Reactions to Vatican Settlement of Rite Issue (Updated)

Dear Mr. Kottoor,

I am surprised by your statement that “the Eparchy leadership was adamant that all should be registered members to get sacramental service.” From where did you invent this? As Bishop of Faridabad I have never held this position. Instead I have always been saying that there is absolutely no compulsion on anybody to join the new diocese. The Joint-Pastoral Letter (JPL) signed by Archbishops of Delhi and Faridabad, clearly stated that “the faithful of any sui iuris Church are certainly welcome to participate actively in the liturgical celebrations of any other sui iuris Church. Our faith must be practiced in peace and serenity and without any tension.” Here both the Pastors, out of genuine pastoral solicitude, have generously agreed to administer sacraments to the faithful of the other Church, except in the case of baptism and marriage. This contradicts your statement “A second is the seal of approval given that everyone has the right and duty to follow one’s Rite and get sacramental service from the parish one resides, irrespective of the Rite of the parish.”

The present Instruction from Rome has upheld the same position; it has made clear what they should do for baptism, confirmation and marriage.

kuriakose-Bharanikulangara-Please read and try to understand the Letter of the Oriental congregation and don’t simply copy and report everything that is passed on to such a prestigious online service.

Thank you

Archbishop Kuriakose

Dr Kottoor replied:

Dear Archbishop Kuriacose, 

         Thank you very much for your prompt reaction which is going to be posted immediately. Action speaks louder than words. What does en-mass transfer of CM faithful from one diocese to another without consultation and against their will like sheep or cattle from one shed to another? If this not compulsion it is all very good — all is well that ends well — and there would not have been any uproar or outburst in Delhi for more than one year. 

          So let discussion continue till considered views and conclusions from all sides  emerge in the light of instructions  from the Vatican. That they may all be one, the prayer of the Lord is to be  achieved, not divisive enclave of dominance based on class, caste, Rite, region, language etc. which to my view has become bane or  curse of the Church in India. Let the dream of the Lord come true. james kottoor

What Dr James Kottoor wrote, to which Arch Bishop responded: 

All is well that ends well. Finally the battle of wits led by a determined core group of nine with Kurian Joseph as its enlightened leader and thousands of Syromalabar laity following, that lasted for more than one and a half years from 24th May 2014 to 28th January 28 2016 brought bright smiles with pryerful “thank you Lord” on the faces of the whole battalion and frown on the Eparchy promoters treating laity like chattel or cattle, transferring them from one shed (diocese) to another, ignoring and giving too hoots to the wishes of the transferred. 

One of the big bone of contenton of Syromalabar church has been that it should always get “free state certificate” not from a Latin Parish where the  marriage partner is residing but from its own Eparchy headquarters in the area which is done away with now. It has to be from the parish where one resides which alone is most sensible. A second is the seal of approval given that everyone has the right and duty to follow one’s Rite and get sacramental service from the parish one resides, irrespective of the Rite of the parish. The Eparchy leadership was adamant that all should be registered members to get sacramental service.

More comments to follow after digesting all details and their implications. What follows is James Kottorintroductory comments from Kurian Joseph who takes care to be humble and very subdued and not gloating over, the legitimate victory of the just cause he and his team has been championing. Now please listen to him. james kottoor, editor, ccv)

Report from Sri Kurian Joseph (New Delhi):

Yesterday evening we met Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi, who kindly handed over to us the “Instruction” dated 28 January 2016 Ref. 197/2014  in response to our Petition dated 24 May 2014. This “Instruction” came from no less than the Prefect of Congregatio Pro Ecclesiiis Orientalibus (Congregation for Oriental Churches). It covers all the SM faithful “residing in the territory of the Eparchy of Faridabad”. It is an extremely positive and favourable response and takes into account all the issues and difficulties we highlighted in our Petition.                                 

We were overwhelmed and humbled – and our faith renewed – by the way the Holy Spirit works in the Church. We attach the full 2-page document for your study. Here, however, are the highlights:

1.       We remain of Syro-Malabar ancestry, as we had strongly insisted when some people demanded that we join the Latin Rite if we wished to participate in the Latin Church. Clearly no one can take our Syro-Malabar ancestry away from us. Indeed our position – of wanting to remain of SM ancestry and yet stay with the Latin Church – has been described as “most understandable and even praiseworthy”. 

2.       While retaining our Syro-Malabar heritage, the “Instruction” explicitly states that we “can remain fully involved in the life and activities of the parish of the Latin Church” wherever we are domiciled. This includes explicitly the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and matrimony. 

3.       For marriages, the documentation required “will be accepted from either the Syro-Malabar pastor or the Latin Pastor of the place of baptism”. Specifically, “both pastors are called … to facilitate the tranquil and serene prosecution of their life of faith”. In fact, the Congregation has enjoined on the Syro-Malabar Synod to “ask of their Priests the same spirit of willing collaboration whenever a Syro-Malabar faithful who frequents a Latin parish in Delhi requests or participates in the above-mentioned sacraments in Kerala”.

4.       Certainly, as we ourselves have been stating from the outset, all the permissions, records and delegation implicit in this will have to be communicated between the Latin parish priest and the “Oriental Pastor”, but the faithful will not get involved in this internal processing. Instead this “inter-ecclesial collaboration should take place with respect, solicitude and promptitude …”

5.       Finally, and probably the most significant statements in the “Instruction” are the following, taken in conjunction with each other: 

a)      “…The situation can be happily managed, even within the framework of existing law, if all concerned act with mutual understanding and respect”; and b)      “This Congregation, … observing the current canonical norms, confident of the pastoral solicitude of the Pastors, both Latin and Syro-Malabar, considers it neither necessary nor opportune to grant particular indults of a general character.”  As you know, an Indult is an exception to a general church law. Here, the Congregation holds that what we have asked for is “within the framework of existing law”, so there is no exception required and hence no Indult is called for.

Since our Petition referred to Delhi and the Faridabad Eparchy, the “Instruction” gives this specific context. However, the principles laid down are so clear, and the assertion that all this is “within the framework of existing law” (so that no Indult is “necessary”) so forceful that we believe this will be of universal application.

We therefore propose to have a Thanksgiving service and General Body Meeting in the near future, beginning with Holy Mass and bringing our Petition to a formal and happy close. We will leave it to the General Body to decide whether to continue Laity4Unity in the present or some other form for continued strengthening of the Church in India. Thank you for your support and may the Holy Spirit continue to guide us. 

Kurien Joseph – Delhi

Responding to Dr. Kottoors comment Kurian Joseph wrote: 

Dear Dr James,  thank you for your support as always : Just two major points:

1) We do not want to present this as our "triumph". 

We would rather use the tone used by Fr Edward Mudavassery SJ, the Pune-based Asian Provincial of the Jesuits (I think that is the designation) 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 thank the Lord for all of you who had struggled persistently and patiently in the face of many obstacles to fight for truth and justice. I will continue to pray for the end of all bitterness so that we can worship our One Heavenly Father as His beloved children. 
Wish you every Blessing of the Lenten season and the Joy of Easter in anticipation!"

Presenting it as a "triumph", I feel, would not be magnanimous. 

Also, we have fought for 20 months, not just for Delhi but to strike a blow for SM Catholics everywhere. We realise how much time and stress went into this effort. it will not be easy to replicate this effort in other parts of India or the world. 
Presenting it as a "triumph" will only harden the resistance by the SM hierarchy, especially outside Delhi. 

Also, for the same reason, I would not use the expression "battle of wits". I would rather term this a "struggle" by a group of determined SM Catholics, who are also professionals recognized in their respective fields.

2)  I am not the leader of the group. 
Indeed Lait4Unity has consciously avoided any "leadershiip" role. Yes, I'm the main spokesman and the main writer, but I can assure you that most of the members have contributed significant writings both in the Petition and thereafter. In face every word that is written goes through a process of vetting by every one of the nine members plus another very strong supporter who cannot be named. Nothing is issued (except perhaps for this and similar emails) without taking everyyone on board. We would like to be referred to merely as the Group of Nine Petitioners, whose antecedents are published in our Petition.
      That absence of egos within the group has given it enormous strength – and the Churches in Delhi and Faridabad (and hence the Synod) have been forced to deal with us. If you wish to give names, they are in the Petition. Originally, we were 10 but soon became 9 when one person (Jenis Francis) became President of the Catholic Association and hence felt it would be unethical to include his name in the Petition from then on. We could also be known as "Ajit Pudussery et al" as his is the first name in the Petition – in alphabetical order.
3) One thing that troubles me (this is my personal and not the group's opinion). It was our Petition, but the Vatican did not reply to us – it did not even acknowledge receipt, although the Ref no. in the top right clearly shows 2014, the year of our Petition. Instead the Vatican sends this response (welcome as it is) to the Bishops. Are we Church Citizens not worth replying to? I know you have raised this point in many different ways in many different articles, so perhaps  you may like to comment on this. However, in the current relatively favourable context, please don't highlight this as my opinion.
4) Our sentiments have been termed "praiseworthy".
One typical taunt by the hard-core SM group is summed up in the following email from someone in Delhi, who sent it to us and to all our supporters as soon as the rumour of a communication from Rome surface:
" I had concluded my last e-mail like this – It  has been widely circulated that the ‘Syro-Malabar faithful of the Archdiocese of Delhi will get an indult from Rome in their favour’.  They have put their legs in two boats.  They want to be Latin in Delhi but Syrian in Kerala.  This self acclaimed intelligent and educated group has been waiting for a reply for their memorandum for more than one year.  The Rite-Issue has become like the ancient dictum:  “The Mountain was in labour and the mouse was produced” –  Read more later.

 Now from reliable sources I came to know that Rome has made it clear to our “Rite Issue Friends” (Laity4Unity) that a born Syro-Malabar remains ever a Syro-Malabar, until his death.  No more claim for double citizenship and no rescript."

I felt that the part highlighter in yellow in para 1 of my comments on the Rome document was a direct rejection of this. So this is another point you may like to highlight in your editorial
Altogether, we would like this presented in such a way as to encourage SM Catholics all over the world in their struggle for justice and to compel their local Bishops – American, Canadian, and others – to understand the real message of our Lord. Even now, as it did when the Kalyan Indult came in, the SM church could put in all sorts of procedural hurdles, especially outside Delhi, so let's keep the emotional tone down.
Thank you once more for all your help.
Warm regards.

Chief Editor Dr James Kottoor replies:

My Dear Kurian,

   My heartfelt congratulations and appreciation for the real humble Christian spirit brimming over all through your letter.V ery sorry I have been stuck up with computer and internet problems all this week, so a lot of work remains to be done.

As for me editorial note my tribute was not to your personal

 leadership role  but to you team workand I bent backward as subdued as possible and I can't change any of my convictions before anyone, even before Faridabad Archbishop (a misnomer for onewho does not have a sufragon.)Just ignore that.
     In  journalistic practice no one is expected to agree with an   editorial, in this case mine. Every one has a right and duty to agree or disagree with it. You happen to disagree for some valid reasons and therefore I suggest that you publish your reaction as it is or with modification which will be an open tribute to what you are. Transparency is the rule in Journalism and Christian life. We should teach people how we can disagree without being disagreeable.
    So I earnestly request you to allow your reaction to be published with or without modification, just as I responded to Faridabad Bishop. Let others also write and let public opinion decide who is right, partially or fully.Keep up the good work Kurian, I am full of praise for you, wether you agree with me or not. God bless you. james

Sri Joseph Mattappally wrote: 

The struggle for justice done by Delhi Syro Malabar laity moves to the annals of the Church History. The dispute was between the faithful hailing from Syro-Malabar ancestry living in Delhi and the Eparchy of Faridabad which claimed that their initial membership should be with Faridabad diocese. Almost all catholic human rights activists from within the Church raised the issue in public, but the Faridabad diocese stood stern on its' stand.

The Vatican decision, in short, has come up in favour of the laity. The verdict the laity received invariably says that no indult was necessary here, and everything is already specified in the Code of Canon. This means that the Eparchy of Faridabad and the whole of Syro-Malabar were misinterpreting Code of Canon at their will and still continue doing that.

This document clearly says that the final goal of all interpretations should be growth of the faithful and it was disregard for this aspect that led to this clash. It also should be noted that the Vatican officials stress the necessity of mutual understanding between both the Rites. It remains a truth that the Syro-Malabar approach is not of tolerating the Latins in practise.

JM EditorThis verdict, however, has strengthened the revolting Syro-Malabar laity in India especially those in Kerala. Kerala is getting more and more tensed. Public pressure is such that at Olloor (Trichur Archdiocese), the parish had to give compensation to an offended layman and the pastor also had to apologise in public. Definitely there is a solution for everything – diologue. I think, the Syro-Malabar authorities may wait for such a thing to happen until things move beyond anybody’s control. Joseph Mattappally – asso. editor, CCV)

Abraham Koothottil.

We are living at a time when even religious freedom is accepted in general, though some religions do not grant freedom with regard to other religions. But why one is tied to a Rite in which he is born? If one prefers to join a latin parish it is his freedom to do so, though he is born from Syrian Parents! Religion and within religion different Rites actually tie man down hindering his freedom. These are so many devices to lord it over him. 

Hello Dear Koothottil,

Congrats and thank you for joining the chorus with your very pertinent comments. I have been searching for your email to connect with you for long since we lost disconnected long ago. So please write to me telling all about your whereabouts and activities.

Thomas Chacko Areechira (Case Manager at Westchester County, New York) wrote:

  1. It is a great thing for all the catholics belong to Syro-Malabar ancestry, especially those out side Kerala. We all should express our heartfelt thanks to all those worked hard. Thank you all.

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1 Response

  1. Denis Daniel says:

    My respect and admiration for Dr. James Kottoor compels me to say that Archbishop Kuriacose has not been very charitable towards him. Why has His Grace addressed him 'Mr,' when the world addresses him as 'Dr'? His Grace's advice 'to try to understand the Letter of the Oriental congregation and not to simply copy and report everything that is passed on to such a prestigious online service' also falls short of good taste.

    Denis Daniel.

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