An open letter to Most Rev. Anil.J.T.Couto, Archbishop of Delhi and Most.Rev.Kuriakose Bharanikulangara, Bishop of Faridabad Eparchy on the issue of rite. Also for the information to Most Rev. Salvatore Pennachio, Apostolic Nuncio in India.
After you have brought out your Joint Pastoral Letter (Order), a lot of water has flown down the stream of time. The faithful who were born in Kerala in Syrian families, who were the members of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Delhi were upset at this division of the Church and has approached their Archbishop of Delhi to place before the genuine difficulties and to put a stop to this criminal act. They had meetings in which a great number of affected families entrusted a core group to take necessary steps to find a solution for this unjust situation. The core group met the Archbishop of Delhi and put forward their grievances before him. They also had meeting with both the Archbishop of Delhi and the Bishop of Faridabad. They could not find any solution emerging. They approached the Nuncio and put the matter before him. By the time, the Archbishop of Delhi might have realised the difficulties and inconvenices of his own parish members. He asked the entire parish priests of his Archdiocese to keep the actions in connection with the JPL are kept in suspense till further instructions from him. The core group found that no real and permanent solutions are coming from the Bishops or the Nuncio. They organised a second general body meeting of the Syrian catholic members of the Archdiocese of Delhi and got a mandate from the general body to proceed to the next step of approaching Pope Francis. These people worked hard for many a day’s collecting the relevant data to be presented. They formulated an application to Pope Francis. This application of five or six pages and supported by almost 150 pages of relevant data was sent to Pope. The copy of this 155 page document is sent to many members of the Church Hierarchy. It is made available to anybody. The people are still waiting for definite and positive answers to their problems.
In the meanwhile Pope Francis in his exhortations to the members of the church requested the church authorities not to create divisions in the church from inside using issues like rites. He states “Divisions among Christians weaken their ability to spread the Gospel”, Pope Francis said during an audience with the World Evangelical Alliance
“From the beginning,” Francis pointed out, “there were divisions among Christians, and even now unfortunately rivalries and conflicts remain between our communities. Such situations weaken our capacity to fulfil the command of the Lord to preach the Gospel to all nations.”
“The efficacy of the Christian announcement would certainly be greater if Christians would overcome their divisions and could celebrate together the Sacraments and together spread the Word of God and witness to charity.”
But you, the Members of the hierarchy of the church of both the rites, are bent upon dividing the Church of Jesus. You have gone to the secular press media with interviews. We, the lay people, will appreciate more of these kinds of interviews. At least the secular press can ask you questions and elicit answers. We, the Catholic faithful, get zero opportunities to ask you questions which are troubling our minds.
You, the Archbishop of Delhi said to the press that the people of Syro-Malabar rite who were members in his Diocese have genuine difficulties in the present changes. He added that the Church should not be sticky to the rules in the book. In other words, he said the words of Jesus “Sabbath is for the comfort of people and people are not for the comfort of Sabath”. Rules are made by men for the welfare of men. When the rules prevent the welfare of the people, the rules have to be discarded.
And you, the Bishop of Faridabad said. “The rules don’t permit the Syro-Malabar faithful, who were members of the Delhi Archdiocese for decades, to attend the same Church in Delhi and be a part of the Syro-Malabar churches in Kerala”. In other words, those who are not with
me here will not be allowed to be syro-Malabar Catholic in Kerala. These people were practising their faith that way for decades more than two or three generations. You say “These are rules of the Church and that has to be obeyed. I am not the one who made the rules. I am not able to do anything about it. I only want all the Syro- Malabar faithful who want to practice their faith in the Delhi Archdiocese to give me the details of all the members of the families along with their Kerala parishes so that I can ask the Kerala Churches to remove these families from the membership of that Church”.
It is interesting to compare the attitudes of the three shepherds. Is it not sabre rattling on the part of the Newcomer to the north? Is it not applying force by these holy people in the name of rite and love of Jesus? You announced to the secular media and in conventions that there is” no compulsion” for anyone to join the Syro-Malabar Church and he shouts at the top of the voice that every one is “free” to be in any rite. But they only have to give the applications to him with all personal details so that he can take the necessary actions in the Kerala Churches. You also proclaimed that those who have respect for their culture and heritage only need to join the Syro-Malabar Church. This is an insinuation from your side that those who do not join you have no culture and respect for tradition. You and your spokesperson have indicated subtly that other rites people are Other Backward Class (O.B.C) people. If this is your type of culture, we, the Catholics, Syro
Malabar or Latin lay people would hate to be in that culture. You, yourself was leading the life of an immigrant (Your own words to the media) in different parts of Africa, Europe and other parts of the world celebrating the sacraments in Latin Churches in Latin Rite. After serving the Latin Churches, when you got a position from Pope directly as the Archbishop of a diocese in Faridabad, you came back to India as a blue blooded and aristocratic and royal Syro-Malabar Catholic bishop with (recreated) high culture and traditions of Kerala. Who is breaking the rules of church which he is imposing on the laity? This clearly shows that there no spiritual interest in all these circus of rites. There is only a race for power. We want all for you, the Laity, the Clergy and the hierarchy see these problems as problems of Church unity and nothing to do with any personality. The problems are created not by personality of anyone but the system and the positions one holds. What has to be changed in the system must change. There is no excuse for it. The best service you can do to Jesus is just to withdraw the Joint Pastoral Letter and announce this fact in all the parishes of the Delhi Diocese
When will we the Catholics of this country be able to see the Catholic Church as a Church of Jesus Christ who is the embodiment of love and Fatherhood?
With all the pride in being Catholics, and that too as Syro-Malabar Catholics, with love and respect for both of you.