By Matters India Reporter
Vilakkannur: A Catholic parish in Kerala is preparing to install as relic a Host, wafer used at Mass, on which a face resembling that of Jesus appeared five years ago.
The Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Tellicherry will on September 21 install the Host at Christ the King Church, Vilakannur, a remote village in the Kannur district of Kerala, reports “Girideepam” (light of the mountain), the archdiocesan monthly magazine.
Thousands of people had flocked to the church, some 50 km east of Kannur town, on November 15, 2013, after news spread that Jesus’s face appeared on the Sacred Bread during morning Mass on that day.
After three days, the archdiocese removed the Host for scientific study and kept it at an undisclosed location all these years.
A few months later, Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, forbade discussions on the matter and nothing was heard about the host until now.
The archdiocesan magazine’s September carries a note signed by Archbishop George Njaralakatt of Tellicherry announcing the Oriental Church’s decision to return the Host to the parish as a relic.
“Giving the Sacred Host to the Vilakannur church does not mean that it has been officially accepted as a Eucharistic miracle,” Archbishop Njaralakatt says in his letter.
The prelate also says the archdiocese took the decision to study the matter further and to observe and record possible signs that could happen in future in the presence of the sacred Host.
The sacred host is not fit for consumption as it is four years old. So, it should be treated only as a relic and not as Eucharistic bread, the prelate further explains.
He also forbids the parish to keep the host on the main altar or to use for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. “It should be kept on specially arranged place on a side altar along with other relics in the church,” the archbishop’s note says.
However, the prelate says the host could be used for public veneration and that people could pray before it.
He wants the parish to record every signs and supernatural happenings and preserve them in a scientific way and make them available for inspection and study by the Church authorities.
The move comes after the church’s theological commission, after extensive studies, indicated the phenomenon could be considered a Eucharistic miracle, the publication claims.
The archdiocese now says it had been keeping the host at its headquarters in Tellicherry town, some 20 km southeast of Kannur, under the archbishop’s direct supervision all these years as stipulated by the Vatican guidelines on such matters.
The Host has not undergone any changes nearly five years after the phenomenon, the magazine says.
Normally, such wafer, made of wheat flour, disintegrates after a weeks, especially in Kerala’s humid weather.
The phenomenon occurred on November 13 when the then parish priest Father Thomas Pathickal was celebrating the 7 am Mass for a small group of parishioners.
Narrating the incident, the priest told Matters India on the same day that at the time of elevation he had noticed a spot on the large bread used for consecration. “It became large and brighter and a face appeared soon.” The priest said he kept the host aside and continued Mass using another host kept in the tabernacle.
After the Mass he called the sacristan, who told him the face resembled Jesus. The priest then placed the host in a monstrance and kept it on the altar for adoration.
The parish was then preparing for the feast of Christ the King on November 24.
Hearing the news, people from nearby villages flocked to the church immediately.
One of them K J Thomas told Matters India that he had seen the shining face of a bearded man with long hair. “It was black and white, not color,” he added.
Nearly 100,000 people reportedly visited the parish in three days until the Host was taken away by the archdiocese.
Top officials from the police and vigilance department departments rushed to the place as vehicles blocked the road to Paithalmala, a famous spot for adventure tourism.
The archdiocese rushed a team to Vilkannur. The then Archbishop George Valiamattam of Tellicherry instructed the parish priest to keep the “miracle” host locked inside the tabernacle and hold prayers in the church.
“The Church does not encourage popularizing such incidents,” explained Father Pathickal, who had come to the parish in 2010.
Current pastor, Father Jacob Kuttikkattukunnel, says the parish is excited at getting the Sacred Host back. He told Matters India that parish church was undergoing renovation to receive the relic.
Baby Joseph Payikatt, a church trustee, told Matters India that the archdiocese had informed them in July about the plan to bring the Host to the parish, which was established in 1962 for Catholic settlers from central Kerala.
The parish now has more than 500 families and 1,250 Catholics, most of them second and third generations of people who had migrated from Travancore last century.
Payikatt said the parish continued to receive visitors who came to pray in the church situated on an elevation from the road. He also claimed the phenomenon had brought considerable changes in the parishioners’ spiritual and social life.