Mangaluru: In the Catholic Church hirarchy Cardinal Mar George Alanchery comes next to Pope Francis. Catholic Church is a Union of 22 churches. Except the Latin Church, all other 21 Churches are eastern Churches. Syro Malabar Catholic Church is the Second largest church among the 21 eastern churches. Cardinal Mar George Alancherry is elevated to the present stature 4 years back and had participated in the selection of Pope Francis. Cardinal Mar George Alenchery turned 70 on 19th April 2015. Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, Major Archbishop, Father and head of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is visiting Karnataka for the first time from 30th of April to 5th May 2015. On 30th April the Cardinal made his first visit to St. Alphonsa Catholic Forane Church, Kankanady here.
He was welcomed in a grand manner with a marching band and floral bouquets. MLA J.R.Lobo, MLC Ivan D’souza, Rt.Rev.Dr.Aloysius Paul D’Souza,Bishop of Mangalore, Fr Denis Moras-Vicar general, Mangalore Diocese, Mar Lawrence Mukkuzhy,Bishop off Belthangadi, Fr Joseph Valiaparambil, the Vicar General, Fr Sebastian Chelackapally -Parish priest of St Alphonsa Catholic Forane Church, along with many other dignitaries extended a warm welcome to the Archbishop.
Addressing the media persons during a press conference held at St Alphonsa Forane Church, Archbishop Mar George Alencherry said, ” I am very happy to be here in this state of Karnataka, which is a great State in India which has made enormous contributions to the Nation. It has also played a very important role in shaping modern Indian religions and philosophy. Christianity reached India in the first century itself through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus by St Thomas the Apostle. And the people in the diocese of Belthangady are the descendants of the first Christian community who were mainly in Kerala. It is true that the State of Karnataka came to know Christianity first only in the 16th – century between 1500 – 1600 AD with the arrival of the Portuguese Missionaries”.
About the erection of the Diocese of Belthangady, the Archbishop said, ” The Diocese of Belthangady was erected on 24 April 1999, by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, recently canonized saint, as a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Thalasserry. This diocese has been established exclusively for the Syro-Malabar Catholics of the three civil districts of Karnataka State, viz., Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. In the middle of the 20th century there was lot of migrations from Southern Kerala to Northern Kerala, to the southern parts of Karnataka and South Western parts of Tamil Nadu. The spiritual needs of these Syrian Catholics were in the beginning met by the Latin Dioceses of Mangalore, Mysore, Chickmagaluru. It took more than 50 years for the Syro-Malabar Catholics living in this area to get assembled in a diocesan set up. After the erection of the diocese of Belthangady and the appointment of Bishop Lawrence Mukkuzhy as its first bishop, the Syrian Catholics in this diocese achieved great development both spiritual and material”..
Explaining what a Pastoral Visit was, the Archbishop said, ” According to the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops: ‘The pastoral visit is one of the ways, confirmed by centuries of experience, through which the Bishop maintains personal contact with the clergy and with other members of the People of God. It is an occasion to rejuvenate the energies of those engaged in evangelisation, to praise, encourage and reassure them. It is also an opportunity to invite the faithful to a renewal of Christian life and to an ever more intense apostolic activity. The pastoral visit helps the Bishop to evaluate the effectiveness of the structures and agencies designed for pastoral service, taking account of the circumstances and difficulties of the task of evangelisation, so as to determine more accurately the priorities and the means required for overall pastoral provision.’ [Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops (2004) no. 220] What is said of any bishop’s pastoral visit in a parish is applicable to the Major Archbishop as far as a diocese is concerned”.
“Now in the sixteenth year of the establishment of Belthangady as a diocese, in my official capacity as Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, I am making this pastoral visit. The Major Archbishop, as per law of the Church, is considered Father and Head of this individual Church. The Catholic Church is a communion of 23 individual Churches sui iuris of which 22 are in the Oriental tradition and one in the Latin tradition. In India we have the presence of three individual Churches, namely Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin” he added.
The Archbishop further said, “The pastoral visit is an apostolic endeavour, an event of grace. This visit paves way to put fresh spirit into the faithful. In a rare occasion like this the spirit will flow down into the faithful like rain and will bear various fruits in different people as on the day of Pentecost for which we need intense prayer and good mental disposition. Hence I request your prayers for the fruitful accomplishment of this important spiritual event. There will be very many occasions during this visit to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and to proclaim the Word of God with the different communities convened for the occasion. I assure you that in all these occasions I will be praying for on all of you and your families”.
Saying that his Pastoral Visit was to have interaction with the Local Church, Archbishop George added saying, ” This visit is just to have an overall understanding about the function of this local Church here, namely the diocese of Belthangady. When I use the term ‘Church’ I mean not only the Christians but the whole people, irrespective of caste and creed. The Church is actively engaged in running schools, colleges, hospitals, social service institutions and various other charitable institutions extending service to all groups of people belonging to all religions. The purpose of my visit is to express solidarity with the Catholics and all the people of this land”.
“It gives me an occasion to come into a close personal contact with the eparchial bishop, parish priests, religious priests and sisters, heads of various departments of the diocese, and the lay people responsible for various areas of the pastoral life of the diocese. The pastoral visit is at large intended to bring encouragement and hope to all those involved in pastoral work and to all the people of the diocese. The actual visitation provides an opportunity to discuss the pastoral activity of the diocese, the development and welfare of the people as a whole, and any particular challenges and difficulties. As its name implies, a pastoral visit is an expression of pastoral concern and support and comprises activities such as liturgical and para-liturgical celebrations, meetings with the clergy, religious and laity, especially the pastoral council and the various associations in the diocese”.
“It helps me to become acquainted with the reality of the environment, the socio-economic condition of the people, the current pastoral programs, and the overall functioning of the diocese. This pastoral visit, from a faith perspective, gives me chance to look at the diocesan community in its main components: faith education of people of all age groups, sacramental and liturgical life, service to society, the relationship of the eparchy of Belthangady with the Syro-Malabar Church sui iuris and the Universal Church”.
While concluding, archbishop Mar George Alencherry said, ” This visit also intends to make known the pastoral priorities of the Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church and to foster a sense of belonging to this individual Church. I believe that by this visit I will be much enriched and likewise you will also enjoy its benefits. By no doubt with this visit I will get a good picture of the life of the diocese of Belthangady and its activities in a deeper way. It also gives the diocese an opportunity to meet with the Major Archbishop as its Father and Head and therefore of the Diocese of Belthangady too. Above all these I have come here to appreciate your selfless and dedicated service in this mission field and to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and commitments, ideals and aspirations of your land, and to confirm you in the faith, love and harmony”.
Dr Sebastian- Professor at Roshini Nilaya of Social Work welcomed the media persons, while Bishop of Belthangady Mar Lawrence Mukkuzhy introduced the archbishop and also briefed about the Syro-Malabar catholic Church. Following the press meet, there was a program where MLA JR Lobo, MLC Ivan D’Souza, Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D’souza-Bishop of Mangaluru , Bishop of Belthangady Lawrence Mukkuzhy shared the dais along with Archbishop Alencherry. All the dignitaries on the dais praised the good work done by the Syro-Malabar Church.
The faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church are about four million, of which 3 million and 400 thousand live in the twenty-eight dioceses in India. Of these dioceses, eighteen are in the territory of the Syro-Malabar Church itself (Kerala, part of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka). They have a territorial jurisdiction only in these eighteen dioceses. The faithful like to have a territorial jurisdiction covering the whole territory of India: this is one of their appeals to the Holy Father and they believe it is their right. Before the arrival of Western missionaries – the Portuguese arrived in the sixteenth century – the jurisdiction of us ‘Christians of St Thomas’ was extended to all of India. Then the Western missionaries, because of the influence of European monarchs, took jurisdiction of India, restricting ours to the areas where they were more concentrated.
Cardinal George Alencherry has said in the past during an interview, “The Catholic Church through the Council for Christian Unity, has already begun a dialogue on the primacy. I think we should continue the dialogue and seek a common agreement with the Eastern Churches, as there was in the first four centuries of Christianity. At that time there was a common understanding of the primacy. Now the Orthodox Church argues that it is impossible to go back to theology before the Council of Chalcedon because we do not possess any documents from that era. But I think that from the documents and statements subsequent to the time of Chalcedon there would be the possibility of dialogue and agreement on the Petrine ministry. Because there is the phrase primus inter pares. We all need a Petrine ministry of unity, which is a reference for all the Churches. I hope that a halfway point is found where the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches could come together in full communion with the Church of Christ”.
About Major Archbishop Mar George Alencherry:
His Beatitude Mar George Cardinal Alencherry is the current Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church and the Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly. He was elected by the Holy Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church on 26 May 2011 to succeed Maran Mar Varkey Vithayathil. He was created a Cardinal of the Catholic Church and the titular Archpriest of San Bernardo alle Terme in Rome on 18 February 2012 in Rome.
His Beatitude Mar George Cardinal Alencherry was born on 19 April 1945 as the sixth child of Philipose and Mary Alencherry in Thuruthy in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Changanassery. Geevarghese is his baptismal name. Mar Alencherry had his primary schooling at St Mary’s School, Thuruthy and secondary education at St Berchman’s High School, Changanacherry. He began his priestly formation in 1961 at the archdiocesan minor seminary at Parel, Changanacherry. While he pursued his studies in the minor seminary, he obtained his BA in economics with second rank from St Berchman’s College. After the minor seminary studies he was sent to St Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Aluva where he completed his philosophical and theological studies.
On 18 December 1972 Cardinal Mar Antony Padiyara, the then archbishop of Chanagancherry, ordained him priest at Marthu Mariyam Church, Thuruthy, for the archdiocese of Changanacherry. Later he continued his higher studies at the Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy from where he obtained his master’s degree in first rank. While Mar Alencherry was pursuing higher studies at Aluva he served also as vicar of the filial church at Periyarmugham in the archdiocese of Ernakulam‐Angamaly. After completion of studies at Aluva, Alencherry was appointed as assistant vicar at the Cathedral church of Changanacherry and Director of the Archdiocesan Faith Formation department.
Thereafter he served three years as secretary of the Commission for Catechism of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC). After his tenure in KCBC he was sent to Paris for higher studies. There he pursued his studies at Sorbonne University and the Catholic Institute from where he obtained his doctorate in biblical theology. On returning to India in 1986, Alencherry was appointed director of the pastoral Oriental Centre (POC) at Palarivattom and deputy secretary of KCBC. He served the Church in Kerala in that capacity until 1993. Simultaneously he had served also as professor at St Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Vadavathoor. He continued to teach at Vadavathoor until 1997. From 1994 to 1996 he was the protosyncellus of the metropolitan of Changanacherry.
Alencherry has been elected as the successor of the deceased Major Archbishop Maran Mar Varkey Vithayathil. He is the first head of the Syro-Malabar Church to be elected by its synod. When Pope John Paul II made the Syro-Malabar Church a major archiepiscopal church in 1992, appointing Antony Padiyara as its first major archbishop, he reserved the power to appoint the major archbishop and bishops. However, in 2004, the Holy See granted full administrative powers to the church, including the power to elect bishops
On 18 February 2012, Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the cardinalate, giving him a unique red biretta with a traditional Nasrani cross and gold ring during a ceremony in Saint Peter’s Basilica and create him Cardinal-Priest of San Bernardo alle Terme. On 24 April 2012 Mar Alencherry was made a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. He will hold these memberships until his 80th birthday.
His Beatitude Mar George Cardinal Alencherry participated as a cardinal-elector in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis. During the conclave Alencherry, (along with Coptic Catholic Patriarch-Emeritus Antonios Naguib, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, and Syro-Malankara Major Archbishop Easelios Cleemis) was one of the four cardinal-electors from outside the Latin Church who wore different vestments, proper to their respective churches.