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http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=56710

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Jamshedpur, Feb. 19, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Catholic bishops of India have made history by choosing the leaders of three different rites to head the national bishops' conference. Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, the Major Archbishop of the autonomous Syro-Malabar Church, was elected the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) at the weeklong biennial assembly attended by 150 Indian bishops at Jamshedpur in the eastern Jharkhand state.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, a Latin-rite prelate, was elected the first vice-president of the CBCI. And Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis, who heads the Syro Malankara Church, was selected as the second vice-president.

The Indian bishops' choices mark the first time that prelates of three different Catholic rites have shared the leadership of a national episcopal conference. There are 160 Catholic dioceses in India: 119 Latin, 25 Syro-Malabar, and 6 Syro-Malankara. Altogether the country's Catholic population is about 16 million.



Very positive news. Hopefully we'll soon see the ridiculous restrictions on evangelisation outside Kerala lifted.

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I don't know if being president of CBCI would necessary lead to anything regarding these restrictions, since the late Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Church, Moran Mor Cyril Baselios, was once CBCI President. Let's hope His Beatitude Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil can fix this situation.

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As we are talking about the Eastern churches in India, I was once told that one of these Eastern churches requires mandatory celibacy on the part of its priests. Which one of these 2 requires so?

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Dear Collin,

Both the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church do not allow married men to be ordained to the presbyterate. Before the Portuguese came to India, most priests of the St. Thomas Christians were married. However, the Portuguese ensured that there would no longer be any ordination of married men.

The Syro-Malabar Catholics accepted this sad change in their tradition, and the prohibition against ordaining married men to the priesthood was enshrined in the particular law of the Syro-Malabar Church, passed a few years ago by the Synod. Given that the Syro-Malabar Church has a huge number of priestly vocations, I see no indication that this will change anytime in the near (or even medium-term) future.

As for the Syro-Malankara Catholics, they gave up ordaining married men when they came back into communion with the Catholic Church in the early 1900s. It's not clear to me whether this was a condition imposed by Rome or whether Mar Ivanios voluntarily gave up a married clergy.

In any case, the state of affairs is quite unfortunate, IMO.


Your friendly neighborhood Syro-Malabar Catholic,
Alex NvV

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May God grant many years to the leadership of the CBCI.

Alex,

Nice to see a post from you; hope all's well.

Many years,

Neil


"One day all our ethnic traits ... will have disappeared. Time itself is seeing to this. And so we can not think of our communities as ethnic parishes, ... unless we wish to assure the death of our community."
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Originally Posted by East-Syrian-rite Mar Thoma Catholic
As for the Syro-Malankara Catholics, they gave up ordaining married men when they came back into communion with the Catholic Church in the early 1900s. It's not clear to me whether this was a condition imposed by Rome or whether Mar Ivanios voluntarily gave up a married clergy.

I can't recall where, but somewhere online I recall reading an article by Met. Benedict Mar Gregorios about the Syro-Malankara Church. In that piece, he seemed to say that the mandatory celibacy rule in that Church was brought in by Met. Mar Ivanios himself, and not by imposition from Rome. Mar Ivanios was a monastic founder, and possibly felt that a celibate priesthood had certain ministerial benefits which outweighed those of a married priesthood, and so desired a celibate priesthood for priests of his Church, whether or not they entered his monastic establishment. Orthodox priests who converted, however, were exempted from the rule.

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The Syro-Malankara practice is not law but discipline. The Bishops have stated that the Tradition of ordaining married men can be revived if they so choose. The Church still has a few married active and retired 'achens' (priests) and 'kochammas' (khourias, "mothers").

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IS there any indication that there is a desire to restore the married presbyterate in the Syro-Malankara or Syro-Malabar Churches? What is the general feeling among the people, pesbyterate and episcopacy of these churches? Could they make the change on their own?

It seems to me that a married presbyterate should be functioning in all of the Eastern Churches.

Blessings,


Lance


A Byzantine Christian in a Postmodern World [byzantinechristian.blogspot.com]

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Neither Church has any priest shortage at the moment.

I think the Malankara laity are more open to it, since married priests are within recent memory - this is not to say that a majority supports a change. Most people have no opinion on the matter. I think general consensus is that "if it ain't broke.."


The Malabar Church is more against it. They haven't had functioning married priests in centuries, and when I mentioned the Tradition in passing, most laity were surprised - especially when I mentioned a married Malankara Catholic priest who they've probably all met.

Personally, I favour restoring the Malankara Tradition of ordaining single and married to the priesthood. The Syriac Catholics have this "law" on the books too, but they ignore it in practice and there haven't been any problems. I understand 'why' Mar Ivanios preferred celibate priests. But when His Grace asked Rome to preserve all Malankara Rites and Traditions, in my humble opinion, he couldn't wanted to erase the Tradition of married clergy. In any case, at the present time, I think it would be a wiser step to ordain both married and celibates, as this shows our Orthodox brothers and sisters (as well as the Indian protestants) a greater witness of living authentically Malankara Syriac while in Communion with Rome - removing nothing essential.

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I have always found the ecclesiastical history of the Malabar region of India very confusing. I can never keep straight which grouo is which: Syro-Malankara Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Syro-Malabar Catholic, Malankara Orthodox, Mar Thoma, Church of South India, etc.

Would someone be kind enough to post a list of some of the major churches and a brief description of their history?

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Our brother Neil, the Irish Melkite, should do the honors as he has compiled a detailed history of each of the Eastern Catholic Churches. He has also a "book" on all of the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches for that matter.

However, an overview by Fr. Roberson of CNEWA might prepare you for the more detailed exposition hopefully to be done later by Neil:

http://www.cnewa.org/ecc-bodypg-us.aspx?eccpageID=3

Amado


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Originally Posted by Byzantophile
I have always found the ecclesiastical history of the Malabar region of India very confusing. I can never keep straight which grouo is which: Syro-Malankara Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Syro-Malabar Catholic, Malankara Orthodox, Mar Thoma, Church of South India, etc.

Would someone be kind enough to post a list of some of the major churches and a brief description of their history?

A chart may be helpful:
[Linked Image]

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Thanks, Michael, I forgot all about you!

Now we wait for our brother, Neil, to add "color" to the interesting aggrupations.

Amado


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