By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: A Catholic parish in New Delhi created history when it brought together all three ritual Churches in the country to celebrate its annual feast.
“The feast is rightly termed historical since it witnessed the active participation of the three independent Catholic Churches in India,” Father Mathew Kizhakechira, parish priest of the Holy Family Syro-Malabar Church, told Matters India on April 16.
The church at Neb Sarai, a South Delhi suburb, belongs to the diocese of Faridabad. It sits close to the headquarters of the Gurgaon Syro-Malankara diocese.
The two Oriental groups along with the Latin rite make up the Catholic Church in India. Inter-rite rivalries and differences of opinion often marked their interaction with each other.
All this was set aside when the Holy Family parish celebrated its feast April 12-15
The celebration began with Father Martin Palamattam, judicial vicar of Faridabad diocese, hoisting the flag to open the festal celebration. The first day’s Mass was in Latin rite offered by Father Mathew Poovathanathil.
The Mass on the second day was in Syro-Malankara rite offered by Monsignor Shaji Manikulam, vicar general of Gurgaon diocese. The final day’s Mass was offered in Syro-Malabar rite by Monsignor Cyriac Kochalumkal, new vicar general of Faridabad diocese. Father Pius Malekandathil, a professor in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, preached the homily.
Father Kizhakechira said the feast provided “unity in diversity” as envisioned by the Vatican II. “We plan to accommodate diverse Catholic traditions in our parish activities so that we could profess together ‘One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism,” he added
The priest also asserted that while each individual church has a duty to foster its traditions and live it wherever it can be, it has to accommodate other traditions for greater spiritual nourishment. “Our parish feast aimed to express Christian unity in a more concrete way instead of resorting to words that never turn into actions,” he added.
The intention behind the celebration was to create a common platform for these rites to come together and witness the gospel through their own ways of worship, he added.
Keeping other tradition aside indicates a concealed reluctance to accept them and accommodate them into one’s “spiritual womb where faith grows and matures,” Father Kizhakechira explained.
“This diverse and historical celebration in my parish provided an exceptional occasion for my parishioners to come to know and experience the richness of other two rites. From the response of the people, I realized that they truly enjoyed the multi-spiritual-traditional banquet prepared for them,” he added.
The parishioners too agreed with the priest.
“We all liked the Masses in all three rites,” Mini Wilson, a mother of two and an active member of the parish, told Matters India. She said they always feel indebted to the Latin rite that had catered to her family’s spiritual needs before the Faridabad diocese came into existence nearly six years ago.
“We cannot forget the ways we have walked,” added the woman in her 40s, a former member of the Jacobite Church. For her, the Malankara Mass was an occasion to relive her childhood memories.
The Syro-Malankara Church is an offshoot of India’s Orthodox Church that came into the Catholic fold in 1932 with permission from Rome to retain its liturgy and traditions.
The Latin rite is the product of evangelization by European missionaries that began in 14th century.
Father Kizhakechira expressed the hope that parishes of all rites would create more such programs of convergence that unify the people of God on a common spiritual ground and “help them realize that all these traditions and ways of worship truly lead us to explore our faith in a deeper and meaningful manner.”
He noted that each rite teaches its own traditions to its people through catechetical formation programs, bu7t accommodates other rites solely for academic purposes.
“Why are we reluctant to create platforms of this kind where these three rites can in unity witness the same Lord who is the core of all traditions?” he asked.