Let us pray, peace be with us:

"The Cross that has been the cause of our good and by which our mortal humanity was set free,
O Lord, be for us a strong fortress. And by this Cross, we shall overcome the wicked one and All his devices."

(Syro-Malabar Qurbana)

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                     THE NAZRANI        "The Truth will make you free"

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------            Vol. 20, No. 3             New Delhi                   March, 2010                         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

EDITORIAL

 

 The season of Great Fast is the time of preparation for the feast of the Resurrection of our Lord. Among the Orientals, Great Fast is not a season of morbidity and gloominess. It is because of the Latin Seminary training and Latin practices that some people still use violet coloured vestments during Great Fast. Those who have studied in Latin Seminaries and the Mangalapuzha mixture know only western/latin theology and latin practices and hence they have a tendency even today to copy everything Latin / western. The latinisation of Nazranis began with the arrival of foreign colonialists. They are gone. But their by-products, lacking the slightest notion of what oriental liturgy is, let alone its history and development through the centuries, still want to keep the latin elements in our Divine Liturgy. It is not the Oriental tradition to change the colour of the vestments during Great Fast. On the contrary, according to Oriental tradition, it is a time of joyfulness and purification. We are called to "anoint our faces" and to "cleanse our bodies as we cleanse our souls". It is our repentance that God desires, not our remorse. We sorrow for our sins, but we do so in the joy of God's mercy. We mortify our flesh, but we do so in the joy of our resurrection into life everlasting.  We make ready for the Resurrection during Great Fast, both Christ's Resurrection and our own.

 

Our Syriac prayers ask us to pray more, to do more sacrifices and to give more alms during this season.  It also reminds us to remember specially our dear departed ones and do prayer and penance for them in this season of Great Fast. Our fasting must be infused with the comfort of prayer, the relief of repentance, and the joy of encountering our Lord in those with whom we share the very hope that is in us.  Only then will our joy in encountering the "empty tomb" be whole, complete, and lacking in nothing. Only then will our Lord's ultimate victory over sin and death be revealed in its fullness to - and within - us.


Beyond fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, the Great Fast challenges us to overcome the tendency to live a superficial Christian life, filled with correct words and deeds but devoid of the transfiguring and saving Spirit. We recall the words of the Lord: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men (Mathai 15:8-9). In overcoming a purely formal and superficial approach to our faith, we move closer to the ultimate aim of our lives: loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is precisely in this that we find the dynamic tension inherent in the Gospel - the tension between the glamour of this world and the glory of the world to come. Paulose Sleeha reminds us that, while we are in the world, we are not of the world. Yet it is precisely in the world that we are challenged to allow the transforming love of the Risen Lord to fill us, to change us, and to prompt us to continue the work of salvation until Our Lord returns in glory. As we enter  the school of repentance, let us flee from the distractions and tensions of this world and focus our hearts and minds on the empty cross, the empty tomb at which we, like the Myrrh bearing Women, delight in the words of life: He is not here; He is Risen! Let us shun that purely superficial and formal observance of Great Fast that can become an obstacle to true repentance and interior change. And, strengthened and renewed by fasting and almsgiving, prayer and repentance, let us engage the world by proclaiming the life of the world to come in a world which so desperately struggles to find and regain hope and direction. While The Nazrani asks your continued prayers and forgiveness, we pray that the blessings inherent in the Great Fast spring will in due time fill us with the joy of the Risen Lord, to Whom belongs all glory, honor and worship now and for ever and ever.

 

THE ROMAN DAYS(1954 TO 1980): A PERIOD OF BOOST AND EXPANSION FOR THE SYRO-MALABAR CHURCH

                                                                                 Prof Dr Thomas Kalayil, cmi

 

The jurisdictional confinement of the Syro-Malabar Church within a narrow strip of land in Kerala was always a vexing grief to Fr. Placid.  He dreamt a day when the Oriental Rite Catholics of India would be governed by their own Bishops everywhere in India. Before the interference of the Portuguese missionaries the hierarch of the St Thomas Christians had the title “Metropolitan and Gate of All India”. After the so-called synod of Diamper in 1599, they were governed by Latin prelates for about three centuries. Even when the Syro-Malabar hierarchy was re-established in 1923, their jurisdictional confinement to a narrow strip of land continued. The Syro-Malabarians, being an enterprising people, betake themselves to any remote region of India and even abroad. By the first half of the twentieth century, they are found in large numbers in the big cities of India outside Kerala. Their pastoral care was with the local Latin Prelates who were generally ignorant of the liturgy, traditions and spiritual heritage of these faithful. But their counter-parts, the non-Catholic St Thomas Christians, had Churches and pastors wherever they were found in India and abroad in sizeable numbers. The Oriental Catholics of India wondered whether the deprival of pastors of their own rite in analogous situations was a punishment for being in communion with Rome. That is why Fr. Placid ardently yearned for the expansion of Oriental Catholic jurisdiction all over India. For him this would be also the restoration of the title of their hierarch before the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries – “Metropolitan and Gate of All India”.

 

Another important matter which troubled Fr. Placid was the liturgy of the Syro-Malabar church. Since the Synod of Diamper (Udayamperur) in 1599, the Oriental Liturgy of the St Thomas Christians was in a mutilated and Latinized form. According to Fr. Placid the restoration of the Liturgy had to be done first. His efforts in Rome were mainly centered around the above mentioned two objectives.

 

Restoration of the Syro-Malabar Liturgy:

Fr. Placid was a member of the Liturgical Commission appointed by Pope Pius XII in 1954 to restore the Syro-Malabar Liturgy. This was a long cherished desire of Fr. Placid, and in fact, he was the moving force behind it. The commission completed its research studies and submitted the restored text of the Holy Qurbana to the Supreme Pontiff in due time. In the meantime, the restoration of the Pontifical (rites for ordination, consecration of the Churches, etc), ordered by Pope Pius XI some decades ago was completed and published in 1957 with the approval of Pope Pius XII (After the 16th century the Prelates of the Syro-Malabar church were using the Latin Pontifical). Fr. Placid had a role in this restoration work too. Now, with regard to the restored text of the Holy Qurbana, Pope Pius XII subjected it to the scrutiny of an expert commission consisting of Cardinals and other eminent scholars, and on their recommendation, approved it on June 26, 1957 and ordered it to be used in the Syro-Malabar church. Incidentally, it should be noted that this restored text was a model for the renewal of the Liturgy of the Latin Rite after the Second Vatican Council. In fact many of the important members of the commission for the restoration of the Syro-Malabar Liturgy were appointed members of the Commission for the renewal of the Latin Liturgy as well.

 

Extension of the Territory of the Syro-Malabar Jurisdiction:

During the Second World War and shortly afterwards there was a mass exodus of the Syro-Malabar Christians from central Travancore to the hilly and forest areas of North Malabar. They were enterprising people who went in search of more land for cultivation.  The conditions created by the World Wars and the hope of growing more food grains and other agricultural products to make a better living induced them to leave their kith and kin and to go to the jungle areas of Malabar. This region called “Malabar” today, is the northern part of the state of Kerala. (In a wider sense “Malabar” is a synonym for Kerala in history and literature). This northern part of Kerala called “Malabar” was then directly under British regime, whereas the southern part consisting of two kingdoms, Cochin and Travancore, was under native kings in feudal alliance with the British Empire. When the migration of a large number of Syro-Malabarians took place before the middle of the twentieth century, the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy was not able to exercise jurisdiction over them and care for their spiritual and social uplift in the regions of their immigration because those regions in Malabar were north of the river “Bharathapuzha”, the northern boundary of their jurisdiction. Simultaneous to the flux to the north, there was also an exodus to the south, to the fertile region of Punalur, Mayam, Amboori, etc. in the southern part of Travancore. The Syro-Malabar Hierarchy could not reach them also because those regions were beyond the river “ Pampa”, its southern boundary. The spiritual care of the immigrants therefore was left to the mercy of the Latin Prelates of the respective regions. But because of the paucity of priests, those Latin Prelates could not do much in this regard. At the invitation of the Latin diocese of Calicut, a team of CMI priests undertook the pastoral care of some centres in Malabar. These centres, due to their self-emptying and master-minded efforts, have turned out to be the strongholds of Syro-Malabarians today. Those CMI missionaries being students and confreres of Father Placid could give him a correct picture of the situation in Malabar. He was very enthusiastic about the fellow Christians who had to migrate to unfamiliar places to make a living. He could convince Cardinal Tisserant of the necessity of extending the Syro-Malabar jurisdiction beyond the rivers Bharathapuzha and Pampa. The Cardinal, after his historical visit to these places in 1953, reported the matter to the Holy Father. Things moved quickly, and on December 31, 1953 the eparchy of Tellicherry in Malabar was erected and Very Rev. Fr. Sebastian Valloppilly of Palai was appointed its Apostolic Administrator. The Holy See made further extension of the Syro-Malabar territory in 1955: of the Eparchy of Changanassery upto Kannyakumari (Cape Comorin); of Trichur up to Coimbatore and its surrounding places in Tamil Nadu; and of Tellicherry to Mangalore, Chickamangalore and Mysore in Karnataka State. In 1956 Changanassery was raised to the status of an Archdiocese. The silent moving force behind this vigorous growth of the Syro-Malabar Church was Father Placid.

 

Another mile-stone in the growth of the Syro-Malabar church was the entrusting of mission eparchies to her in the Middle and North India. This Oriental Church, rich in vocations to priesthood and religious life, was catering to the Latin dioceses of India, supplying missionary personnel in large numbers. This continues to a great extent even today. Fr. Placid could somehow convince the responsible persons in Vatican that the Oriental Churches also have an equal right to do mission work according to their own Rites and expand their churches. Thus Chanda, Satna, Sagar, Ujjain, Jagadalpur, Bijnor, Rajkot and Gorakhpur are erected as mission eparchies in the course of time and entrusted to the Syro-Malabar Church.

 

Two other most cherished desires of Fr. Placid, namely, the recognition of the right of the Syro-Malabar church to look after her faithful in the diaspora and a head to the Church with the age-old title “Metropolitan and Gate of All India”, were remaining unfulfilled.  He made several appeals to the Holy See in this regard. He once told that he kept on arguing for it every six months when the Congregation for the Oriental churches was having its business sessions. As a peritus or Papal Expert in the Second Vatican Council he tried his best to get the clauses about the pastoral care of the Oriental Catholics by their own pastors in the places of diaspora be included in the council documents. As a result the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, no. 4 and that on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in the church, no. 23, 3 were formed. For several years after the Council, this provision for the diaspora was not implemented in India in the case of the Syro-Malabar church. This pained Fr. Placid. Yet he did not lose heart. He continued with his appeals.  But it should be remembered that he was moderate in the use of language, and argued his case only on factual and legal grounds. He would never encourage or endorse petitions by over-zealous or extremist persons or groups, drafted in unbecoming language. He used to say that by so doing those people were defeating their own cause. Once he told that he had managed to make a petition of his to be included among the letters which the Holy Father Pope Paul VI would personally read and respond. He could do this through a Monsignor who was working in the Vatican Secretariat. It is reported that the Holy Father positively reacted to it and gave orders for immediate action. But unfortunately the orders seem to have got stuck in “red tapism” and nothing was effected.

 

Fr. Placid got golden opportunity to act when Pope John Paul I was elected to succeed Pope Paul VI. The new Pontiff had acquaintance with Fr. Placid when he was Bishop Albino Luciani of the diocese of Vittorio Veneto in north Italy. In those days Fr. Placid as the Rector of the Malabar college used to take the group of Syro-Malabar Seminarians under his care in Rome to Vittorio Veneto during summer holidays for rest and relaxation. The Bishop Luciani had then shown special affection towards this group of Indian seminarians and their Rector. When this affectionate pastor was elected to the Papacy, Fr. Placid was naturally overjoyed. He lost no time to submit a new petition to the Holy Father bringing to his attention the need of implementing the provisions of the Second Vatican council for the pastoral care of the Oriental rite Catholics dispersed in the different parts of India. The Holy Father, whose Pontificate lasted only  for thirty three days, immediately took steps in this regard and appointed Mar Antony Padiyara, then Archbishop of Changanassery, Apostolic Visitator to make a study of the situation and to report to him the findings for further action. Archbishop Padiyara did the needed study and submitted his report to the Holy See. But before that Pope John Paul I had passed away and no immediate action was taken on the report. Nevertheless, the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy patiently continued pressing the matter and thus in 1988 the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Kalyan was erected for the faithful of this church residing within the Latin dioceses of Bombay, Nasik and Pune. Mar Paul Chittilapilly, a student and then associate of Fr. Placid in Malabar College, Rome, was appointed the first Bishop of Kalyan. This was a partial fulfillment of Fr. Placid’s dream but he was not alive to see this auspicious day.

 

Another partial fulfillment of his dream and efforts happened when the Syro-Malabar church was raised to the status of a Major Archiepiscopate and His Beatitude Mar Antony Padiyara was appointed head and father of this church in 1992. But all know that this Church’s jurisdiction is unjustly restricted to that of the present eparchies in South India.  Fr. Placid was always pleading for the restoration of the ancient “All India” jurisdiction of this Church and the title of its Head, “Metropolitan and Gate of All India”.  It is upto the Syro-Malabar Episcopal Synod today to do the necessary in this line.

 

Reminiscences of other Activities:

During Fr. Placid’s stay in Rome, the Congregation for the Oriental Churches entrusted him with several duties. The codification or review of the constitution of some religious Institutes was among them. In 1956 he was appointed visitator of the Bethany congregation for women in the Syro-Malankara Church. In 1958 he was given charge as Rector of a group of Syro-Malabar seminarians studying in Rome. The two Vice-Rectors who were appointed to assist him successively, became Bishops later. They are Mar Joseph Pallickaparampil of Palai and Mar Paul Chittilappilly of Kalyan.  Archbishop Mar George Valiamattam of Thalassery and Bishop Mar George Punnakottil of Kothamangalam were among the seminarians at that time. Fr. Placid was a beloved father to his seminarians. They approached him with filial respect and full freedom. A piece of advice which Fr. Placid gave to his seminarians is worthy to be mentioned here; “Be loyal, but not slavish”.  Its meaning is deeper than it appears to be. A correct assessment of human behaviour is manifested here. One who is slavish will not be sincere or loyal.  He will be an opportunist, seeking chances to gratify self interests. One cannot trust him.  On the other hand, one who is loyal will be sincere, selfless and committed. He will persevere despite difficulties as King Lear’s daughter who loved him with the sapidity of “salt”.

 

The Pontifical Institute of Oriental Studies in Rome got Fr. Placid appointed as Professor there. He was a living and rich source of knowledge for the students who wanted to specialize in the historical, canonical, cultural and liturgical traditions of St. Thomas Christians of India.

 

Fr. Placid served also as the Postulator of the cause of the beatification of Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the co-Founder of the CMI Congregation, of which he was a loyal member.

 

This faithful son of the Syro-Malabar church was very keen to impart the authentic tradition of his mother Church to the students for priesthood in this Church. He felt that there was the need of a separate Major Seminary for the Syro-Malabarians, where genuine Oriental traditions are imparted. He made a request to this effect to Cardinal Tisserant and the result is the St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary and the Paurasthya Vidya Pitham at Vadavathoor, Kottayam.

 

FATHER PLACID J. PODIPARA, CMI

A Luminary of the Saint Thomas Christians

A Legacy for the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate

 

Born in Podipara family

at Arpookara on 3 October 1899

in 1918 entered in CMI

committed to the Lord in 1919

in 1927 a minister of the Mystery

travelled to Rome in 1928

for higher ecclesiastical study

landed at Sacred Heart seminary

at Chettipuzha, Changanaseri, in 1930

with Doctorates in three disciplines:

Philosophy, Canon Law, theology

Started his teaching ministry

continuing the CMI legacy

of ecclesiastical education with energy.

 

To Card. Tisserant during his visitation in 1953

Father Placid served as the private secretary.

In 1955 began his teaching in Rome

at Oriental Institute and Urban University

till he returned to Chethipuzha in 1980.

Serving God through the Church in the world

on 27 April 1985 he slept in the Lord

to receive the eternal reward.

In the heart of the Church is he placed

for in his heart the Church he carried.

 

Father Placid a towering personality

an ecclesial luminary of outstanding category

life of austerity, humility and holy

made his Church known to the world

wrote and taught on history

Theology, Canon law, and liturgy.

fought for the right of the Rite

“Let us also go and die with him,” was his spirit.

Indeed sought the help with dignity

never yielded to things petty

dreamed of things worthy in fifty-three:

seminaries for the ecclesial community,

extension of Syro-Malabar territory,

for the church a mission territory,

form provinces according to the way,

found religious congregations,

and educational institutions.

Placid dedicated wholeheartedly

so are they reality today.

 

Father Placid knew better

to awake people from deep slumber

to walk with fire and without tire

to cross the rivers of death and barrier

to triumph as the real heir

To contribute to the world order.

Father Placid made the disclosure

The Saint Thomas Christians of India are

“Indian in culture

Oriental in worship

Christian in faith.”

In him people recognized,

“The age of the Fathers has ended.

But to our Church he remains one in the line of the Fathers”

In him people noticed,

“A man of firm convictions,

based on solid study and deep spirituality.

Others reported,

“He showed great practical sense

and pastoral concern.”

Yet others echoed,

“He did not live to see some of the fruits

of his ardent desire and painstaking efforts.”

In him people read,

“one of the best historians,

the Thomas Christians had known.”

Others rightly called,

 “a Great Father of the Indian Church

of the Thomas Christians.”

In him people found,

“an ecumenical theologian

in the best sense of the word.”

Many people told,

“He lived and died to vindicate

the identity of his Church.”

To a puzzling question of a friend

Father Placid remarked,

“Jesus Christ did not get

any good treatment in this world.”

 

The promised land

The people he envisaged

The presence of the Lord

Go before the Synod

to plan for things ahead

to walk the way of the Lord.

 

Salutations to you, Father Placid!

May your memory

help us to walk forward and upward

and join you in the heavenly liturgy.

 

                                                                     Paulachan Kochappilly, CMI