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Circular of the Major Archbishop after the XXVII Synod of the Bishops

Prot. No. 0383/2019

Circular of the Major Archbishop after the XXVII Synod of the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, Session 1, held from 07 to 18 January 2019 in the Major Archiepiscopal Curia at Mount St Thomas, Kakkanad.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As you are aware, it was not possible to hold the second session of the 26th Synod on account of the flood situation prevailing in our state at that time. Hence the first session of the 27thSynod, January 2019, was extended for two weeks and was held at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad. The bishops at the Synod expressed their deep sorrow at the loss of lives and the destruction of the property that took place as a consequence of the flood. They also offered their prayers and all kinds of assistance to those who experienced pain, the loss of their loved ones and the destruction of their property. The relief works done by the members of the Church revealed the unbounded generosity, volunteering and sacrifices of our brothers and sisters in and outside the country. The Synod expressed its gratitude and appreciation to those who extended their help to all those who experienced deep pain and sacrifices.

It is a fact that all have participated very sincerely in the relief works after the flood. According to the latest facts and figures, the Syro-Malabar Church through its eparchies, parishes, the religious congregations and the laity have contributed around 187 crores ( Rs.187,59,94805) worth of relief assistance to the flood victims in different parts of the State. Of this, a cheque of one crore thirteen lakhs and five thousand (Rs. 1,13,05000) was given directly to the Chief Minister. This was collected through the SPANDAN, the social development network department of the Syro-Malabar Church. Also the Church gave a contribution of 50 lakhs through the KCBC when it gave one crore to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

The Synod offered a special welcome to the new bishops of Idukki and Sagar, Mar John Nellikunnel and Mar James Athikalam MST for their presence at the Synod for the first time. The Synod also offered its greetings to Mar Jacob Manathodath who has taken over as the Administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archeparchy. The Synodal session began with a review of its previous Synodal decisions and expressed its satisfaction at the implementation of those decisions at the diocesan and parish levels.

Pastoral Approaches and Renewal of the Church

The bishops have put in special efforts to understand the events which the Church had to face recently in a spirit of humility and reverence. The priests and the religious have to pay more serious attention to their call and responsibility. It is necessary that all should absorb the spirit of the priestly ministry of Jesus Christ, avoiding all kinds of superiority and institutionalization. Everyone was of the opinion that there should be a permanent ecclesiastical solution to these problems. There was an examination of conscience with regard to the fundamental responsibility of bearing witness to Jesus as well as to finding a permanent solution to the problems that arise from time to time. The Synod decided that there should be a spiritual renewal and that efforts for holiness should be exhibited at all levels of the Church, from the top to bottom. A circular highlighting those decisions was read at all parishes of the Syro-Malabar Church.

The Synod Fathers paid special attention to solving the problems faced by the Church in the changing social and political contexts of today’s world. Discussions were held in solving these problems without losing our Christian self-identity and credibility.

Our Church which has celebrated the silver jubilee of its establishment as a sui iuris Church has to return to a more vigorous witnessing and spiritual growth. All the sections of the Church have to become more conscious of their vocation as well as of their call to holiness. We have to strengthen more deeply the witness of our priests and the dedication of the religious.

We have to reevaluate the working style of our family units, prayer meetings and other spiritual organizations. The participation of the religious and the laity in the social spheres has to be made in conformity with the Church and the faith and by adopting new ways for the practice of faith. It was decided by the Synod to ask all the eparchies to institute Grievance Redressal Cells so that they could decide on the complaints that come from within and outside the Church. The lay participation in these Cells is to be strongly enforced and that decisions should be made within a reasonable time frame so that justice would not be denied to the complainants.

In solving problems that arise from to time, there should be an equitable participation of the religious, the laity and the clergy and their opinions should be seriously listened to in proper forums by the authorities. It was discussed whether it would be possible to set apart a day before the official beginning of the Synod to have a consultative meeting with the representatives of the lay faithful including the secretaries of pastoral councils and other religious organizations.

Safe Environment Programme

It was decided by the Synod to establish a safe environment for children and women to work in churches, schools, rectories, religion classes, monasteries, orphanages etc. in accordance with the safe- environment regulations instituted by the Vatican and by the CBCI. The Safe Environment Programme published by the KCBC is endorsed by the Major Archbishop with a Decree for the Syro-Malabar Church. All the eparchies and religious congregations/institutes have to form new committees and directors for this purpose. Vicars, superiors of the consecrated and others entrusted with this responsibility have to implement this. If there is a failure in this matter, they would necessarily be subject to the punishments according to the Indian penal code.

Reflections on the Influence of the Media

The Synod discussed the fast-developing changes in the social and the electronic media and their highly negative influences over the minds of the people. The need for media literacy and the moral positions to be adopted have to be fostered in our communities.

Spreading falsehoods and erroneous pieces of news can never be justified. To spread calumnious stories and to denigrate the activities of the Church are not good journalism or media ministry. We cannot close our eyes to the manner in which the social media are being used to denigrate the Church. We have to train our youths to become aware of these hostile attitudes of the media towards the Church. I would like to inform you that a media commission is being constituted to coordinate the media services of the Syro- Malabar Church.

New Trends in the formation of seminarians

The Synod discussed the existing formation programmes in the seminaries and examined the report of the working of the seminaries.The training of future priests should become relevant to our times and have to be ecclesial. The pastoral ministry of the seminarians during the formation period should be encouraged. It was noted that training in the use of the media is as important as the pastoral ministry for the seminarians. They should be helped to attain emotional and mental maturity. The bishops emphasized the need to involve the laity and the religious in the formation of seminarians.

Pastoral Ministry for the Migrants

The pastoral ministry for migrants living outside Kerala and India were always foremost in the thoughts of the Fathers of the Synod. In the context of the establishment of the eparchy of Shamshabad, the migrants living outside Kerala are asked to get the necessary documents from the parishes where they live, when they come to Kerala to receive sacraments and other religious services. The Bishops will be giving necessary instructions in this matter. The needs of the migrants in the Gulf countries were also discussed at the Synod. The visit of the Holy Father to the Gulf countries has given a great fillip to the faithful there. I could sense that during my visit there at that time. It is necessary to foster the feelings of closeness to the Church not only in the Gulf areas but also in other places. I remember with great delight on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the eparchies of Sagar, Satna and Ujjain, experiencing the faith and attachment of the people there to the Church. I also offer my prayers and best wishes to the Bishop and the faithful of the Mississauga, Canada on its erection as a new Eparchy.

New Possibilities of Evangelization

That the Church has got the right of evangelization and pastoral care all over India is a sign that we have to develop and expand the opportunities for evangelization. Holy Father Pope Francis has emphasized this aspect of renewed emphasis on evangelization all over India in his letter published on 9 October, 2017. We have to organize and formulate the evangelizing efforts of the Church, taking into account the needs of the times in the light of the spirit of evangelization. There are plenty of possibilities of new ways of evangelization through the various activities of the Church as well as through our personal witnessing. For this, the priests, the religious and lay volunteers from home eparchies have to extend their cooperationto the missionaries. There was a thinking that the newly ordained priests and those priests who are interested should be given an opportunity to work for a few years in mission areas. It should also be discussed whether it would be possible for financially capable parishes in home eparchies could adopt parishes in the mission eparchies. I remember with gratitude the services of many eparchies and parishes who have adopted parishes and eparchies in the mission areas.

Challenges in the Educational Front

The Church views with a lot of anxiety the problems experienced by the minority institutions in the educational front. The Church views with great sympathy and understanding the pain of teachers whose appointments are not yet regularized by the Government. Reservations granted to each community should be preserved in their totality. It is not proper to club all the reserved communities together which would deprive some of the communities their right to reservation.

Problems of Farmers

The Church expects swift and permanent solutions from the part of the Government with regard to the problems experienced by the farmers in the case of getting their tenancy rights, protection of their farm lands from the attacks of wild animals and from the low pricing of their produce. More programmes to create the awareness of the problems of the farmers should be organized. The activities of the Catholic Congress (AKCC) should be revitalized. It should be more actively involved in solving the problems of the farmers and getting the due rights to the Dalits.

Organizational Activities

The Synod extended its temporary approval of the Constitution of the SMYM for three more years. The Fathers of the Synod appealed to make the activities of the SMYM active in all the eparchies and to energize the youth in their practice of faith. The Synod also approved the statutes of the Cherupushpa Mission League (CML) and the Guidelines for Vocation Promotion in our Church.

Putting into Practice the Resolutions of the Assembly

It was possible to put into practice last year ten of the resolutions of the Fourth Major Archiepiscopal Assembly held in August 2016. As a follow-up to that, the present Synod has approved the following ten more resolutions for putting into practice. They are the following:

1. Special training is to be given in the practice of the simplicity of life style to all those who hold leadership positions in the Church, especially to the office-bearers of religious organizations, trustees, altar servers, catechists, family unit leaders etc. More encouragement is to be given for holding retreats, training sessions etc according to their age in family groups and in common.
2. Bureaucratic administrative style should be abandoned at all the administrative set-ups of the Church. All the administrative offices of the Church should maintain a pastoral attitude by being readily available to the faithful.
3. The statements and comments coming from the priests and the religious should be more gentle and courteous.
4. Parishes and institutions should implement green projects to protect the environment.
5. Helpdesks should be established at forane/eparchial levels in order to make available to the job seekers and those affected by sicknesses to get assistance from the Govt.
6. The marginalized are enduring a lot of hardships.We have to come forward to assist the Dalit, children, women and religious minorities and implement programmes that empower them.
7. Missionaries should be invited to parishes and eparchies to share their experiences.
8. Feast celebrations in the parishes should be organized ensuring the participation of all. The tendency to find an individual or a family as sponsor of the parish feast is to be discouraged.
9. Priests and the religious should offer help to broken families and they should be given assistance to lead a secure family life.
10. The Congregations of the consecrated men and women should establish houses and provinces in areas where the migrant communities live.

The Synod felt happy about the starting of Perpetual Adoration at the Mount St. Thomas chapel. The intentions of the Church are specially remembered on each day. It is also gratifying to note that the Apostolic Nuncio, Most Rev. Giambattista di Quattro was present at the Synod and met individually with the Bishops.

The Synod also expressed its appreciation of the services rendered by Fr. Antony Kollanur and Fr. Mathew Pulimoottil who served as Chancellor and Finance Officer respectively in the Major Archiepiscopal Curia for a good number of years.
The Synod concluded on Jan 18th after two weeks of very fruitful reflections and discussions. I request your prayers so that all the deliberations and decisions of the Synod may help the growth and the good of the Church.

Yours cordially in Christ,

George Cardinal Alencherry
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church

Given from the Major Archiepiscopal Curia at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, on 20 February 2019.
N.B. The contents of this circular shall be made known to the Priests, Religious and Laity of all the Archeparchies/Eparchies of Syro-Malabar Church.