By Johnson Porinchukutty
New Delhi: A Syro-Malabar archbishop, who heads a diocese in northern India, wants his Oriental Church to become global by breaking free the barriers of Kerala, its base in southern India.
“What we need is globalization and not colonization of the Church,” Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad said on July 1 in an apparent response to fears expressed in certain circles over the Oriental rite gaining pan India jurisdiction.
The Syro-Malabar Church’s recent all India expansion, the archbishop said, should be seen more as an opportunity for greater evangelization than colonial conquest or territorial expansion.
The Universal Church today needs more “mission power” than “muscle power,” explained the first prelate of Faridabad diocese erected on March 6, 2012, primarily for the Syro-Malabar Catholics settled in the national capital and surrounding regions.
The archbishop, a former Vatican diplomat, expressed these views in a pastoral letter that was read on July 1 in all 36 parishes and 15 mission stations under the diocese that covers the National Capital Region and the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Rajasthan.
The prelate repeated them at the opening of the new academic year of catechism and faith formation program in the diocese held on the same day. More than 500 catechism teachers of the diocese attended the program at St. Francis Assisi Forane Church in Dilshad Garden, a suburb in eastern India.
The all India jurisdiction offers more than ever an opportunity for peaceful ecclesial co-existence and better mutual collaboration of Churches in India. When the government speaks about social integration, the migrated Church should cooperate, instead of resisting, Archbishop Bharanikulangara said.
Earlier, Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore, a Latin rite diocese in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, expressed apprehensions over the Syro-Malabar Church creating dioceses and parishes all over India.
The Divine Word prelate, who was born a Syro-Malabar Catholic, was worried about the Oriental rite importing the Kerala culture and language to other parts of the country and hindering the mission of spreading the message of Christ.
The Indore bishop wanted the Kerala Churches to shed their narrow-mindedness and become truly missionary. He pleaded the Oriental rite not to create fissures outside Kerala by building different churches.
Archbishop Bharanikulangara says the Syro-Malabar Church’s “global” expansion offers an opportunity to become universal and not for Keralization all over.
The 59-year-old prelate said he has criticized some pastors in his Church for their tendency to copy the Kerala model in other parts of India and perpetuate Malayalam language in the missions.
“When the Syro-Malabar Church expands to the mission territories, it should take new form of existence in those areas. This is all the more pertinent and applicable to regions outside India,” he asserted.
The identity or substance of the Syro-Malabar Church remains the same everywhere, but the style and expression of that identity would vary according to the life situations, he explained.
“If anybody tries to impose or implant the Kerala model to other places, that export may fail and the young generation may not accept. It is in that line, the Syro-Malabar Church is sometimes seen as foreign or imported in some places,” he added.
The archbishop called for more Masses and liturgical celebrations in Hindi and English, as language is “an important element of culture.”
Commending some parishes for conducting liturgical services in English, Hindi and Punjabi, the prelate encouraged others to follow the example and use local languages in Church services.
Another ways to make the Church global is to conduct liturgy and faith formation in languages used by second and third generation migrants living outside Kerala. “Inculturation is a need of the time, especially for a migrant diocese, which also means adapting to the contemporary language,” he added.
Archbishop Bharanikulangara criticized a tendency among some parents to keep their children ignorant of their struggles. “The parents must form the children making them understand their struggles to make both ends meet in the family,” he added.
Children who are ignorant of the parents’ struggles would grow up believing life has no difficulties or problems. Such children would break down when faced with criticism or failures, the archbishop added.