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Pastoral Letter from Major Archbishop Mar Varkey Vithayathil


Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, by the Grace of God, the Major Archbishop, to the members of the Syro-Malabar Church residing outside its proper territory in India and abroad.


Dear Brethren in Jesus Christ, my beloved children,


July Third is the `family day of all the Syro-Malabar Christians. Dukrana (meaning `remembrance in Syriac) or feast of commemoration is the memorial day of the Martyrdom of St. Thomas (A.D. 72), our father in faith. St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles landed in Kodungallore in Kerala in A. D. 52 and imparted the light of faith to our forefathers. This light of faith, having been handed over through twenty centuries, has reached us in the third millennium, with greater splendour and more intense radiance. The feast of Dukrana evokes in our hearts reverberations of great joy and profound gratitude. On this family day of the Syro-Malabar Church, I wish you all who are the children of the Syro-Malabar Church residing outside her proper territory, a very happy feast.


In the last century, soon after the end of the Second World War, owing to the great famine that followed the war, the faster population growth and the resulting non-employment, the members of the Syro-Malabar Church from Kerala, along with the others of the population began to emigrate to different parts of India and to many developed and developing nations of the world, in search of better living conditions and economic prospects. This was part of the worldwide phenomenon of migration. Today the Syro-Malabar Church has large numbers of her children living in Diaspora Communities in India and abroad formed out of the later generations of these early migrants. Due to some special circumstances we are not able to get the exact number of the Syro-Malabar faithful in the different cities of India and in the Gulf States. Nevertheless, according to the information from reliable sources, there are between 5,000 and 1,00,000  Syro-Malabar faithful in each of the big cities of India, such as Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Surat, Baroda etc. Thus there must be around 5,00,000 Syro-Malabar migrants in India. Similarly, it is estimated that there are 4,00,000 Syro-Malabar Migrants in the Gulf States, 1,20,000 in North America and Canada, 1,00,000 in Europe, the main concentration being in Germany, 40,000 in Great Britain and Ireland, 10,000 in Australia and New Zealand and 20,000 in the African Countries.


It is to be noted with satisfaction that the Syro-Malabar Migrants, wherever they are in the world, endeavour to  preserve their unique liturgical and ecclesial traditions and earnestly desire that these traditions are observed also in those places where they are found at the present moment. This is very much in tune with the teachings of the Church and the provisions in Canon Law which consider “the rites of the Eastern Churches, as the patrimony of the whole Church of Christ in which shines forth the tradition coming down from the Apostles through the Fathers, and which, in its variety, affirms the divine unity of the Catholic faith” and exhort that they “are to be observed and promoted conscientiously”(CCEO c.39). Therefore, the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches requests the “Hierarchs who preside over Churches sui iuris and all other hierarchs … to care with the greatest diligence for the faithful and accurate observance of their own rite”. According to the Code, the other clerics and members of institutes of consecrated life are “to observe faithfully their own rite and to acquire always a greater knowledge and more complete practice of it” and the other Christian faithful “are to foster the knowledge and appreciation of their own rite and are bound to observe it everywhere unless an exception is provided by the law”(CCEO c. 40). Besides, the Code (CCEO) specifically states that “by his own right the Patriarch(Major Archbishop) can issue encyclical letters to the entire Church over which he presides concerning questions regarding his own Church and rite”(CCEO c. 82 §1, 3).Therefore, as Head of the Syro-Malabar Church, I am dutybound to foster the practice of the proper liturgical and ecclesial traditions by the Syro-Malabar faithful everywhere in the world and to see that circumstances and structures that favour such practices of faith in one`s own tradition are created wherever possible.


Pastoral care of the migrants belonging to the various rites is indeed an important mission of the Church. This is evident from the fact that the Apostolic See has established a Pontifical Council for the ministry to the migrants and itinerant people all over the world – the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. The Syro-Malabar Church also has formed a commission of Bishops for the pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar Migrants – the Major Archiepiscopal Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral Care of Migrants. This Commission, headed by Bishop Gregory Karotemprel, CMI, the Bishop of Rajkot and with Bishops Vijay Anand Nedumpuram, CMI, of Chanda and Mathew Vaniakizhakkel, V.C. of Satna as members, is doing commendable work in this regard. The Commission has already visited many communities of Syro-Malabar Migrants in North America, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the Gulf States and has entered into dialogue with the Local Hierarchs of these areas and has proposed ways and means to cater to the spiritual needs of these communities and to provide them with adequate pastoral care in their own ecclesial tradition. Although our efforts to cater to the spiritual needs of the Syro-Malabar Migrants and to provide them with adequate pastoral care in their own ecclesial tradition are met with many difficulties in India and abroad, we are hopeful to find appropriate solutions for them in the near future.


On this occasion, I am glad to announce to you an important event that is being organized for the Syro-Malabar Migrants all over the world. In accordance with the decision of the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, the Major Archiepiscopal Commission for Evangelisation and Pastoral Care of Migrants is organizing the Global Meet 2006 on 18-21 August 2006 at the Major Archiepiscopal Curia at Mount St. Thomas, at Kakkanad for all the Syro-Malabar Migrants from India and abroad. I invite you all very cordially to this event.


This is a time of great dynamism and revival for the different migrant communities of the Syro-Malabar faithful in the world. Having realized the richness of their own liturgical tradition and the ecclesial heritage received from their ancestors, they are now consciously making every effort to accomplish their legitimate rights for spiritual growth and pastoral care in their own ecclesial traditions. It is a sad fact that the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the directives of the teaching authority of the Church from time to time and the clear provisions in both the Latin and the Oriental Codes and the very recent instructions given by the Pontifical Council for the Migrants and Itinerant People, Erga migrantes caritas Christi regarding the pastoral care of the Migrants have not yet been implemented in the Church. We shall work together to change this situation and to realize for the Syro-Malabar Migrants in India and abroad the freedom, the rights and privileges that are envisioned for them by the Church. I exhort you all to live, even at the cost of sacrifices, according to the precious gift of faith that leads to eternal life, proclaimed by our Apostle St. Thomas: My Lord and my God!


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.


Given at Kakkanad, from the Major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mount St. Thomas on 20 June 2006.


                                                  + Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil

                                              Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church


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