THE LETTER TO POPE FRANCIS
BY JOSEPH PULIKUNNEL
I don't know whether this letter will reach you; there is every possibility of censoring this letter at secretarial level.
Yet I consider it my duty to inform you of the unfortunate situation in the Syro Malabar Church of Kerala, India
The tradition is that Syro Malabar church was established by St. Thomas the Apostle, though there is no documentary evidence to that effect. Yet the church has been flourishing here in India for last 2000 years or so.
While schisms plagued the Church in Europe, our Church was protected by Holy Ghost from divisions until Portuguese Missionaries came to India in 16th Century. Rev. Dr. Robert F Taft S. J. said about our Church at the synod of Bishops of the Syro Malabar Church held in the Vatican from 8 to 16 January 1996 as follows
“"You are one of the Catholic Church's great success stories! There is not another Church on the face of the earth, east, west, north or south, Catholic or Orthodox that is such a shining beacon of faith and devotion. The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is a model of religious practice, a dynamo of apostolic zeal, such a prolific cradle of priestly and religious vocatioTHEns that you do not even know what to do with them all! Tears come to my eyes when I think of the marvels of faith I have personally experienced in the crowded parish churches, convents, and seminary chapels of Kerala, especially the seminaries with their hundreds upon hundreds of seminarians".”(ibid page 136-137)
But now the Church is infected by divisions and discord. At the end of his intervention Rev. Taft said like this
"So let us thank God, put divisions aside, and get back to working together to build the Kingdom of God, a kingdom in which there are neither majorities nor minorities but only sisters and brothers in Christ."”(ibid 137)
The reason for the division was the result of a controversy regarding the patrimony of the Syro Malabar Church. Second Vatican council in the decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches said as follows
"This Council solemnly declares that the churches of the East like those of the West have the right and duty to govern themselves according to their own special disciplines. For these are guaranteed by ancient tradition, and seem to be better suited to the customs of their faithful and to the good of their souls. All members of the Eastern Churches should be firmly convinced that they can and ought always preserve their own legitimate liturgical rites and ways of life, and that changes are to be introduced only to forward their own organic development. They themselves are to carry out all these prescriptions with the greatest fidelity. They are to aim always at a more perfect knowledge and practice of their rites, and if they have fallen away due to circumstances of times or persons, they are to strive to return to their ancestral tradition."”(Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches 5)
After Vatican Council, this ancient Church started a search for their original traditions. The Nestorian Persian Church, Portuguese missionaries and Carmelites destroyed many of the ancient customs and traditions of the Church.
Unfortunately a small group of Bishops in the Nineties of the last century declared that our church was an Eastern Church and our tradition is Persian. This problem came to the fore front while drafting the liturgy of the Holy Mass in Malayalam, our mother tongue.
Our Church according to tradition was established in the 1st century. And the Persian Church was established in the 2nd century and became an individual Church in 4th century only. Hence we are not a daughter Church of Nestorian Persian Church. Our Church is not an Eastern Church.
"The designation ‘Eastern (or oriental) Churches’ has become a customary way of identifying that large number of Christian Churches whose distant origins are rooted in eastern regions of the ancient Roman Empire as opposed to the Western or Latin regions that included Italy, Spain, Gaul and Africa. It is a way of denoting Churches associated with the Sees of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and new Rome, Bysantine or Constantinople although in modern times members of these Eastern Churches are found through out the World in the 'diaspora'."’ (The Dictionary of Theology P. 301, 1993).
"The territories in which the congregation has complete and exclusive jurisdiction are: Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia, Southern Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Dodecanese, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan Turkey and the part of Thrace that is subject to Turkey and Afghanistan.
“”Outside of these regions the congregation has jurisdiction over the followers of the oriental Rites in what ever of the world they happen to be…The congregation has no territorial jurisdiction in India." (New Catholic Encyclopedia 1981, Vol. 10, P.763)
The members of Syro Malabar Church are well educated and they know the facts of history. It is on them Persian tradition was imposed. This created division in the Church, which still continues.
Two commissions were appointed by Rome to go into the matter. One is The White Commission of which Fr. Taft S J was a member. Second is Arch Bishop Mar Abraham Kattumana Commission. These two Commissions submitted their reports to Holy SEE. The reports have not been published. The members of the Syro Malabar Church were very anxious to have these reports published. I humbly request you to take such steps as are necessary to publish these reports which is according to us is our right.
Hence we humbly request Vatican to publish this reports which may throw light into the tradition and patrimony of our Church.
We Indian Christians fought for freedom for India from political hegemony of Britain. This Persian tradition is foreign and we are fighting for our right to have patrimony and tradition of our Church restored.
Yours obediently in Christ
25-05-2013 Joseph Pulikunnel
|Deccan Chronicle Report|