Tag Archives: Syro-Malabar Church

Joy Alappat as new auxiliary bishop for the Syro-Malabarese USA

Joy AlappatI awoke today to read that His Holiness, Pope Francis, nominated a friend and former colleague to be an auxiliary bishop for the Syro-Malabarese Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Chicago. Father Joy Alappat, 57, the current rector of Mar Thoma Sleeha Cathedral in Bellwood, IL, takes on a new ministry: the first auxiliary bishop for the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in the USA.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is a fast growing Eastern Catholic Church which follows the East Syrian liturgical tradition; it would be a cousin to the Chaldean (Iraqi) Catholic Church. Often this Church is referred to as the Thomas Christians.

Born in Kerala, in 1956 the bishop-elect was ordained a priest of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Irinjalakuda in 1981. Following graduate studies and ministry in India, Father Joy came to the US in 1993 and served as a hospital chaplain at Georgetown University Hospital (1999-2002). Father Alappat worked in New Milford, CT, and Newark and Garfield, NJ.

The Church to which the bishop-elect belongs number about 4 million worldwide, largely in India; it is the second largest Eastern Catholic Church. In the USA, the Malabars  have one eparchy,  St. Thomas the Apostle of Chicago led by Bishop Jacob Angadiath, the first bishop of the eparchy. The official 2010 stats indicated that the eparchy serves 86,000 faithful, with 37 diocesan priests, 10 religious priests, and 18 parishes.

The date of Fr. Alappat’s episocopal consecration has yet to be determined.

May Saint Thomas richly bless my friend, Father Joy, as he takes up the cross of being a bishop in Christ’s vineyard.

Endogamous discrimination in the Syro-Malabar Church?

Many times when Catholics think of inculturation they mis-identify the term by saying that the Church just needs to lighten up its rule and fit to the local culture. Others will locate the philosophical and missionary effort inculturation in the liturgical sphere. Inculturation matters are a very contentious matter that gets people in crosshairs. Adapting or in some way making changes to a system  of living so that you can “fit in” is an external fact and is not the method the Catholic Church uses to bring Lord’s Good News to other peoples, that is, those who outside the European and North American context. The Catholic Church tends to focus on the interior life of the person; externals are secondary and may change in time.

There is, however, a more precise way of understanding inculturation deals with adaption in saying that it is “the incarnation of the Gospel in autonomous cultures and at the same time the introduction of these cultures into the life of the church” (John Paul II’s 1985 encyclical Slavorum Apostoli, or his address to the Pontifical Council for Culture plenary assembly on Jan. 17, 1987). It is also understood that inculturation is, as John Paul II said in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, “an intimate transformation of the authentic cultural values by their integration into Christianity and the implantation of Christianity into different human cultures.”

As Redemptoris Missio said, “By inculturation, the church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community” (52). And yet the Church speaks of a interpenetration of the Gospel into a given, that is, a particular socio-cultural context which  “gives inner fruitfulness to the spiritual qualities and gifts proper to each people …, strengthens these qualities, perfects them and restores them in Christ” (Gaudium et spes, 58). More on this issue here.

This is a long way to introduce the sticky issue of Indian Catholics retaining their customs of endogamy and not truly inculturating the Gospel. Judge for yourself: do the adherents to Knanaya customs cause a philosophical and theological problem here is that if we use the definitions noted above, or are we being “too Western” in wanting others to conform to a radical way of thinking which may weaken a culture? How would Christ judge the situation? Who bears the standard? How are the demands of the gospel really lived in this Christian caste? Who has ultimate authority, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, the Holy See, or the persons involved? Can endogamy be tolerated for a greater good?

The story of alleged discrimination among the Syro-Malabars can be read here.

Eastern Catholic Churches by the numbers, 2011

Eastern Catholic Churches 2011 stats.jpg

Just to give a sense of numbers of faithful who are members of the various Eastern Churches. While these stats are of 2011, they are basically correct. The churches that see growth are the Ukrainians, Malabars and Malakars.

Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, C.SS.R., RIP

Varkey Vithayathil.jpgVarkey Vithayathil, 84, a Redemptorist, bishop, cardinal and Major Archbishop for the Syro-Malabar Church (in India) died suddenly today of a heart attack at 2pm Ernakulam time.

Cardinal Vithayathil was ordained a priest in 1954 and ordained a bishop in 1996. In 1999, he appointed the Major Archbishop by Pope John Paul II. The same pope created Vithayathil a cardinal in 2001 giving him the title of San Bernardo alle Terme.
Trained in Canon Law at the Angelicum, Vithayathil taught the subject in the Redemptorist seminary. For a term he served as the Father Provincial of the Redemptorists of India and Sri Lanka and later serving as the Apostolic Administrator of a Benedictine abbey of monks.
Cardinal Vithayathil was a supporter of the 5th Marian doctrine, that of Mary’s role in salvation history as the co-redemptrix.
This will mean the Church will have a third election of a Major Archbishop in 2011. The Maronite and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches have just recently elected new heads.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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