Empire. The male-dominated imperial power structure degraded women in spite of the
Koran-ic rules. Even today, in many Islamic countries, personal laws paraded as Muslim shariat [Islamic law] are a product of a male-dominated imperial system.
The concept of Goddess in the celestial demography is unique in all Eastern religions. Goddess in Eastern religions is a symbol of fertility, protection and love. No civilization in the world developed Goddess worship so elaborately as in India.
In Indian tradition, the God manifests as arthanaarisvara, half-man and half-woman. This points to the equality of man and woman in heavenly demography as visualized by human intelligence of the Indian Rishis. The concept of the supreme is a production of man’s social living and social need. In most of the ancient Eastern religions, goddesses are equal to the gods, sometimes goddess become more important than man. Human civilization has past the tribal, agricultural and industrial periods and enter cybernetic era of human history. In the democratic society, muscle power has been pushed to the background, and brainpower becomes the tool. Naturally, the woman has a very important and equal role to play in modern society. Fatherhood and motherhood concepts have to be integrated in the religious and social thought process, and the world should move along the footprints of arthanaarisvara
Thank you.
Joseph Pulikunnel Born on 11.14.1932,
B.A. Honours in Economics from Presidency College Madras (1954),
Lecturer in Economics in St. Joseph’s College, Devagiri, Calicut (1958-67), Member Kerala University Senate (1969-76),
Founder Editor ‘Hosanna’, monthly (1975)
Editor ‘Lochanam’, a literary magazine (1979),
Organising editor - Malayalam Bible Translation,
Founder of Hosanna Mount Institutions,
Founder Director - Indian Institute of Christian Studies,
Founder Director - Word & Deed Palliative Cancer Care Centre (1982)
Founder Director - Juvenile Diabetic Centre (1982)
Visited Europe, a number of times on various assignments.
Identify of Nazrani Church of Kerala                      -           English
Has publisheda number of Books in Malayalam
Written a number of short stories and articles in different periodicals.
Married to Kochurani (1958) and has 5 children.
Address:         Joseph Pulikunnel, Hon. Director, Hosanna Mount, Edamattom - 686 588
Phone & Fax : 91 - 482 – 236269/E-mail :


  1. Now there are 3 rites of Catholic Church in Kerala. The Rights or the sui iuris are autonomous churches based on the culture of different places. Without compromising the basics of the universal church each sui iuris should identify itself with the culture of its soil, an inculturation should take place. But in Kerala the 3 sui iuris are having their liturgy and heirarchy borrowed from foreign countries. The concept of episcopate and theology from the Greek culture, liturgy from Iraq (Chaldean), Syria (Antiocean) and Rome (Latin).There is nothing in common with the people belonging to these 3 rites with that of Iraq, Syria or Rome except the liturgy, heirarchy and theology imposed by the Roman Curia for perpetuating their vested interests. The Church in Kerala is not Chaldean, Antiocean or Roman. It is purely Indian. We are Indian Christians. My suggestion is that we should together work for a common sui iuris for all Catholics in Kerala. It can be named Indo-Malayalam, instead of Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara or Latin (Roman).

  2. Your writing regarding church is really true. I am now obsessed with managing for church financing in USA refinancing for our church.A right lender is our first need now.