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. 4             New Delhi                   Easter, 2010                         --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

EDITORIAL

 

The Nazrani wishes its readers and well wishers the Blessings, Peace and Joy of our Lord’s Resurrection. May the Risen Lord be our only hope all through the vicissitudes of our life.

 

The Resurrection of our Lord Iso’ – M’siha is the center of the Christian faith. Paulose Sleeha says that if Iso’ - M’siha is not raised from the dead, then our preaching and faith are in vain. Indeed, without the resurrection there would be no Christian preaching or faith. The disciples of Christ would have remained the broken and hopeless band which Yohannan Sleeha describes as being in hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.  They went nowhere and preached nothing until they met the Risen Lord, the doors being shut (Yohannan 20:19). Then they touched the wounds of the nails and the spear; they ate and drank with Him. The resurrection became the basis of everything they said and did (Acts 2-4): “…..for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Lk 24:39).  The resurrection reveals Iso’ of Nazareth as not only the expected Msiha of Israel, but as the King and Lord of a new Jerusalem: a new heaven and a new earth.

 

If Iso’ - M’siha is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. And if Iso’ – M’siha is not risen, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins! (1 Corinthians 15:14,17). With these words, Paulose Sleeha reminds us that it is the resurrection….Our Lord’s ultimate triumph over death….that we proclaim as the very heart of our faith. And it is in the affirmation of this truth that we gather not just to celebrate, but also to participate in that victory which alone leads us from death to life and from earth to heaven.

 

The resurrection is the very foundation of our faith. It is the fulfillment of the very mission of our Lord in this world. Having taken on our human nature and having experienced all that we experience, our Lord revealed that life is more than earthly happiness and personal fulfillment, offering His own life as a ransom, sold and held bondage to sin. Our Lord identified so intimately with us that He willingly submitted to brutal sufferings, mockery, and death itself, humbly becoming the least of all men in order to become the first in all things. Yet, despite the countless times in which we fall short of His glory, He continues to call us from glory to glory, transforming in Himself our crowns of thorns into crowns of victory and our tears of sadness into tears of unspeakable joy !

 

While the physical suffering, combined with the betrayal, mockery, lack of faithfulness, and even apathy, our Lord endured on our behalf is far beyond anything we can imagine or even experience personally, our attention as Christian is focused on Christ the Victor rather than the victim. As Paulose Sleeha proclaims, it is in His victory that the passion must be understood, lest our preaching and faith remains empty. Passion is overshadowed, or more appropriately illumined by that great and final Passover from death to life, from captivity to sin to freedom in faith and love, from enslavement to the life of this world to the freedom experienced in the life of the world to come. By trampling down death by death, He revealed the powerlessness of Satan, the pointlessness of sin, and the feeble deception of death as the end. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive, writes Paulose Sleeha, for “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:22,26). The resurrection of Christ, being the center of the Christian faith, is the basis of the Church’s liturgical life and the true model for all celebration and hence, we should always use an empty Sliba, without the dying figure of Christ preferably Marthoma Sliba on the Altar and in the Madbaha.

 

As we proclaim the Risen Lord, as we rejoice in His eternal and final victory, and as we taste of the “life of the world to come” here and now, let us recommit ourselves to the One Who, as the eternal Victor, shares His victory with all! Let us be renewed and refreshed by the empty tomb, assured that our salvation has already been accomplished through the Resurrection of Iso’ - M’siha. And let us love one another, forgiving even our enemies for the sake of the Resurrection!  Let us all experience the fullness of joy of this most holy Feast of Feasts, and may the peace and love of the victorious Risen Lord illumine and renew us all now and in the days to come!

 

April 27th, 2010 marks the 25 years memorial of the repose of Rev Fr Placid J Podippara. In this issue we place two articles viz 'Personallity and Philosophy of Fr Placid Podipara, cmi' by Rev Fr Joseph Kureethara cmi and 'Milestones in Fr Placid's pilgrimage' by Rev Fr Varghese Pathikulangara cmi respectively.

 

Personality and Philosophy of Fr Placid Podipara CMI -

Father of Mar Toma Nazrani Church

                                                                 Fr Joseph Kureethara cmi

 

Introduction

 

Rev. Dr. Placid J. Podipara CMI, as a profound historian and theologian of the 20th century, was in the line of the Fathers of the church. He was against the colonial attitude of the Latin Church, stood for the restoration of the identity of the individual Churches and researched relentlessly to unveil the authentic identity and the true history of them.

 

The philosophy and vision of Fr Placid[1] has become a part of the thought-structure of the modern Church. His influence is not limited to the East, but is also penetrating the West. The existential concerns of the post modern era got a counterpart in the field of ecclesiology.

 

Fr Placid is undoubtedly one of the most gifted original thinkers of the liberative movement of the Mar Toma Nazrani Church in the 20th century. As he himself once put it, he was neither pro-Syrian nor an anti-Latin, nor he was of any syndicate, but an obedient son of the Catholic Church who believed in the identity and individuality of every Church. In the process of analyzing the thought process of Fr Placid, I have tried to acquaint my readers with one of the premises of his basic philosophy i.e., each individual is unique and this uniqueness provide ample explanation for the communion of individuals.

 

This essay examines and analyses the personal philosophy of Fr Placid with a view to bring out his seminal contribution to the study of history and greatness of a Church, which is as old as Christianity itself. It also deals with Fr Placid’s penetrating analysis of the Church, especially the individuality of churches.

 

A correct perspective is often developed by one’s objective approach to the social processes as well as by the issues and the influences of different ideological currents and events on that particular individual. It is from these different aspects that an individual’s thought-pattern or his vision (World vision) is formed.

 

Fr Placid, unlike the so-called philosophers, was not a system builder. Like Aristotle or Aquinas he did not write treatises. Drawn into the vertex of freedom struggle, he was reaching to particular event, sometimes creating them also. Fr Placid’s ideas lie scattered in many of his writings, speeches, articles contributed to journals, lectures and activities. However, a study of these materials brings to one’s notice, an inner consistency of ideas which is a unique characteristic of philosophizing. His preoccupation with the concepts of identity, equality, freedom etc. which appear explicitly or implicitly in all his writings and utterances weave a consistency which go in for making the core of his philosophy.

 

This treatise is divided into five major sections. In the first section, I try to present the formative influences on Fr Placid. In the next, his search for truth is explained. Concepts of identity and individuality constitute major part of his philosophy. This is described in the third part. In the fourth, Fr Placid is being drawn as the visionary of the 20th century. The last section contains a critical evaluation of his whole philosophy.

 

A perusal of the writings of Fr Placid would bring to light, a consistent system of ideas which constitute his philosophy. The objective of the present work is to make an empirical examination and a critical analysis of the origin and development of the “ecclesial philosophy”, as I defined, of Fr Placid so as to bring out his views on Catholicism and contribution to Oriental Churches.

 

FORMATIVE INFLUENCES ON FR PLACID

 

19th century gave birth to a great number of intellectuals both in the east and in the west, in both secular and ecclesiastical fields. The last and one of the best among them was Rev. Fr Placid J. Podipara CMI. By virtue or his birth at the brim of the 19th century, he had his life and activities during this 20th century. He is the greatest Syro-Malabar ecclesiastical luminary of this century.  He now belongs to the galaxy of stalwarts who have served God and the Church as leaders of the renaissance of the Indian Church of St. Thomas Christians during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.’[2]

 

1.1  Birth of a great luminary      

 

Fr Placid was born on Oct 3, 1889 in the renowned Syrian Catholic family, Podipara, at Arpookara, Kottayam. He was the fifth son of Mr. Chacko Podipara and Mrs. Rosamma Chacko.  At baptism, he was named Joseph.

 

Since Arpookara is at the foot of Mannanam Hill, Besroumma,[3] he got the opportunity to smell and taste the fruits of the first indigenous religious Congregation of India which later became his home and abode. Carmelite fragrance of greatness inspired Joseph even from his very childhood.

 

He had his primary and secondary education at the St. Joseph’s L.P.S and St. Ephrem’s H.S respectively. Both these inspiring and well known institutions were run by the Mannanam monastery. One of the main purposes of educational mission by Carmelite Congregation is to inspire, promote and recruit more and more youth to be the servants in the vineyard of Christ.  Vast majority of CMI vocations are from its own schools and colleges.

 

Young Joseph also was inspired by the lifestyle of the Carmelites and sought admission to the Congregation. He was admitted to the Minor Seminary at Mannanam at the age of 15. He had his novitiate done at Ambazhakkadu Novitiate House and in January 1919, at the age of 20 he made his First Profession of the religious vows. He was from them known to the world as Bro. Placid of St. Joseph – a symbol of becoming a new person in Christ. 

 

Being an excellent and virtuous religious, he was sent to St. Joseph’s Seminary, Mangalore for his ecclesiastical studies. Risen up to the expectations of his superiors, he completed his studies in a distinguished manner and was ordained priest in December, 1927.

 

1.2 Placid in his early years      

 

Placid celebrated his First Holy Qurbana at St. Joseph’s Monastery Chapel and within a month was sent to Rome for higher studies. Fr. Placid’s studies in Rome hardly took him two years. He started for Rome in January 1928 and was back in India in December 1929 with doctorates in Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law from the Gregorian University. His high intellectual caliber combined with hard work, the thoroughness with which he had perused his studies while in Mangalore and system of academic requirements then prevailing in the Roman Universities enabled him to complete his studies in so short a time.

 

He was a student par excellence. His study materials and syllabus never chained him in the four walls of his room. He excelled in every field he entered in his student age. He conducted deep researches and scholarly discussions crossing the boundaries of his student hood.

 

He wrote several published and unpublished articles during his Mangalore and Roman days. He was never satisfied with the spoon-feeding done by his professors who were very often biased.  Placid considered professors as guides to knowledge rather than imposers.

 

1.3  Becoming a person

 

St. Joseph’s Seminary, Mangalore was meant for Latin Scholastics. But Syrians were also admitted. Formation given by this Jesuit Seminary was enough and more to christen any student into spokesman of Latin glory. It was a formation par procrustean. Naturally, young Syrians came out of the seminary cast in the Latin mould, i.e., practically equating the Catholic Church with the Latin Church. 

 

Fr Placid was an unusual type. He was a young man of convictions. He survived this test of the time. On the day of his First Holy Qurbana, during the reception meeting, he sprung a surprise on the invitees by responding in fluent Syriac, the liturgical language and at one time the lingua franca of St. Thomas Christians, to the toast proposed by an elderly priest.

 

An authentic person is one who knows his way, walks along it and leads others through it. This authenticity makes a person a philosopher. Hence it is right to call Fr Placid an authentic man, a philosopher. He knew, walked and led the rest through the right way.

 

A person is defined as a being who is indivisible in itself and divisible from everything else, possessing a spiritual nature. Hence it is right to call Fr Placid a true and authentic personality.

 

1.4  Searches and Researches

 

Fr Placid’s one and only aim in his life was “to be the witness of truth.”  Truth meant to him, as not a biased or a diluted one, but the ultimate truth. He searched incessantly for the unchangeable truth. He not only searched but also did researches on the proved and believed truths in the field of Ecclesiology and Church History. 

 

Paradoxically, he found that much of the concepts in the mind of the folk of the Church in his time were mere shadows of truth. They resembled truths but were not exactly truths. Whatever be the criterion, truth is ultimately one and the same. 

 

There was a constant struggle between the patriarchates of both the East and the West over their supremacy. During his seminary days, Placid had quietly prepared a very scholarly treatise entitled ‘The Patriarch of Antioch. It was a historic-dogmatic polemic as the primacy of St. Peter and his successors. With more than 400 citations form the Scriptures and from the early Christian writings he proved that Rome and not Antioch was the seat of the Primacy of Peter.

 

This was a prophetic call to the separated Jacobite brethren of Kerala to return to their mother Church and to reunion with Rome. The book was found to be of such topical interest that it was first serialized in the daily Deepika and later on published in book form, as the forerunner of more than 30 books to follow.

 

1.5  Involvement in the reunion, renewals and reformations

 

Fr Placid decided to work for the spiritual renewal as well as the reunion of the separated brethren. In 1930, he was appointed professor at Sacred Heart Scholasticate, Chethipuzha. It was in September of the same year that the reunion movement under Mar Ivanios had started. It found in Fr Placid a vigorous champion and an ardent supporter.

 

The prophetic nature of his work on the Supremacy of Peter was proved when the reunion movement began. He published several articles in connection with this. He travelled across Kerala in spite of teaching in the seminary, to preach and teach the right way. Besides the regular teaching assignment in the seminary, he was involved in very many other activities during his 24 years of residency at Chethipuzha. He was a sought-after retreat and convention preacher.

 

Dr. Placid has given an ideological thrust to the strings in the minds of all those people who are determined to pursue the true spirit of the East. He was cordially welcomed in every group whether it is a pro or anti reunion movement. 

 

Along with his professorial duties at the major seminary from 1930 to 1954, he was also at the service of the diocesan curia and was presiding judge of the matrimonial tribunal. The Bishops of Changanaseri considered Fr Placid an expert to advise them on important ecclesiastical matters.   

 

The reunited of the Malankara Church looked up to Fr Placid to enlighten them on theological, canonical and historical matters. The books and articles written by Fr Placid illumined them.  Through these works Fr Placid refuted on historical, philosophical and theological grounds the tenets of the separated brethren.

 

Reunion movement created a violent-storm in the Orthodox -Jacobite Church of Kerala. In the midst of all agitations, there resounded the voice of one person, who, while he instilled confidence in the minds of the Catholics, evoked nothing but respect and admiration in the hearts of the Orthodox. “Fr Placid was at home among all.” As Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorious remembered, “Fr Placid’s presence in any place was a blessing and was welcome to all irrespective of partisan feelings.”[4]

 

Fr Placid’s discourses were not just intellectual exercises or exhibition of erudition. He followed up his frequent and illuminating discourses with spiritual retreats for the lay people in various missions and parishes. 

 

1.6. Crystallization of His views

 

Fr Placid ardently desired for the establishment of truth in every field of human activity especially in the church. To walk in the right track, one should be sure of it at first. Jesus, says, “truth will liberate you” (John 8:32).

 

He had the strong conviction and profound vision about the way that had to be taken to achieve this truth. This was very much evident in all his activities. By his deep and dedicated researches he found out truth from its façade. He committed himself to work earnestly for the establishment of truth in every walk of life.

 

Fr Placid submitted a memorandum to His Eminence Eugineus Cardinal Tisserant, the Secretary to the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches on November 20, 1953. This memorandum appears to be a ‘landmark’ in the history of Oriental Churches in general and those in India in particular.[5] Moreover, it outlined the ‘ecclesiological’ vision of a man whom we boldly quality as the greatest ‘ecclesiastical luminary’ of India in the twentieth century. It is a “communico-ecclesiology”, propounded at a time when oven the pope who convoked the Vatican II was not dreamt of.

 

He crystallized his views in this memo, boldly. They are:-

1        The restoration of Syro-Malabar Rite,

2        Seminaries for the Syro-Malabarians,

3        Extension of Syro-Malabar territory and jurisdiction,

4        A mission of the Syro-Malabarians,

5        Syro-Malabar Provinces for Latin religious institutes,

6        Religious Congregations and Institutes among Syro-Malabarians, and

7        Educational institutions. 

 

1.6.1. The restoration of Syro-Malabar Rite

 

Every culture[6] is indivisible in itself and distinct from others. There can be some interaction in the course of time. But mere copying or imposition of another culture only results in the destruction of one culture. Copying is not an authentic activity. 

 

This is true in the case of Rite also. Mar Toma Nazranis had a culture and mainly from this their rituals originated. It was gradually developed through traditional and timely inculturatons and adaptations. This has been terminated by the Latin imposition by and from Diamper Synod.[7]  This imposition was against individual freedom.

 

What Fr Placid meant by the restoration was to be true and authentic in every respect. This unique vision of him attributes him the title of a born-philosopher.

 

1.6.2. Seminaries for the Syro-Malabarians

 

Every culture is known through its members. Usually members are imparted culture traditionally.  In many cases, there can be seen the attack and encroachment of powerful over powerless. This results in the wiping out of culture. By accumulating power and strength in every field each culture grows.

 

Training which is authentically given can only give birth to new citizens who can develop it in a progressive and fruitful manner. Every culture should have its own centers for giving formation to the young generation of both the presbytery and the laity. This desire of Fr Placid is more or less fulfilled by certain wise steps taken by Rome.

 

1.6.3. Extension of the Syro-Malabar territory and jurisdiction

 

Every individual has the fundamental right to practice, profess and propagate his religion, in his own special ways. This is right in the case of evangelization also. In the mean time, we see that what Fr Placid wished at a time when the whole Christian world was ancilla latinae, is fulfilled.

 

1.6.4. A mission for the Syro-Malabarians

 

In concurrence with the idea afore-mentioned, Fr Placid also wished to reestablish the Syro-Malabarians’ ardent desire for missionary work in their own rite.

 

1.6.5. Syro-Malabar Provinces for Latin Institutes

 

Latin Institutes of religious, show a wide and large interest in recruiting vocation from the Syro-Malabarians but they never give the recruited, training in their own rite. This results in the losing of identity. Fr Placid, as a prophet, analyzed this vast developing ‘castration process’ and raised his voice against it.

 

1.6.6. Religious Congregations and Institutes among Syro-Malabarians

 

This wish of Fr Placid to organize canonically the different religious institutes among the Syro-Malabarians and to establish them also on sound financial basis is almost realized today.

 

1.6.7. Educational Institutions

 

Fr Placid was satisfied with the educational policy of Syro-Malabar Church. But he strongly criticized the competition even among the parishes of the same eparchy to put up higher educational institutions. He expressed his wish that the amount of money unnecessarily spent on these institutions could thus be diverted for social works such as erection of hospitals, of technical institutes etc. which were the crying need of the day. His concern for the poor and the oppressed, and his emphasis on social work, a field where the Church ought to invest more of her resources, are all made clear in this context.

 

Conclusion

 

A prophet is one who moves according to the commands given by his conscience. Naturally, every prophet becomes a big question in the society. He is truly a philosopher. In the strictest sense, a philosopher can either be a person who documents some theories which are chiefly un-remediable or un-graspable or be a person who listens and obeys the beats of his heart and living a life accordingly in its minutest fulfillment. Fr Placid was in the latter group. He philosophized everything without having a systematized philosophy of his own. We can have the touch of integrity and uniqueness, when we get acquaintance with him.

 

The climate at the time of his early years forced him to take a stand which majority dare not to take. This helped him to do lot to the Church in India as a whole and Syro-Malabar Church in particular. He was never a log in a flow. He had the courage to swim against the flow.



[1] A abridged version of this treatise is published as “Philosophical Foundations of Fr Placid’s Theology,” The Nazrani, Vol 16, No. 4, July-September, 2006, p. 1-5.

[2] Anthony Narithookil CMI, “Fr Placid J. Podipara CMI,” Christian Orient VII, No. 1 (March-June 1986): p.9.

[3] Besroumma is a Syriac word which means house on the hill.  It was used by the founding fathers to name Mannanam Hill.

[4] Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios,“Fr Placid and Malankara Church,” Christian Orient VII, No. 1 (March-June 1986): p.51.

[5] Ibid., p.63.

[6] Culture is the expression of people. Every culture is unique.

[7] An unofficial Synod on Malabar Coast which catalyzed the liquidating process of Malabar Church and Roman Church

 

Mile Stones in Father Placid’s Pilgrimage

 

1899                (October 3) Birth at Arpookara in Podipara Family

1918                Entrance to the CMI (then TOCD) Religious Institute

1919                First Commitment in Religious Life

1927                Priestly Ordination

1928                To Rome for Higher Studies

1930                At Chethipuzha as Seminary Professor with Doctorates in Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law

1934                Member of the Pontifical Commission for Codifying the Canon Law of Oriental Churches

1939                Syriac Language Examiner of Kerala University

1943                Definitor General (First Consultor to the CMI Prior General)

1952                Consultor to the Congregation for Oriental Churches

1953                Private Secretary to His Eminence Card. Tisserant during his official visitation of Oriental Churches in India

1954                Member of the Pontifical Commission for restoring the Syro-Malabar Qurbana; to Rome again

1955                Professor of Pontifical Oriental Institute and Urban University, Rome

1956                Visitator to the Bethany (SIC) Convents in India

1958                Rector of the Malabar College in Rome

1960                Consultor to the Pontifical Commission for preparing the Agenda of Second Vatican Council

1963                Papal Expert to Vatican II; Consultor to the Synodal Commission for Eastern Churches

1969                Golden Jubilee of Religious Commitment

1974                Member of the Pontifical Commission for preparing the ‘Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches’

1977                Golden Jubilee of Priestly Ordination

1980                Back form Rome and a Resident at Chethipuzha

1985                (April 27) Slept in the Lord

 

                                                              Fr Varghese Pathikulangara cmi