Diocesan News

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Pastoral Letter of the Major Archbishop on the Feast of Dukrana - Sabhadinam

Prot. No. Prot. No. 417/2009

PASTORAL LETTER

VARKEY CARDINAL VITHAYATHIL, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, to the Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Men and Women Religious and Lay Faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church, blessings and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dearly beloved in the Lord,

The feast of Dukrana is a very important day for the Syro-Malabar Catholics worldwide. It is the day on which St. Thomas the apostle of India and our father in faith gave witness with his own life to his proclamation of faith My Lord and My God For everyone who celebrates this feast it should be the beginning of a rebirth in faith. Let me extend my feast day greetings to all the members of the Syro-Malabar Church living in Kerala and outside Kerala, in India and abroad, bearing witness to the Christian faith they have received from St. Thomas. On this occasion I would like to make a special mention of those migrant Syro-Malabar faithful living outside Kerala in India and abroad, who having left their native land and home, while struggling hard for the well-being of their families, strive sincerely to preserve the deposit of faith they have inherited in the limited conditions of the diaspora . The first Syro-Malabar church in the Gulf Region which I blessed on 22 May this year in Doha, Qatar is indeed the best example of their self-sacrifices and painstaking efforts to preserve their own unique faith-life. The consecration of this church is indeed a very commendable achievement. I congratulate wholeheartedly all those who worked hard behind this success. I wish that this be an example and inspiration also for the Syro-Malabar communities in other places.

On this occasion I wish to draw your attention to how vigilant we should be to preserve the purity of our faith. In a situation where there are no clear organizational structures of church administration and especially where there are no possibilities for pastoral care in our own ecclesial traditions or facilities for imparting the faith formation, the possibility of going astray from our original faith inherited from our forefathers is very great. Today there are many sects spreading teachings that are fundamentally opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is a sad fact that lured by these sects many have ended up in interpreting the Bible falsely, in neglecting the sacramental life and even in breaking off from the catholic communion. Let me bring to your notice the relevant portions from the pastoral letter issued by the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council in March this year regarding the newly formed sects.

;In recent times some lay gospel preachers have started their own gospel retreat teams and prayer groups and gradually having separated themselves from the authentic catholic teachings and controls have become separate sects on their own. Many of their bible interpretations are contrary to the sacred traditions and teachings and even to common senseThe pastoral letter refers to some gospel movements and prayer centres which have been recently started in Kerala and which have no ecclesiastical recognition and permission and which have been falsely presenting themselves as having ecclesial recognition. These movements include the EMPEROR EMMANUEL TRUST having its centre at Muriad in the diocese of Irinjalakuda, "Amma" at Mala, the Upper Room of Kanjirappally, Corner Stone of Ernakulam, Spirit in Jesus, Atmabhishekam, and ecclesial communities like the Heavenly Feast. The pastoral letter warns the faithful not to participate in prayer meetings and retreats organized by such sects and groups not recognized by the Catholic Church. The Syro-Malabar Bishops’ Synod held in August 2008 also had recommended taking action against movements like the Spirit in Jesus, Emperor Emmanuel, Upper Room, etc. Since these sects mentioned above have been prohibited in one or more dioceses and the evil effects of their activities are not confined to the dioceses where they originated, the Permanent Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church recommended extending their prohibition to the whole of the Syro-Malabar Church. Accordingly, I hereby, declare that these movements mentioned above are prohibited in the whole Syro-Malabar Church. Let me exhort all of you not to take part in the programmes organized by these sects or to co-operate with their activities in any way. Those who invite retreat preachers or groups for retreats and prayer meetings should ensure that they have the approval of the competent authorities of the Catholic Church.

The Church is the communion of the faithful. Every person in the Church has a unique role to play in the mission of the Church. Bishops, priests, religious and lay people all sincerely strive to preserve the deposit of faith and to bear witness to it by fulfilling their unique roles. Perhaps it is to be admitted that the role of the laity in this mission had not received adequate attention until recently. It was to rectify this that a commission for laity was established during the last synod. The Laity Commission has already made great progress in ensuring the participation of the laity in the activities of the Church through its various programmes. As part of these activities, an International Laity Assembly is planned for 13 to 15th August 2009. I request your whole-hearted co-operation for its success. Besides, an interaction of the Synodal Fathers with a cross section of the faithful i.e., representatives from the priests, religious and lay people, in view of the forthcoming synod also has been proposed by the Permanent Synod. It is hoped that through all these measures, we can ensure the active participation of all sections in fulfilling the mission of the Church In the area of pastoral care, especially with regard to the pastoral care to our Syro-Malabar faithful in diaspora, we are earnestly making every effort to guarantee adequate pastoral care in our own ecclesial traditions. Although we have not succeeded in this as we have expected, we should continue our efforts without losing hope. At the same time we should remember that there is a great need of priests to fulfil this mission. Vocations to priesthood should grow from our own families. The Holy Father has declared a year for priests from 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010. I wish that the celebration of this year provide a very powerful impetus for all of us to promote genuine vocations to priesthood and to religious state from our own families.

Not only with human resources, but also with financial assistance should we co-operate in the great mission of the Church. On the occasion of the Sabhadinam, I want to draw your attention to the decision of the Synod of Bishops held last year to take, as in the previous year, this year also, and in the coming years also, a collection of one Rupee per person from all the Syro-Malabar faithful. I request the whole-hearted co-operation of all in this regard.

we celebrate the feast of Dukrana, let us once again recall to our mind that every Syro-Malabar Catholic in India and abroad has the great responsibility of preserving, fostering and witnessing to the deposit of faith he/she has inherited from St. Thomas. The great example of this is the beloved daughter of the Syro-Malabar Church, St. Alphonsa, the first canonized woman saint of India. We have to become aware of the forces and movements that strive to lead us astray from this faith and to draw us away from our Catholic communion. We have to be ever vigilant against them. We shall take every effort to strengthen this communion, realising that in whatever level of the Church structure we are, our role in the mission of the Church is unique and irreplaceable. Once again wishing all of you sincere greetings of the feast of Dukrana, I bless you, in the name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit + Amen

Given at Kakkanad from the Major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mount St Thomas on 25 May 2009.

Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil

Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church

This pastoral letter is to be read out during the Holy Mass on June 29 in all churches and chapels of the Syro-Malabar Church where there is Sunday Mass for the public.

No. 874/2009

VARKEY CARDINAL VITHAYATHIL, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, to the

Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Men and Women Religious and Lay Faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church,

blessings and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dearly beloved in the Lord,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI declared the year 2009-2010 as the year for priests. On this

occasion when the Church celebrates the year for priests, I am happy to share with you some thoughts

regarding priests and the good the entire human race receives through the ministry of priests. Priests and

their ministry have a distinct role to play in the plan of salvation that Jesus Christ accomplished on earth.

Jesus chose and appointed the twelve apostles to be with him to continue his salvific mission and to be sent

out to proclaim the message of salvation. Priests are persons called and designated by God to render

service to the society as the co-workers of Bishops, the successors of the apostles, in the onward march of

the Church built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as its

cornerstone (Eph. 2:20).

Even though the whole people of God through baptism and confirmation participate in the

priesthood of Christ, priests are appointed as priests, teachers and shepherds to protect and nourish the

Church, the Body of Christ, through their ministry. Priests who are appointed to sanctify, teach and

shepherd the people of God participate in these triple office of Christ. Priests, who through the sacred

ordination receive the ministerial priesthood of Christ, sanctify themselves by fulfilling these offices

faithfully. It is by the ministry of priests that the people of God in every stage of their life, from birth to

death, grow up and are nourished and strengthened in their faith life. We have a tradition that gives great

importance to the ministry of priests both in the life of every individual and in the society. We give a

similar position of a father in a family to our priests who are the heads of the larger family that is the parish

community. In the same way we recognize the preeminent position of the Bishops at the apex level of the

Diocesan structures.

One of the purposes of the declaration of the year for priests is the renewal and sanctification of

the life of priests the world over. To achieve this, both the priests and the entire people of God must attain

the wisdom regarding priesthood as an ineffable gift of God. Priesthood is a great gift that God gives to the

human race. We consider the ordained Bishops and priests as persons standing in the place of God and

believe that we obtain the experience of God's presence through them. That is the meaning of greeting a

priest when we meet him, saying praise be to Jesus Christ. Our priests are persons working tirelessly in

different realms of the society both for the spiritual and material growth and development of the human

person. We can be proud of this fact. In particular, the Syro-Malabar priests are making remarkable

contributions in the mission fields in India and abroad. Besides working as spiritual fathers in the pastoral

field, our priests are rendering commendable service in the field of education and social work. I

congratulate the priests for the wonderful priestly ministry they exercise in the Church as another Christ

and thank the Lord for the same.

The whole people of God must pray for priests that they be strengthened to continue their priestly

ministry with steadfastness in their vocation and that through their selfless lives they may be faithful to the

Lord who called them. Jesus chose the apostles after long hours of prayer (Mk.3: 13-19). Jesus has

requested us to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Mt. 9:38). God

accomplishes today through frail human persons, the priests, the same mission of Jesus Christ who,

fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel that the Lord God himself will search and find Shepherds of his mind to

shepherd his people, incarnated himself as the good shepherd. Priests require constant help from God. All

of us are obliged to pray daily for priests. The people of God must acknowledge in their hearts the words

of Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,

because apart from me you can do nothing. (Jn.15:5).

The context that occasioned the declaration of the year for priests is the one hundred and fiftieth

death anniversary of St. John Maria Vianney, who was the vicar of Ars. St. John Maria Vianney who died

in the year 1859 was considered the patron of all parish priests. Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of the

celebration of the year for priests declared him patron of all priests. The year for priests that began on the

feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 2009 will conclude on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 2010.

The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is also a day of sanctification of priests. When St. John Maria

Vianney was appointed parish priest of Ars, it was a parish where the Love of God was at a low ebb. God

wrought wonders there through the saint. He became a humble instrument of the merciful love of God.

Another shining example for diocesan priests is Thevarparambil Kunjachan from our Syro-Malabar Church

who was recently declared Blessed. Humble as he was, he was a saintly person who reached the highest

level of sanctity through his humble service.

We are known for keeping a tradition of loving and respecting priests and co-operating with the

leadership they give to the community. The laity has a definite role in the Church as co-workers of priests,

in establishing the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced. The celebration of the year for priests should

help in deepening the personal relationship between priests and laity. At the same time priests as persons

dedicated to God and the Church they must equip themselves for a more fruitful service through their

selfless commitment. Let us pray that Jesus who said, you did not choose me, but I chose you; (Jn 15:16)

and promised, I am with you always to the end of the age. (Mt. 28:20), may protect and guide us. Let us

commend all our priests to the Blessed Virgin Mary, queen of priests and our mother, for her protection and

intercession. I invoke God;s blessing on each one of you.

Given at Kakkanad from the Major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mount St.Thomas on 4 November 2009.

Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil

Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church

N.B

This pastoral letter is to be read out during the Holy Mass on December 6, 2009 in all churches and chapels of the Syro-Malabar Church where there is Sunday Mass for the public.