George compliments Pamplanil on ‘Covid 19’ Latin-Syro Laity Stalwarts Dialogue!




Our columnists George (Latin Rite)  and Pamplanil (Syromalabar Rite) belong to the two main factions of the Catholic Church in India. Both are frankly-speaking lay stalwarts on religion and politics. ‘Covid 19’  has brought them together to complement each other on the too many ritual excesses practised and promoted by the clergy in their respective churches.


Church by definition is the “People of God” comprising all believers. Horizontal and vertical dialogue should be the outstanding trait of any vibrant community small or big (family, state or nation). In the Church this does not happen, especially vertical dialogue, due to the man-made division between Clergy and laity.


Foot-washing is Church hall mark!

There should be no place for’Hierarchy’ in the Church because ‘we are all brothers only’{Mt.23,8} called to do ‘foot-washing’ ministry by imitating Jesus. Until hierarchy of domination vanishes – it will never vanish on its own until it is cast out forcefully – no vertical dialogue will ever take place.


Three-fold Vireses!

What is happening now is stray horizontal dialogue between committed laity with conviction and courage like George and Pamplanil. Laity in their middle ages may never see it.


The present teenagers may hope to see it when they are bent with age since  the present hierarchy is infected with the triple viruses called, Criminal Silence, Criminal coverup and criminal climbing, worse than ‘Covid 19! james kottoor, editor ccv.


Please read below  on ‘Covid  18’ on Latin Church!


Dear James,

This refers to our common friend and philosopher Varghese Pamplanil’s article in which he hopes that something good may come out of the present Covid-19 crisis. 

Varghese is at his scathing best when pinpointing the excesses that are happening in his community of Syro Malabar Catholics.  He could not have been more right.  Today, the Catholic faith is all about rituals and throwing money on avoidable church feasts and ceremonies, such as in honour of dead persons

I belong to Latin Rite of Catholic faith.  This branch has traditionally been regarded as the poor cousin of Syro Malabar gentry of elite Catholics in Kerala.   When I say “poor”, it is not like being the TV images of starving people in some countries in Africa.  Here the poverty is relative.  If Syro Malabar’s total net worth of properties, investments, cash on hand etc. add up to Rs 20,000 Crore, those of the Latin’s come to Rs 10,000 Cr – quite a nice way to be poor!

Many think that I am Syrian as I happen to look and speak unlike a typical Latin.  I recall an interesting episode.  I happened to join a tour which one of the Ernakulam based tour companies organized on the occasion of late Pope John Paul’s elevation to sainthood.  There were four priests in our group, all belonging to Syro Malabar.  I concealed my identity as Latin.  On the day of ceremony we could not go anywhere near the Basilica and ended up witnessing the proceedings on screen at a café.

Next day, we visited Vatican.  I have been to Rome thrice before but joined nevertheless the group as I haven’t yet started studying Bible.  Today, even if my grandfather is declared a saint, I would rather sit at home and watch than go to St. Peters.  As we were moving around and admiring the pomp and majesty of the Basilica, I happened to come by one of the priests from our groupI casually mentioned to him that all these things are in the hands of Latins.


That was enough for the priest to let loose his accumulating feeling of helplessness inside him.   He mentioned that the whole world is with them except Kerala.  The chap thought I was Syrian!  I was just testing him out as I had heard stories that Syro people in Kottayam area refer to Latins as cats, meaning that they are leopards or tigers.  He had this look on his face that had this expression of him having just shrunken to a cat.  I am mentioning this to point out the dark side of caste divide within Catholic Church in Kerala while it pontificates rest of India about communal harmony and acceptance. 

My Church is equally ugly when it comes to making grand affairs of weddings, ceremonies to commemorate the dead, baptism, first Holy Communion and a whole host of functions and rituals. Very often people end up having to borrow money to have these functions as they have become the standard to be kept and respected.   All these functions give a false sense to people of other faiths that the Catholic community is very well to do.  Sad reality is that there is poverty among Catholics; poverty not so much for food but of education, health-care and housing.

What right does the Church have to keep on encouraging all these wasteful expenditure when one of its members is in dire need of help?  Instead ever so many occasions are being invented and people are made to follow the herd mentality – that person has done it so I must, otherwise what people will talk of us. Even a daily wage worker who relies on his daily earning to feed his family end up having to do functions like wedding with minimum 300 persons.  He will spend rest of his life repaying loans he took and some friendly loans will never get paid.  Why to have such grand functions?

It is the church’s responsibilities to constantly educate parishioners to live within one’s means.  They don’t do it as every occasion represents a money- generating opportunity for the priests.  When my son got married to a Lithuanian girl at the Cathedral in Vilnius, there were just 30 guests including my wife and me.  That is the way weddings are conducted in Europe.  Varghese too referred to such standards in Europe. 


With regard to my church, I am particularly peeved at a relative new church feast known as “OotuThirunal”, roughly translated as “Holy Feast of Meals”.  This is done in memory of St. Joseph.  I remember that this feast used to happen in the grand old days only at Kannamaly Church, a coastal area located almost at the southern tip of Kochi.  I remember going there with three of my friends walking all the way from Nettoor.  I may have been 10 when I first went there. 

Those days Nettoor was an island.  So, we used to cross the ferry to next island Kumbalam and then take another ferry to Edakochi.  It is a long walk from there all the way to Kannamaly.  None of us had any money with us.  The ferrymen used to takes us free as we were children.  Along the way, all that we had was wayside tea shops for getting free glasses of water.   If I recollect well, there was a small charge for partaking the meal but we being children were allowed in gratis.  That was once in year experience of having bellyful of a meal!  Then, we would walk back.  Imagine,  will any mother these days allow a 10 year to undertake such a thing? 

My mother didn’t say a word because she knew why we were doing this – hunger.  Those were the days 9 out 10 families in Kerala were considered lucky if they could have one meal a day.  Today I am very happy that I grew up that way.

I left Kerala at a very young age.  My trips home for vacation was infrequent as spare money was hard to come by.  Then the gulf boom started and Kerala changed all of a sudden.  I too ended up in Gulf and during my visits home I began to notice that this oottuthirunal feast was catching up like a virus. If this church can have it, we must too.  Then the competitive spirit of doing better than the other began.  I am not sure if Syro Malabar people have this feast but Latin churches throughout Kerala conducts this jamboree once every year. 


The Times of India (15/03/2020) carried a report that Kannamally church has decided to cancel this feast due to Covid-19.  Varghese, let us both take this as the beginning of many good to follow.  The report stated that their budgeted expense was Rs 40 lakhs!  Reading this my thoughts began to shift to another church in Ernakulam that takes out full page advertisements in leading dailies to announce their ottuthirunal. Last year it reported to have catered to 250,000 persons! They announce it as some great achievement.


I sigh to myself, “What a waste!  Does anyone think and ask himself / herself “why are we doing this?”, “What for?, “Do we have the moral authority to do this when this money could be used to better the lives of our poor”? Kannamaly and nearby Chellanam, for example, every year face the wrath of the sea and monsoons.  Several people, mostly fisher folks,  lose their home or land or both every year.   Rs 40 lakhs is enough for building 4 homes costing 10 lakhs each. 

The truth is that it is possible for Catholic Church at each parish level to alleviate the poverty of education, health and housing by simply downsizing all functions and money thus saved donated to societies like St Vincent de Paul which every parish has and whose accounts are audited too.  For example, if there is a wedding and list of invitees come to 300 then cut it down to 100 or even less and contribute the money saved to the society.  Similarly the functions held on 7th, 30th and 40th day and annual commemorative service can be downsized and money donated to the society in memory of the deceased.  The church must also donate a portion of their collections and other income to the society. 

Also, a Donor Club can be constituted whereby well-off among the parishioners can commit certain funds monthly to the society.  At present St Vincent de Paul Societies don’t get much.  The church should take leadership in changing the believers’ attitude.  If this suggestion is implemented, the Society will be in a better position to provide help in housing, health and education needs.  As superstar Mohanlal says in one of his advertisements, “Lets Change”. And as our own super star of a writer Varghese says, “Let us hope something good may come”.

George Nedumparambil,, #9567157947

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. CYRIAC says:


  2. Vincent says:

    Well written and thought provoking article. The main point in the article is about unnecessary feasting, celebrations and rituals being observed among Catholics. The laity should wake up and think. 

  3. Joseph Karukappally says:

    I do not know who in the world gave the idea, that Oottu Perunal  is for Kannamaly alone.

    Many parishes had the tradition, as long as there were josephs to mobilise the festivity, irrespective of Latin or Syrian.

    Any how, more ottuperunal is for St.Jude than for St.Joseph.

    Too much of generalising of parochial info without any check 

    Write something after a good study or just keep mum

    Joseph Karukappally

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.