Dear Dr James,
Thank you for publicizing in CCV this historic moment of the Church in India.
I have also read Archbishop Bharanikulangara’s response to you.
Laity4Unity believes we need to take a step back from this very emotive issue – especially because the document from Rome has placed its trust in the goodwill of both sides. We agree with Rome that Archbishop Bharanikulangara’s intentions are also for the best and we are happy to work with the Archbishops of both sides to bring this entire matter to a graceful, humane and Christian conclusion.
1. Understanding Rome
You had kindly published our introduction to the “Instruction” from the Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches. You had alsosimultaneously published the actual text of the Instruction. Laity4Unity had decided to send both together so that you, every reader of CCV and every thinking person could make up his or her own mind on the extent to which our Introduction and understanding of the document is accurate and fair.
2. Gospel principles
Laity4Unity does not see this as anyone’s victory. It should be presumed that both sides love the Church and wish to strengthen it. It can also be easily understood in any human context that two sides may honestly have completely opposing viewpoints and stances, so that they see the same document in different way. The denouement of this particular issue is, we feel, best expressed by Fr Edward Mudavassery SJ, former Provincial of South Asia, now based in Pune, who wrote this to us: "I am extremely happy for the outcome. It is not a question of who won or who lost, but the Gospel Principles have won over Legalisms… I will continue to pray for the end of all bitterness so that we can worship our One Heavenly Father as His beloved children.”
3. The “Feet in two boats” metaphor
One typical charge by the inevitable fringe element (the one that blatantly declares that Syrians are “superior” to Latins!) of our opposite side is that we are claiming “double citizenship” in the Latin and the SM churches. While we have always rejected this metaphor as failing to understand the concept of Church, Rome has endorsed us even more strongly. It has described our position – of wanting to remain of SM ancestry and yet stay with the Latin Church – as “most understandable and even praiseworthy”. That is a direct – and hopefully final – rejection and repudiation of this absurd metaphor.
4. The Laity4Unity Coordinating Group
This is a group of nine lay people domiciled in Delhi, whose names and antecedents are published in our Petition. Originally, we were 10 but soon became 9 when one person became President of the local Catholic Association and hence felt it would be unethical to retain his name in the Petition. We have no “Leader” in any sense of the term. We believe that this complete absence of hierarchy within the group and the members’ genuine respect and regard for one another are major factors that have made it such an effective entity.
Our group of nine (plus another very strong supporter who cannot be named) has received warm encouragement, implicit trust and enthusiastic psychological and financial support – even without forming a formal Association or Society – from thousands of lay people similarly domiciled in Delhi and surroundings, some for three and perhaps four generations. We have been immensely strengthened by our brothers and sisters in Mumbai who had been involved 20 years ago in the struggle that culminated in the Kalyan Indult and who sent us invaluable historical documents pertaining not just to Mumbai but to an even older struggle in Chennai (which continues today). Our cause has also received guidance and moral support from high Church dignitaries, many priests (the very first being a retired Dominican professor of Canon law, now deceased) and nuns, both Latin and Syrian. We also strongly believe that we speak for SM Catholics not just in Delhi but around the world.
My own position – in a group that has consciously avoided the concept of “leadership” – has never been more than that of an “unofficial spokesman” – that too on some occasions. (This is a matter of fact and not a reflection of "humility".) Our original Petition was written and edited jointly by all members, going through many, many drafts, with several members painstakingly researching and writing various sections. Ever since that Petition, every word that has been written or published in the press and the social media has gone through a process of vetting by every one of the nine members. Nothing is issued (except perhaps for an occasional explanatory communication like the present one) without taking everyone’s consensus,
We would therefore like to be referred to merely as Laity4Unity or the Delhi Petitioners or, as you referred to us somewhere, the Group of Nine or, in standard citations, "Ajit Pudussery et al" (as this is the first name in the Petition – in alphabetical order).
With warm regards,