On New Eparchies, receives no Reply
Note: The following is the Copy of the letter sent on 3rd September 2014 signed by 20 members of Chennai Malayali Catholic Association. Copy of it is sent to me by Joseph Chacko in Chennai. They say they have not received any reply from the addressee as on 15. 10. 2014 - James Kottoor
Your Grace Dr. Salvatore Pennacchio.
The Apostolic Nuncio, Apostolic Nunciature,
50-C Niti Marg, Chanakyapuri
NEWDELHI- 110 002.
Sub: Segregation of Dalit and Backward class Catholics from Indian Catholic mainstream by Syro Malabar rite Church.
Kindly accept our greetings.
We write to you as a group of Catholics, concerned about the unity of the Catholic Church in India.
Though we have submitted many appeals, with reasons explaining our fears to Vatican, to the Prefect of The Sacred congregation of Eastern Churches, the president of Catholic bishops council of India as well as individually to 180 Catholic bishops in India, we have not received any reply or even an acknowledgement for the same. We have been made to feel helpless and we find that Vatican and the Catholic hierarchy are not within our reach. We are writing this letter to you as a request to study it and let us know your reaction, comments and suggestions on the issue and if found agreeable, to forward our appeal to Vatican.
Sixty to seventy percent of Indian Catholics are of backward class and are generally called Dalits. They embraced Christianity to escape from the Hindu caste hegemony. If they find that the Indian Catholic Church or any section of the Catholic Community again segregated them and did not treat them as equals, they will go back to Hinduism, which today is offering them many benefits.
To start with we would like to go back to the unpleasant history of Kerala Syro Malabar rite church. There were ‘Dalit’ Catholics known as ‘New Christians’ (Puthukristyanis) in Syro Malabar rite Church, till 60 years ago. In many big churches in Kerala, portions were marked for the these dalit Catholics to occupy, when participating in the Holy Eucharistic Celebration. Even in the cemetery separate areas were demarcated for the burial of these New Catholics. Due to this segregation and discrimination, they have left the Catholic Church and embraced either other sects or Hinduism.
A separate parish established by blessed Chavara Kuriakose for the ‘Puthukristyanis’ in Mannanam near Kottayam is now in a confused state and the SMR hierarchy is silently trying to grab it. The Major archbishop of Syro Malabar Rite Church Mar George Alancherry owes an explanation and clarification about the situation. Truth cannot be hidden from history.
Syro Malabar rite Church hierarchy has been trying to expand beyond Kerala by establishing dioceses all over India for the last 35 years. Kalyan diocese was erected 25 years ago, and has segregated the Catholics of Syro Malabar Rite origin from the mainstream Catholics. Without evaluating the consequences by a competent committee, they are now trying all means to create more and more SMR dioceses in a similar manner. The latest activity was in Faridabad to cover the Delhi – Agra areas. They have claimed an imaginary figure of over 60 000 SMR Catholics in Delhi, leaving out the rest of Dalit Migrant Catholics from Bihar, and UP. The cash rich Syro Malabar Rite hierarchy is influencing Latin rite bishops(sic) and Vatican by methods including false reports and statistics, to strengthen their claim for dividing the Catholic community in India and segregating the catholics on the basis of language, rite and caste.
Injecting caste feeling in the faithful.
a. Without any historical backing they are claiming that they are descendents of those who were converted from Brahmins by Apostle St. Thomas who landed in Kerala in AD 52. History of Kerala shows that Brahmins entered Kerala only after 7th century.
b. Now in Kerala there are no Dalits or backward Catholics in Syro Malabar rite church. Syro Malabar rite church does not allow conversion of non Christians or Christians of other sects into their church. Yet they have warned that, “If jurisdiction of the SMR Church to the whole of India is further delayed, it will result in irreparable damage to the Catholic Church in India.”(!) ( Page 26, A study based on the guidelines proposed by CBCI-SCE)
c. In Kerala, SMR priests do not concelebrate Holy Mass with Latin rite or Syro Malankara rite priests.
d. By words and deeds they misguide SMR faithful to develop the superior ‘caste’ feeling, and they make use of it to segregate and separate them from other Catholics. The separation and division is complete in Kerala. Now they are trying to introduce this segregation amoung those who have gone out of Kerala and are living peacefully integrated with the local Catholic community.
The number game.
The number of Syro Malabar Rite bishops are less than forty, compared to 160 Latin rite bishops. They feel that their rite is inadequately represented in the higher places of the church. They do not want to divide the SMR dioceses in Kerala to increase their number even though the membership is very large, but want to increase the number of SMR bishops in India proportionate to the total catholic population. One way is to establish dioceses in any major cities in India where the Catholics of SMR origin have migrated for livelihood and form large numbers.
3. Independent and Individual Church for unity in diversity.
The aim of Second Vatican council was to unify various churches as understood by lay people. But SMR hierarchy has selected one sentence from the Vatican II document and claim that they have the choice to practice their own ancient customs and rite. They have selected with difficulty a fourth century Chaldian liturgy to show that they are different from Roman Catholics. (There are three types of SMR liturgy with seven variations)
Apart from liturgy, they have tried and succeeded in introducing many other changes. They have contrived to select a cross and named it St. Thomas Cross. They have insisted that this cross be used in the churches and places of worship. Some historians found this cross had nothing to do with St, Thomas the apostle. The early Christians were not giving prominence to the cross.
The SMR hierarchy removed the body of Christ from the Crucifixes and wanted the parishes to do the same. They succeeded in the convents and many churches. The simple and ordinary Catholics did not accept this fatwa, and they resisted violently. SMR church had to withdrew the order silently.
SMR church celebrates ASH MONDAY instead of Ash Wednesday based on their own theological reasons.
They have cancelled All souls day for certain other reasons not very clear to the laity.
SMR church in Kerala does not encourage praying over the body of their dead in the church for hygienic reasons.
(Many of these new rules are similar to those in the separated Orthodox Christian church.)
Decentralization of power
SMR church demands in a loud voice wherever possible for decentralization of power from Rome. They demand power to appoint their own bishops just like the eastern churches. Though they wanted a Patriarch, Vatican gave only the title of Major archbishop. We understand that they have announced a plan to buy an office in Vatican at cost of 1.1 million US dollars, apparently for the purpose of lobbying.
With these and many more words and actions of SMR hierarchy, we are afraid that they are aiming for a vertical split of the church. We believe that they want to be known as Independent church of St. Thomas Catholics. You may know this already but we want to make sure that you know it.
In our view your Grace, the situation is serious and so we request you to act fast to prevent the Syro Malabar Rite Church playing their Caste card outside Kerala and separate the Dalit community. We request you:
i. To study the matter and if you consider it worthwhile, to please warn the Sacred Congregation of Eastern Churches and other concerned authorities not to fall prey to the threats of SMR hierarchy.
ii. We will be happy, to receive a reply within reasonable time.
Yours in Christ,