Installation: First Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church

Installation: First Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church

L'Osservatore Romano

The 'Caput et Pater' who governs and loves

Saturday, 14 May 2005, marked a day of history for the Syro-Malankara Church, due to the official ceremony for its elevation to Major Archiepiscopal dignity and the installation of its first "Caput et Pater", Cyril Mar Baselios Malancharuvil, a member of the Order of the Imitation of Christ.

The Pontifical announcement of 10 February culminated a succession of significant steps involving Pastors and faithful. These began on 20 September 1930 with the reunion of Mar Ivanios with Rome, who was joined thereafter by various other ecclesiastics and faithful.

Like the small mustard seed of biblical fame, the Syro-Malankara Church, blessed by the Lord and sustained by him during these 75 years of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the entire Catholic Church, has become a huge tree which might be emulated by everybody and a venerable source of praise to God.

With the further development of conferral of this noteworthy title comes greater responsibility. There is, indeed, similarity with the lamp referred to in the Gospel, which was placed high so as to give light to everyone in their home. In fact, the Syro-Malankara Church is now recognized as ecclesiastically fully-matured.

With a renewed enthusiasm for carrying out the universal Church's mission, particularly in the context of India, as well as in ecumenical and interreligious settings, this Church ably asserts its fidelity to authentic religious tradition.

Moreover, it promotes a qualified and generous contribution towards solid coexistence that pursues the spiritual and material well-being of the Indian identity.

An unforgettable event

Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, presided over the unforgettable celebration held at Trivandrum, capital of Kerala and site of the historic See of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

The Divine Liturgy for the enthronement of the first Major Archbishop, the "Holy Qurbono" and the "Sunthroniso Ceremony", was concelebrated by the Syro-Malankara Bishops in the presence of numerous Syro-Malabar and Latin Pastors including: Mar Varkey Vithayathil, Cardinal Major Archbishop of Ernakualam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabar Church; Archbishops Mar Joseph Powathil of Changanacherry and Mar Kuriakose Kunnacheey of the Syro-Malabar Church; and the Latin Metropolitan of Trivandrum, Archbishop Maria Callist Soosa Pakiam, who also gave an exhortation to the faithful.

The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, proclaimed the Latin texts of both the Pontifical Bull which designated the elevation of the Church, and that which announced that the Church's Head was accorded the title Major Archbishop.

Both Bulls carry respectively the signature of the Supreme Pontiff at the time, Pope John Paul II, as well as of the Secretary of the State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. During the ceremony, the Archiepiscopal Chancellor read a translation in the Malayalam language.

During his homily, Cardinal Daoud expressed thanks to God and recognized the profound communion which exists between the Roman Pontiff and the Syro-Malankara Church. He recalled the memory of the recently departed Pope John Paul II, amid applause which combined grief and great veneration.

He also conveyed the paternal greetings and Apostolic Blessing of the newly-elected Pope Benedict XVI, which were conveyed to the Cardinal Prefect on the day prior to his departure for India. Again, the faithful responded with great joy and devotion.

In his remarks, Cardinal Daoud outlined the salient historical features of the evolution of this event, such as the early phase and its first contacts with specific intent of union with the Petrine See.

"We can find a man of fire, thirsty for unity", the Cardinal said, "one who is capable of reading the signs of the times; who in his prophetic sight has seen clearly and afar: Mar Ivanios. He cherished a great dream that became a great project: unity. With his steadfast companion, Mar Theophilos, Mar Ivanios was received into the Catholic Church, along with one priest, one deacon and one layperson, each of whom made their Catholic Profession of Faith before Bishop Benziger of Quilon.

"Within one year, there was an expanded reunification within the little Malankara Catholic Church, with the admission of the majority of the members of the Order of the Imitation of Christ. This incorporated all of the Sisters of the same Order, in addition to 35 priests and about 4,500 faithful.

"By 1950, the community extended to 65,000 members. Currently it numbers some 500,000 adherents. Eight bishops constitute the Synod of this Church, and besides Trivandrum, there are four other Eparchies: Tiruvalla, Bathery, Marthandom and Muvattupuzha. There are 700 priests, 600 seminarians and more than 2,000 religious priests and sisters".

'Caput et Pater'

The Cardinal Prefect paid sincere homage to this Church, indicating his strong encouragement for its future mission and imparting good wishes to the new Major Archbishop, Mar Baselios. While recalling the early years of their common programme of study in Rome and their friendship in Damascene College, the Major Archbishop was praised for his devotion to the Church.

Mention was also made of the various offices which he held on the local and national levels as well as within the organizational setting of the universal Church, especially in the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, of which he is a member.

He was upheld for being a true "Caput et Pater," the Oriental Canon Law's description of the Major Archbishop (cf. Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, canon 152). Being the "Head and Father" who governs and loves, he needs to orient missionary initiative with an apostolic dynamism and an ecclesiastical zeal.

Given the responsibility to maintain intact the proper tradition, and according to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, it is his prerogative not only to conserve that tradition but also the liturgical language: Syriac. Indeed, explicit fidelity to the ecumenical and interreligious perspective was an objective of the same Council.

In the second part of the liturgy, after the epiclesis and the commemoration of Holy Mary and of the Saints, the "Sunthroniso" took place. The prayers spoken by Cardinal Daoud in the Syriac language, together with the rites themselves, were very moving and solemn.

First, there was the "divine call" of the elected, and later the enthronement, the bestowal of the pastoral and apostolic benediction interspersed with hymns and psalms.

Then came the evangelical letter and Profession of Faith by the candidate: "In the name of One God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. I, Cyril Mar Baselios, elected as Head and Father of the Malankara Major Archiepiscopal Church, profess my faith before this holy Sanctuary and this holy Synod. I will defend the true faith that our Lord Jesus Christ has conferred upon his Apostles and through them to all the Fathers and the Doctors of the true faith... ".

The proclamation of the elected (Korususo) and the prayer of Mar Cleemis were recited in a low voice by Cardinal Daoud in Syriac. Meanwhile, the ministers accompanied the rite by ringing the "marbahasa" and bells, and the assembly sang the Kyrie Eleison.

In the final segment, there was the triple elevation by 12 priests of the new Major Archbishop, seated upon his throne. Throughout, the song "Axios" (He is worthy! He is worthy!) was sung several times, amid shouts of joy by the Syro-Malankara faithful.
For their promise of obedience, the Major Archbishop was approached by the Bishops and by representatives of the priests, Religious and laity.

The celebration began at 8 a.m. and lasted five hours. More than 40,000 devotees participated. Many followed the ceremony via short circuit video.

Once the procession, which had started from the central School compound, reached the Major Archiepiscopal House, Mr Oommen Chandey, Chief Minister of Kerala, along with other dignitaries, delivered a congratulatory address. A public meeting had also been arranged after the "Sunthroniso" ceremony, in which Cardinal Vithayathil and other ecclesiastical and civil Authorities greeted the new Major Archbishop. In response, Mar Baselios conveyed his gratitude to all.

The Cardinal Prefect presented to the new Major Archbishop a gold medal from the last year of the Pontificate of John Paul II, a gift of the late Pope to the Syro-Malankara which he so loved. Indeed, the celebration was originally scheduled for 7 April and was changed due to the death of the Holy Father.

The homage of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches for this historic event was symbolized by the gift of an artistic pectoral cross.

Additional visits

Subsequently, Cardinal Daoud visited other eparchies of the Syro-Malankara Church. On his arrival at Trivandrum on Thursday morning, 12 May, accompanied by Mons. Maurizio Malvestiti, Rev. Johnson Varughese Kaimalayil and personnel of the Oriental Congregation, the Cardinal was cordially received by Mar Baselios, with Auxiliary Bishops Joshua Mar Ignatios and Joseph Mar Thomas, and Youhanon Mar Chrysostom, Bishop of Marthandom. A short prayer was recited at the Major Archiepiscopal house, after which greetings were delivered by ecclesiastical representatives.

The visit to Tiruvalla followed later that same afternoon, and the Cardinal was received there by Bishop Isaac Mar Cleemis and Bishop Emeritus Geevarghese Mar Timoteos. A blessing was formally conducted by the Pushpagiri Pharmacy College, another praiseworthy social initiative of this Church.

Evening Prayer was then held at the new cathedral, truly a beautiful and artistic tribute to the Syrian heritage. Afterwards, there was a reception with the Bishops, leaders of the Orthodox and Protestant Churches, and delegates from the political and social sectors.

On Friday, 13 May, there was a brief visit to Muvattupuzha. This included a liturgical welcome at the Cathedral, led by Bishop Thomas Mar Koorilos, with attendance by priests, Religious and faithful. Later, numerous youngsters met the Cardinal for a cordial dialogue. This is the newest Diocese of the Syro-Malankara Church, which has been guided since 2003 by its youthful Pastor and has many accomplishments to its credit, including various charitable and educational activities.

Finally, on Sunday, 15 May, there was a visit to the Eparchy of Marthandom, thus leaving the state of Kerala and arriving at Tamil Nadu. Here many people also assembled at the Bishop's House for a reception, prayer service and an exchange of greetings.

This continued later, at the Minor Seminary, followed by an extended public meeting at the Cathedral. There, Bishop Mar Chrysostom and local lay Authorities welcomed Cardinal Daoud and Mar Baselios. This was the latter's first official act after his installation.
Next, a series of brief visits took place with different Religious Communities, such as the Bethany Fathers at Kottayam, Bethany Sisters at Nalan-chira and the Daughters of Mary at Kudappanakunnu and at Marthandom.

Before leaving Trivandrum for Rome, the Cardinal Prefect blessed the first stone of the new office of the Major Archiepiscopal Curia, expressing his fervent desire for the continued growth of the very promising Syro-Malankara Church.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
8 June 2005, page 9

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