Prot. No. 0984/2019
PASTORAL LETTER ON SABHA DHINAM-2019
George Cardinal Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, to the Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Men and Women Religious and Lay Faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church. May the Grace of the Lord be with you all!
Dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,
As we always do, we celebrate the Sabha Dinam on the third of July, the feast of the Dukarana of St. Thomas. The feast reminds us of the duty not only of presenting but of spreading more brightly the torch of faith handed down to us by our ancestors. We should pray specially for the grace to proclaim the faith, taking into account the special nature of our age when we gather to celebrate the feast at our parish, diocesan and institutional levels.
The Church has grown from the bloodshed through the martyrdom of St. Thomas who was inspired by the bloodshed by Jesus at Golgotha. We are in forefront of the Churches that were formed through the evangelization of St. Thomas, in missionary efforts.
Hence we have an added obligation to proclaim boldly our faith in the Lord like the Father of our faith. The words of the Apostle, “Let us go and die with him” (Jn. 11:16) are formed from his deep attachment to the Lord. His desire to follow Jesus closely is revealed in his words, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. Then, how do we know the way?”(Jn. 14:5). His words “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hands into his side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25) were the expression of his desire to proclaim boldly the faith in the resurrection of the Lord and his desire to have for himself the vision of the risen Christ that the other Apostles received. His words, “My Lord and my God” were the reflection of his deep personal attachment to the Lord that was kept in his heart. Apostolic zeal emerged in him when he received the experience of the resurrection of the Lord apart from the experiences he received while moving with the Lord in his earthly life. We are today called to follow in the new ways of the modern world what the Apostle did in his unbelievably hazardous journey from Palestine to Cranganore, traversing many countries, finally arriving at Mylapore. His zeal, his boldness to confront the challenges facing him and his martyrdom should be reflected in our missionary endeavors.
In the background of the celebration of the Sabha Dinam, we shall thank the Lord for the missionary work of the Church as well as of the fruits of that work in the world. It is with joy that we acknowledge the fact that the sons and daughters of the Syro-Malabar Church are now giving a powerful witness to their faith in all parts of the world. It is also a matter of great pride that our bishops, priests and the religious are working with great zest in other rites of the Church. We shall continue witnessing to the faith by keeping alive the torch of faith handed over to us by St. Thomas the Apostle. Our Church which has been given the privilege of spreading the faith all over India has to continue its missionary effort without any slackening. All have to pray for the spread and preservation of our faith in other regions like the Gulf countries, Singapore and Africa.
We have to keep our relationship with the Lord strongly through our commitments and missionary efforts. There are some philosophical ideologies and theological approaches in the consumerist culture of the modern world that are contrary to this relationship. It should become possible for all the faithful to proclaim the redemptive mystery to themselves and to the public.
Holy Father, Pope Francis always points out the duty and obligation of the Church in this matter. The Apostolic Exhortation (Christus vivit) issued by the Holy Father after the Synod on the Youth is a strong teaching. He presents three important truths that are to be believed and lived out by every Christian: God loves you, Christ is Redeemer, Christ is alive. When the culture of consumerism is drawing people away from Christ, the Holy Father is offering the liberating power of the Gospel as an alternate vision to counter the negative forces. All the evangelizing efforts have to draw their strength from this truth. This is the only Truth that we have to proclaim in our age.
Even in the midst of many blessings given to us, we have to bring forward to our mind’s eye many other truths for a close examination. We should be able to convey the undiluted message of the Gospel in all the dealings of the Church. The attitude of sharing that was prevalent in the early years of the Church should be reflected in the handling of the resources of the Church, policy-making and in the management of the different institutions of the Church. The Church which journeys through the centuries of its existence has to maintain this vigilance and zeal. We have to maintain the same kind of watchfulness that was kept by the virgins in the parable of the wedding reception. It should be possible for us to proclaim that God loves us, that Jesus is our Redeemer and that He is alive today in our midst.
We shall acknowledge with humility the failures that have occurred in our witness to the Gospel. The Holy Father has reminded us in his Encyclical, “Rejoice and Be Glad” that all of us are called to holiness. The encounter between our weakness and the presence of the grace of God leads us to the path of holiness. We shall strive to rise from our limitations to ascend to the heights of holiness, to be loved by God, to be liberated (No. 34). We shall hold firmly the hope of salvation in the midst of our difficulties.
I would like to share a few other important matters at this time. Blessed Mariam Thresia, the founder of the Holy Family Congregation will be canonized in October. Also, as you might have come to know, the Exarchate of Mississuaga was raised to the state of an Eparchy and the Exarch was appointed the Bishop of the newly raised Eparchy. I had the happiness of participating in both the ceremonies. The third item of news that I want to share with you is that all the bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church will be going to the Vatican for their ad limina visit in the month of October.
I am thankful for your prayers for all the intentions of the Church as well as for me your unworthy minister in the Lord .You also have to pray for the Synod that would be held in August. Like our Father St. Thomas, we shall strive to go forward in a missionary spirit, confessing our faith in the risen Jesus with the awareness that Jesus is alive in our midst. I wish you cordially all the blessings of the feast of the Dukarana and Sabha Dinam.
George Cardinal Alencherry
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church
Given from the Major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mount St Thomas, Kakkanad, on 14 June 2019.
NB: This pastoral letter is to be read out during the Holy Mass on Sunday, 30 June 2019, in all churches and chapels of the Syro-Malabar Church where there is Sunday Mass for the public.