Pope grants Syro-Malabar Catholics jurisdiction in Middle East

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MUMBAI, India – Catholics belonging to the Syro-Malabar rite in Arabia will be under the jurisdiction of their own Eastern Rite, Pope Francis announced on Monday.

Until now, all Catholics were under the two apostolic vicariates of Arabia, who are of the Latin rite.

Francis made his announcement while meeting with Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil, the head of  Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, which is based in the state of Kerala in India.

“The faithful of your beloved Church are known, not only in India, but throughout the whole world, for the ‘vigour’ of their faith and piety. Your faith is of an ancient origin, as it is rooted in the witness to the point of martyrdom of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of India. You are all custodians and heirs of his apostolic preaching,” Francis said.

“Your history is unique and precious, and it is a special heritage for all God’s holy people. And I take this opportunity to stress that Eastern traditions are indispensable treasures in the life of the Church,” the pope added.

“The Christian East allows us to draw from ancient and ever new sources of spirituality; these become fresh springs that bring vitality to the Church. It is, therefore, good for me, as Bishop of Rome, to encourage you, the Syro-Malabar Catholic faithful, wherever you are, to cultivate the sense of belonging you have to your Church sui iuris, so that your great liturgical, theological, spiritual and cultural heritage may shine ever more brightly,” Francis continued.

He said he also told Thattil to ask for jurisdiction with regard to all your migrants in so many parts of the Middle East. There are an estimated 400,000  Syro-Malabar Indian immigrants who work in the Persian Gulf region.

“I said that they have to ask for jurisdiction in writing, but I have given it today and they can already exercise it,” Francis said.

“This has to be put in writing, but again, as of today, you can exercise it. I wish to help you, not supersede you, because the nature of your Church sui iuris empowers you not only to examine carefully the situations and challenges that you face, but also to take appropriate steps to address them, with responsibility and evangelical courage, remaining faithful to the guidance of the Major Archbishop and the Synod,” the pope continued. “This is what the Church wants, for apart from Peter, apart from the Major Archbishop, there is no Church.”

Father Kuriakose Mundadan, secretary of the presbyteral council in in Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese told Crux it was a long-standing demand and plan of the Syro-Malabar Church that their faithful could practise their faith in their own tradition in the Middle East.

“But we should not forget the fact that the faithful of different rites like Latin, Maronite, Lebanese, and the others live together in peace and harmony. Sometimes the over consciousness of own rite may negatively affect the basic unity of the faithful,” he said.

In his meeting with Thattil, Francis said that in moments of difficulty and crisis, people should not be overcome by discouragement or a sense of helplessness in the face of problems.

“Brothers and sisters, let us not extinguish hope, grow weary of patience, or close ourselves off to prejudices that fuel animosities,” the pope said.

“When making decisions, let us think of the poor and the estranged, those on the peripheries, in India and the diaspora, and those in an existential crisis. Let us also be mindful of those who are suffering and waiting for signs of hope and consolation,” he continued.

“I know that the lives of Christians in many places are difficult, but the difference is that we Christians respond to evil with good and we work tirelessly with all believers for the good of humanity,” Francis said.


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