News Digest

Towards a Historiography of Martyr Devasahayam

J. ROSARIO NARCHISON, Indian School of Asian Theology, Whitefield.

CHAI Paper. Reproduced from India’s Christian Heritage
Ed. Dr. Oberland Snaitang & Chev. Prof. George Menachery
Dharmaram, Bangalore 23


Bishop Emeritus of Sagar MP Mon. Joseph Pastor Neelankavil Passed away yesterday 17th Feb., 2021 at dawn . His body will be cremated at Mulayam and the remains will be buried at the Sagar Cathedral. He was a scholar of note (see paper clip). The article on the feasts of the SyroMalabar Church, published in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India Vol. 2 in 1973 and an article he wrote about his friend Prof. Menachery for the latter's Sapthathi are reproduced here.

Prof. George Menachery, encyclopaedist and historian turned eighty on 2nd April, 2018. A gathering of his admirers including leaders and dignitaries from the fields of politics, culture, literature, art, and religion, representing the various organisations where he has been president, director, or other office-bearer, gathered to greet him on the occasion. The gathering unanimously decided to commence the cultural luminary's Asheethi celebrations with an eight day lecture programme at the Kerala Sahitya Samithi from 27th May (Sunday) to 3rd June (Sunday). Prof. John Cyriac, Dr. Puthezhath Ramachandran, Dr. Shornur Karthikeyan, Prof. M. Muraleedharan, Prof. M. Madhavankutty, Dr. Devassy Panthallukkaran, Thomas Kollannur, Baby Mookken, Joseph John Keethra, Prof. V. A. Varghese P. M. M. Shareef, Dr. Paul Pulikkan, Prof. V. P. Jones, Davis Kannampuzha were among those who spoke on the occasion.

At the Inauguration of the 17th Triennial Conference of the Church History Association of India (CHAI) Southern India Branch held at Pazhaya Seminary (Old Seminary), Kottayam by HH the Catholicos Baselios Marthoma Paulose the Second HH being donned with a Ponnaada (shawl) by HH's former Professor and noted historian Chev. George Menachery. Dr. Albert Oliver Jetti (Chancellor, SHUATS, Allahabad), Dr. Leonard Fernando (CHAI President and Rector of the St. Joseph's College, Trichy), Dr. Charles Dias (Ex. M. P.), Dr. K. M. George, Dr. Sunny Mathew and Dr. Varghese Perayil are in the picture.

Sister Claire Passes Away
--Prof. George Menachery

Allow me to share with you the sad and unexpected news of the death of Sister Claire whom we all respected and admired.
“Dear friends, it is with deep mourning that I was asked to convey to you all lovers of the art of sister Claire the message that after a brief illness and stomach pain, she suddenly passed away today (11th Feb., 2018). Her funeral mass will be on Monday in the church opposite her convent at 15.00h. Her convent has also inaugurauted in her life time a small gallery with her art.
Let us remember her soul in prayer and her Family and convent.”
From Herzliche Grüße / Gudrun Löwner

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P. J. Kurien presents Prof. George Menachery at Delhi with the CHAI (Church History Association of India) Distinguished Service Award at the Millennium Hall Delhi.



Doubtful Thomas was here
B’Link, BusinessLine, Jan. 13, 2017




·         Hand of faith: The Mar Thoma shrine at Azhikode village, near Kodungallur, which houses a fragment of arm bone believed to be that of Thomas the Apostle. Photo: Zac O’Yeah

Hand of faith: The Mar Thoma shrine at Azhikode village, near Kodungallur, which houses a fragment of arm bone believed to be that of Thomas the Apostle. Photo: Zac O’Yeah

·         Tragic footnote: A marble plaque at Little Mount mentions the martyrdom of the apostle. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Tragic footnote: A marble plaque at Little Mount mentions the martyrdom of the apostle. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

·         Way down: Entrance to the crypt at Little Mount. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Way down: Entrance to the crypt at Little Mount. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

·         Holy hideout: The 16th-Century Shrine of Our Lady of Health on Chinnamalai, or Little Mount, a rocky knoll in Chennai. St Thomas’s tiny private cave has been preserved underneath this chapel. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Holy hideout: The 16th-Century Shrine of Our Lady of Health on Chinnamalai, or Little Mount, a rocky knoll in Chennai. St Thomas’s tiny private cave has been preserved underneath this chapel. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

·         Shard of evidence: A small piece of the ‘lancehead that killed St Thomas’ on display at St Thomas Basilica. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Shard of evidence: A small piece of the ‘lancehead that killed St Thomas’ on display at St Thomas Basilica. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

·         Journey’s end: The St Thomas Basilica on Chennai’s Marina Beach marks the apostle’s final resting place. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Journey’s end: The St Thomas Basilica on Chennai’s Marina Beach marks the apostle’s final resting place. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

·         Fresh off the boat: A marble plaque in Kodungallur. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Fresh off the boat: A marble plaque in Kodungallur. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

·         Sculptures outside the Kottakavu church show Thomas with new converts. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Sculptures outside the Kottakavu church show Thomas with new converts. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

·         Go East: View from Palghat pass (with the Nilgiri mountains in the background), which formed a part of ancient trading routes from Kerala. Thomas is thought to have hitch-hiked overland to neighbouring Tamil Nadu. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Go East: View from Palghat pass (with the Nilgiri mountains in the background), which formed a part of ancient trading routes from Kerala. Thomas is thought to have hitch-hiked overland to neighbouring Tamil Nadu. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

·         Here to eternity: Wall map at the Mar Thoma shrine outside Kodungallur shows the route traversed by Thomas. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Here to eternity: Wall map at the Mar Thoma shrine outside Kodungallur shows the route traversed by Thomas. Photo: Zac O'Yeah

Re-imagining St Thomas the Apostle’s epic backpacker adventure in the south India of 50-70 AD

I jump off the bus in the coastal Kerala town of Kodungallur. As far as I can make out I’m the only tourist here, which is a relief considering how Kerala tends to be overrun with backpackers and rich foreigners in search of ayurvedic rejuvenation. But I am soon to learn that thousands of years ago Kodungallur was as infested with foreigners as any beach resort is today.

Walking past the typical small-town businesses — laminators and pharmacies, a biriyani joint called City Restaurant, an Internet café offering ‘100% Job Oriented Computer Courses’, the Sitara Beauty Collection that sells gift items, the Cranganore Muziris Bakery, and showrooms for Sansui and Sony home entertainment products — I sense an overall vibe of comfort. A neat little town.

It’s a little hard to believe, but this humble municipality was once a royal capital of the mighty Chera kings, who were very welcoming to people from the West. Even though the Chera dynasty lent their name to the modern State, Kerala, there are no remains of their palace except a jungly compound known as Cheraman Parambu to the east of town. A rickshaw driver offers to take me there and the place is so tucked away that he has to stop and ask for directions time and again.

I’ve read archaeological descriptions of the spacious palaces for emperors, mansions for their ministers, shrines for their gods, and halls and theatres. Now, nothing is left. I take a walk and poke around a bit when I hear children scream at me. They make strange, swaying gestures with their hands. As I listen carefully, I make out what they’re shouting:

‘King Cobra! Watch out! King Cobra!’

Scrambling off and stage-diving into the waiting rickshaw, I consider the astonishing fact (once I’ve caught my breath, that is) that there is still a ‘king’ living in the compound.

Having paid my respects to the kings of yore, I move on to explore other sights: a mosque, a temple and a church. These turn out to be pretty modern structures, but their traditions go way back. For example, the small Cheraman Juma Masjid is said to have been founded during the prophet’s lifetime, making it one of the few mosques in the world with such an ancient pedigree. It is believed to have been converted from an abandoned Buddhist monastery gifted by a Chera king to Arab traders, possibly in return for helping make his port so prosperous. Therefore, the Cheraman mosque was named to honour the king. By 629 AD, when the original mosque was inaugurated, this had been a vital harbour for hundreds of years.

While modern Kodungallur barely warrants a mention in travel guides today, it was prominently marked out on ancient European maps (such as the Peutinger Table) and featured in Roman-era guidebooks (like Periplus of the Erythrean Sea) under its old name Muziris. Remarkably, these sources suggest that somewhere around here stood a Roman temple hallowed to the Emperor Augustus, under whose reign the Kerala pepper trade grew so big that two Indian embassies visited Augustus’ court in the BC 20s. Of that temple, however, archaeologists have found no trace — unless it happens to be the same temple that became a Buddhist shrine and, later, the Cheraman mosque.

Another temple site of great interest is the town’s famous shakti shrine, Sri Bhagavathi Amman, a little to the south of the market — extremely ancient and linked to Kannaki, the heroine of the Tamil epic The Jewelled Anklet. After her husband was executed on trumped-up charges of theft, the faithful Kannaki tore off one breast and hurled it at Madurai, with the result that the entire city went up in flames. She then spent her last years by the river at Kodungallur, where locals started worshipping her, and this story was eventually noted down by Ilanko Atikal, a poet dating to sometime during 1-6th Century AD who either lived in, or at least visited Kodungallur. Interestingly, this epic also describes Yavanas (presumed to mean Ionians — that is, Aegean Greeks) who, in those days, lived in various south Indian cities while pursuing their global trade interests.

A remarkable painting of Kannaki, rattling her jewelled anklet accusingly over her head, hangs inside the shrine. The day I visit, the annual spring ritual is taking place and female oracles dressed in red, some sporting impressive dreadlocks, gather around to dance until they fall into trance, shaking scary scimitars. I am momentarily transported back to Kannaki’s time of heroic ladies.

Returning to my senses, I hop into another rickshaw that takes me a few kilometres away to Azhikode village and its church crowned by a silvery onion dome, Mar Thoma Shrine, which commands a stunning view over the slowly flowing Periyar river’s mouth. The shrine is very sacred as it contains a relic of Thomas the Apostle, who arrived on this very riverfront by ship in 52 AD.

A small quay marks the presumed landing spot and, who knows, this too could have been the site of the ancient Roman temple. After all, sacred spots tend to remain sacred, even if the religions of people change.

The relic on display behind bullet-proof glass is a bone fragment — a couple of inches of the ulna bone of an upper arm — perhaps the most famous arm in Christian history. Thomas was, as is well known, the apostle who doubted the resurrection until Jesus himself requested him to touch his crucifixion wounds. From there arises the common phrase ‘doubting Thomas’, meaning ‘a habitually disbelieving or suspicious person’. I sit by the shrine, sheltering from the midday heat, and wonder: Who was this Thomas, really?

Beyond doubt, he is perhaps the first Western traveller that we know of — at least by name — who came to south India. Other than that, it is often said that very little is known about the apostle’s travels, but at the souvenir stall outside the shrine I find a bulky Thomapedia in two volumes which compiles all the stories and facts about Thomas and his Indian legacy. Leafing through it, I realise that though he is known more as a revered saint than a hardy voyager, Thomas was indeed one of the most widely travelled men of his times.

The story begins about a decade or so after the crucifixion, when the 12 apostles divided the known world between them by drawing lots. Upon Thomas fell the duty to go to India, which was far outside the Roman empire.

According to reports, Thomas again felt doubtful, claiming ‘weakness of the flesh’ and blurting out: ‘How can I, a Hebrew man, go and preach among the Indians? Send me anywhere but not to India.’

His protests were to no avail, and to get him the cheapest possible transport (after all, the religion was new and didn’t command much funding yet) he was sold to an Indian merchant, possibly of the Jewish faith, called Abbanes or Habban.

Looking for a carpenter on behalf of a Gandhara king, Habban purchased Thomas for approximately ₹49,000 worth of silver (in current monetary value), and what follows for Thomas would count as quite a backpacker adventure.

Many episodes from this epic journey are tantalisingly described in Acts of Thomas, a text which isn’t part of the official Bible but which, according to the scholars writing in the Thomapedia, has enough authentic details of Indian customs — such as ladies being carried in palanquins and noblemen taking a bath before partaking dinner — for us to believe it to be at least partially true. Like all traveller’s tales tend to be.

His journey probably started, properly, from a Red Sea port, from which they sailed to Parthia, a region now in Iran. From there they crossed into today’s Pakistan, and via the Punjab Thomas travelled on Rajasthani caravan routes to the mouth of the Indus river. Subsequently, he hopped aboard a ship to approximately Mumbai, which didn’t exist in those days though two prominent ancient ports, Sopara and Kalyan, are part of suburban Mumbai. Sopara — nowadays known as Nalasopara towards the end of the suburban train line northwards — is mentioned as far back as in the Old Testament, where it is called Ophir, the port from which biblical kings imported foreign luxury goods; so Thomas very likely passed through there — especially since he would presumably have turned to the Old Testament for guidance.

Since road travel was impractical as there weren’t many back then, Thomas sailed southwards until he finally landed at the spot I’m standing at in Kerala in 52 AD, on November 21, and he’d have been roughly 50 years of age, which curiously enough is my own age as I write this.

At that time, the trading links between Kerala and Israel were old — in fact, King Solomon had even imported construction material for his temple at Jerusalem in 961 BC, more than a thousand years before Thomas’s arrival. It is thought that the first settlement of Jews in India was established in Kodungallur hundreds of years before the year 0, and so Thomas would have found accommodation in the town’s Jewish quarters. All that is left today is a stone hidden by the river’s northern bank, commemorating a batch of 400 Jewish refugees: ‘To the memory of the Knanaya Jewish-Christian ancestors who immigrated in AD 345 from Babylonia to Kodungallur. Knai Thoma their lay-leader built a town and a church dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle on the land donated by Cheraman Perumal. On the same site, about 500 metres from here now exists the ruined Portuguese fortress administered by the Kerala state department of archaeology.’

Incidentally, the leader of these Christians and Jews is said to have been a merchant prince of Edessa (in Turkey), so it appears that in the 4th Century, the congregation that Thomas had started here got a welcome boost of newcomers.

While there is no Jewish area in Kodungallur today, one does find a Jewish bazaar at Mattancherry, in Kochi, with its own grand synagogue (16th Century), which gives an idea of what Kodungallur may have been like — rows of warehouses and the air heavy with the scents of pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and turmeric.

It is interesting to note that at a time when Europeans fed Christians to the lions in Roman arenas for public entertainment, people in Kerala were tolerant and curious enough about the new faith that Thomas brought with him, enough for him to gather many converts — especially among women.

According to the Thomapedia, the apostle was invited to stay in Kerala by Prince Kepha of the royal family. Perhaps not so surprising, after all, since ancient sources mention that the harbour abounded in ships manned by Greeks, Arabs and maybe even a sprinkling of Romans. Yes, Kodungallur was the place to be, and whatever worries Thomas may have had about being a lone Hebrew among Indians were laid to rest — there were plenty of Jews living all over Kerala, in the harbours and in the main inland trading towns, engaged in selling and money-lending. Foreign coin hoards found here and there attest to this.

Here, a floating population of alien sailors waited around for the monsoon winds to turn so they could sail back, hanging out in the inns of the town, staying up late at night, talking in strange tongues, presumably having imbibed much of the wine carried onboard. And they shopped like mad. Archaeologists have found Roman coin hoards not only in Kerala but also central Tamil Nadu, and even Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, far to the north, suggesting that this commercial network was extensive.

Recently, during excavations south of Kodungallur, in Pattanam village, parts of an ancient brick wharf with teak bollards, a wooden canoe, beads, storage jars and shards from Roman wine amphorae were unearthed. The very name Pattanam means ‘port town’ (a suffix commonly used in town names such as Kaveripattanam, at the mouth of Kaveri river in Tamil Nadu, which ancient Tamil epics mention as the native place of Kannaki, as also a prosperous Yavana trading settlement). The reason there is no harbour here today is apparently because it was destroyed in the 14th Century by an earthquake followed by a flood, and the sea trade shifted 40 km south to Kochi, which — as we know — remains a major harbour to this day.

My rickshaw rattles across the mighty bridge straddling the river’s mouth, and the driver, an elderly man whom I found to be more knowledgeable than the first driver I engaged in the morning, is so pleased to have a foreign passenger that he insists we stop by his humble house, standing among coconut trees in a village after the bridge, to enjoy a cup of coffee with his family. They’re thrilled to hear about my ‘native place’ and ask if I can get them jobs in Europe. I get a feeling that Thomas may have been greeted likewise.

This neighbourhood, or what used to be Muziris, probably wasn’t much more urbanised in Thomas’s time than it is now.

In those days in Kerala there were few proper cities with paved roads, hardly any grand royal structures of the kind our minds conjure up about ancient towns — or when filmmakers make their historic epics, for that matter. A ‘city’ was more likely a cluster of villages that had agglomerated into a semi-urban trading hub.

Apart from Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, there would have been a colony of Jews — Indianised, yet fluent in Mediterranean languages, these expatriate compatriots would have connected easily with Thomas. In fact, all the seven churches that Thomas went on to found stood in places that used to have Jewish settlements — and which today have a significant Christian population.

One of the first converts in Muziris was the local Rabbi Paul, it is said.

The houses of these Jews were likely to have been built in teakwood around the market. Apart from pepper, known as ‘India’s black gold’, and other spices, the produce in their godowns that were destined for the export market included sandalwood, ivory, muslin cloth, silk and pearls. Goods offloaded and sold locally, or transported into the interiors, were Mediterranean wines, certain condiments such as fermented Spanish fish sauce, Italian pottery and crockery, glassware and lamps, exclusive colour pigments and a variety of foreign metals, possibly including shipments of tin from as far away as Britain (which the Romans had conquered for its tin mines barely ten years before).

So the prosperous bazaars displayed all the latest foreign items — yet, whenever Thomas was invited to lavish banquets, he would only have a piece of chapatti, some salt and a mug of plain water. He’d mostly be seen fasting, perhaps to avoid dicey food that caused stomach upsets. He was the ultimate traveller who carried the bare minimum: just the clothes on his back, which he wore until they fell apart.

The Acts of Thomas describe plenty of high drama that he met with around here, including speaking serpents and dragons. His most remarkable adventure involved a criminal investigation into a murder. A young man had allegedly, in a fit of anger, chopped up his mistress with a sword. It is said that she lived at an inn and committed adultery, perhaps meaning she was a prostitute in the seedier quarters of the port. Thomas interrogated the accused man, who confessed to his crime, and then solved the case by resurrecting the lady in question, who then described hellish visions from the netherworld. Thereafter she became a good woman and many of the witnesses converted. But my rickshaw driver and his family cannot recall any such incidents hereabouts.

However, the driver does know of the (perhaps) first church that Thomas founded. He excitedly drives me to the grandiose AD 52 St Thomas Kottakavu Forane Church in North Paravur village, a pink edifice which very obviously is of quite recent construction. A wedding is in progress, so I lurk about outside in the rather large compound with its colourful statues depicting scenes out of Thomas’s life. A signboard proclaims that the third church on the site was built in 1308 AD. Until the 18th Century, a wooden cross carved by Thomas himself was kept there, but it was destroyed when the church was ransacked.

It is said that Thomas came to this place, Kottakavu, which was a Namboodiri locality and the capital of a Brahmin kingdom, during a festival and was initially stoned. The saint prayed until a thunderstorm broke out, with bolts of lightning killing priests and one elephant. The idol broke into smithereens. Confusion arose. But then Thomas asked for some water, which he blessed and sprinkled over the dead, and all of them were revived and happy to convert.

The site of the festival, a Bhadrakali temple, was converted into this church.

On the church grounds, I’m excited to find an old piece of wall, known simply as ‘Old Wall’, which could have been part of one of the earliest churches. People, noticing my interest, lead me to a stone built into the foundation of the modern church and proudly claim the writing on it to be ‘Greek’. The westward connections remain strong here, because the man who shows me the inscription says he used to live in Dubai. After earning sufficient amounts of money, he returned home and set himself up as an elephant contractor. He’s got two at the moment. Would I be interested in renting them?

“Sorry, I’ve engaged a rickshaw driver for the day, so I don’t really need two elephants,” I say.

“But maybe one?” he asks, hopefully.

Having spent years visiting Indian archaeological sites, I make the semi-educated guess that the text on the stone is in a Tamil form of Brahmi script. So even if it isn’t Greek, it could be ancient — after all, Emperor Ashoka wrote his edicts using Brahmi. However, Googling on my phone, I discover that Brahmi is indeed related to Aramaic and was introduced to India by Jewish merchants in the 8th Century BC, so the stone may well be in Thomas’s own handwriting. At that thought my knees turn to jelly.

Twenty years passed happily, during which Thomas wrote back home (not a single letter has been preserved) to the other early congregations and travelled in Kerala, building churches and installing crosses in Kollam, Niranam (possibly known to ancient Roman traders as Nelcynda) and Chayal. He may have popped over to Sri Lanka, where there is another old cross attributed to him in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura.

Some believe that he also went to China, which isn’t historically proven but not entirely impossible. However, his main base was always Kerala, where the Thomas Christian tradition is strong and local sources list a number of his miracles, including the resurrection of at least 19 dead. He may have had surgical skills, because he reattached a severed arm of one politician, and cured 330 lepers, 250 blind and some 20 dumb people. Towards the end he had 17,500 followers.

As his fame grew, another Indian king called Misdaeus or Mazdai sent an invitation in 69 AD. The name is thought to be an incorrect transcription of Vasudeva or Mahadevan, possibly a Pandyan ruler who held sway at Madurai and who controlled an important fishing port at Mylapore (today part of Chennai), which was known in Ptolemy’s seminal Geography as Maliarpha, an ‘emporium’ (trading hub). Near Mylapore, a single coin of the Roman emperor Augustus, issued in AD 14, was found in 1930, which may be what remained of Thomas’s travel budget.

Theories abound as to why Thomas went there to die. According to one story, Thomas was asked to perform an exorcism on some female members of the royal family. According to another, King Mahadevan was simply interested in philosophical debates.

Anyhow, Thomas is thought to have hitch-hiked the 500 km or so overland, travelling by highways — not today’s paved roads but simply slightly raised all-weather paths. Such trading routes crossed from Kerala, through the Ghat mountains via modern Palakkad to the plains of Kongu Nadu, where the town Karur was a major hub judging from the vast quantities of Roman coins found there. In Ptolemy’s Geography — written around 100 AD and one of the most authoritative guidebooks of its time — the town is named Korur. (Incidentally, even Columbus relied on Ptolemy’s Geography when he tried to find India but erroneously bumped into America.)

While I take a train via Palakkad (where I break journey to see an old fort, but am unable to find any traces of Thomas or Roman trade) to Tamil Nadu, in those days people travelled by bullock cart. There’s also a mention of Thomas riding in chariots, including one pulled by four wild asses that he charmed into volunteering for the chore. Wild asses are very rare in south India, but then again miracles happened around Thomas. I fancy that the chariot he rode in was a bit like the private minibuses of today, as the Acts of Thomas mentions both a driver and a captain (a ticket collector, I guess).

Along the way he put up at roadside inns or stayed with friendly people (including the aforementioned collector, who was appointed the priest of Mylapore after Thomas). If he passed through Karur, which is likely, it would have been possible to sail downriver to the coast near Pondicherry, where a major Roman trading post was excavated by the British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler at Arikamedu. Wheeler found a world-class wine cellar and fine Roman tableware made in Arezzo. After a break here, Thomas would have sailed up the coast to Mylapore in a few days.

What happened next is much written about and the subject of speculation through the ages.

It is a hot Madrasi day when I reach town.

Being patronised by the King, Thomas was allowed to work on the hillock that is known as Chinnamalai, or Little Mount in English, and so that is where I head first. Incidentally, it’s just off the main thoroughfare Anna Salai (old name: Mount Road) in south central Chennai. Although there are stories of Thomas being in and out of jail, he mostly seems to have lived on this rocky knoll.

At 24 metres above sea level, it’s not much of a hill, but at the summit a rambling construction of conjoined churches — at least three — are jostling for space, dwarfed by surrounding modern buildings. The oldest chapel, whitewashed and with decorative blue trimmings, is the quaint Shrine of Our Lady of Health built in 1551 AD. Now the most astonishing thing is that Thomas’s tiny private cave has been preserved more or less intact underneath this chapel, and I climb down into it with some difficulty after squeezing my potbelly through a crevice behind the altar, down some half a dozen steps, past a Thomas-style cross carved into the wall.

How do I know this is the right cave? Well, there’s an archaic marble plaque on the wall, reading: ‘THE CAVE Where lay hid Persecuted just before being martyred By Rajah Mahadevan King of Mylapuram AD 68, THOMAS.’

So the killer’s name is on record, written in stone. Wikipedia, too, confirms this is where Thomas “led a spartan prayerful life in solitude, often praying on top of the hill and preaching to the local crowds”. Furthermore, the helpful watchman, whom I tip a hundred bucks, points out to me elbow imprints on a rock surface where the saint used to pray ardently and then a hand-print on the cave wall near a small ‘window’ shaft, through which the apostle is believed to have escaped when the King sent soldiers to arrest him.

He must have been very thin from his staple diet of bread and water but there’s no way I can squeeze through.

This is the one place, I muse, that gives an idea of the kind of accommodation a traveller may have been faced with in those days — cheap to maintain, probably no rent, four by five metres square, barely space enough to snap a selfie. However, the cave protected him from the monsoon showers, and the narrow air shaft provides reading light in the daytime.

Although the Acts of Thomas, written more than a hundred years later in distant Edessa, claims that a follower arranged a triclinium, a kind of Roman hall with dining couches, for Thomas to teach in, local tradition holds that he taught in the open, behind the present church, where there’s now an assemblage of colourful statues of him, Indian devotees of many kinds and a curiously Roman-looking soldier. Every Sunday he addressed whoever wanted to listen to him. I also find a cross Thomas personally carved into the rock, next to a miraculous perennial spring that he used to drink from. There’s a sign that proclaims: ‘Water from the fountain cures diseases.’ I take a sip and feel invigorated.

“He was hiding there and needed water, so at that time he made the well,” explains a devotee to me.

Despite the evidence on the marble plaque, it remains unclear to me who and what caused his death. Reading the Acts of Thomas, one gets the feeling that local women found the exotic stranger irresistible and so the philosophy he propagated had a powerful effect on them, which angered many gentlemen. Why? Well, one particular lady, Mygdonia (thought to be a misspelling of Mangaladevi), who was the wife of the aristocrat Charisius (or Krishna), got so affected that she not only refused her conjugal obligations but went sleepwalking, naked, to look for Thomas in the Mylapore bazaars. The following day Krishna lodged a complaint with the King against ‘a certain Hebrew, a sorcerer’ for driving his wife mad and ruining his peaceful home life. Meanwhile, Queen Tertia (or Tharika), herself had a heart-to-heart chat with Mangaladevi, and was influenced to stop travelling by palanquin, to live in celibacy and start exercise walking, which wasn’t at all what her husband, King Mahadevan, had in mind when he invited the saint to town — so he initiated action against Thomas.

Summoning him to the royal court, the King commanded of Thomas, “Tell me who thou art and by what power thou doest these things.” Thomas stayed silent and so, for starters, he received 128 blows from the royal officers, before being thrown into jail. In the night, Mangaladevi came with 10 Roman denarii to bribe the jailers, but on the way she met Thomas, who was already out, with an eerie light moving ahead of him. However, not much later, the King “delivered him unto four soldiers and an officer, and commanded them to take him to the mountain and there pierce him with spears and put an end to him.”

Around Little Mount, as I carry out my forensic investigation, I spot a fenced-in footprint left by Thomas, not far outside the ‘window’ shaft, possibly from when he was chased by the soldiers. Some 5 km away in the same direction, to the south of the Adyar river, there’s another, somewhat bigger mountain which Thomas may have tried to escape to.

I trace the route down to the fag end of Anna Salai, past a TASMAC liquor shop and on to the Tiruchi-Chennai Highway, across Guindy Flyover to a massive highway knot called Kathipara Junction. From there, Poonamalle High Road leads to the Tamil Wesley Church (and a host of other churches) and St Thomas Higher Secondary School (another clue that I am on the right track) until I, finally, after many twists and turns on increasingly narrower roads, stand at the foot of Parangimalai, a name the hill acquired because so many ‘phirangs’ or ‘parangi’ came to worship. It is only about three times the height of Little Mount, but the 135 or so steps up the hill, which in English is known as Saint Thomas Mount, take plenty of energy and electrolytes out of me. But from the top, the view over the surrounding city is stunning. Chennai stretches as far as the horizon on one side, and to the sea on another. This vast landscape, then dotted by villages, was to be the last sight Thomas ever saw. It was July 3 in 72 AD — according to my sources.

Today at the summit stands the picturesque Shrine of Our Lady of Expectation, built by the Portuguese in the early 16th Century on the site of a ruined Christian monastery, once populated by hermits.

There is a painting of the murder on one wall and near the altar is an important oil painting: it depicts Virgin Mary and is believed to be by the hand of Saint Luke, a fellow apostle. Thomas carried it with him to India, it is believed, making it possibly the oldest Christian artwork in Asia.

I also find a stone cross, unearthed when the Portuguese poked around in the monastery ruins. It bore fresh bloodstains, so it was thought to be the actual cross to which the apostle clung as he died. It went on bleeding well into the 18th Century, though I notice it is dry today. However, experts who examined it in the 1920s ascribed it to the 7th Century, so much younger than Thomas; others point out that it might be older than that, as its inscriptions in fact use the Sassanian Pahlavi alphabet belonging to ancient Persia.

After being allowed to pray before this cross, or some other cross like it, Thomas was, according to one version, struck to death, according to another pierced by no fewer than four lances, and according to a third, stabbed by a priest with a sword. In a fourth version, King Mahadevan isn’t at all involved in the murder, but is instead the one who comes to the rescue and finds Thomas here, bleeding. A small booklet I pick up at the souvenir stall reports Thomas’s last words to the King, probably spoken in a Dravidian tongue:

‘Be strong in your faith, cherish it like your finest treasure.’

Looking around for more clues, I come across a signboard that says the martyr was awarded a royal funeral on Marina Beach by King Mahadevan and his son Prince Vijayan.

As I leave the church, my feet are sore and it is 9 km to Marina Beach, but luckily I find a taxi waiting for passengers.

Joseph is the driver’s name and his helpfulness reminds me of the ticket collector Thomas befriended during his journey to Mylapore. Joseph tells me he grew up in an orphanage and has no clue where his family might live, or even if they live. He is a Std VII pass and started working as an agricultural labourer at 11, but despite that he taught himself five languages from books — apart from his native Tamil, he is fluent in Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi and English. At 14 he started working as a rickshaw driver, but thanks to his language skills he has been promoted to drive a taxi. He had a love marriage with a Muslim woman. He is very fond of Saint Thomas.

As we drive through town he tells me how Thomas met a pujari and saw him throw water in the air as an offering. Thomas asked, “How do you pray to a God to accept your water when it just falls down again?”

Then Thomas threw water and it stayed in the air, Joseph explains, and so the pujari converted. (I later discover that there is a similar legend in the Kerala traditions.) This angered the other priests so much that they plotted to have him killed, says Joseph.

“How did they kill him?” I ask.

“Don’t know exactly, but they were very angry.”

After negotiating a long Mylapore bazaar street we reach a stately whitewashed edifice at Santhome, at the southern end of Chennai’s long urban beach. Joseph claims it is one of the earliest basilicas in the whole world; the very first being the one built over Saint Peter’s tomb in Rome, while this is the third.

Proudly, Joseph also informs me that the Pope himself came here to pay his respects in 1986; there’s a statue of him in the courtyard to prove it.

This is a popular place among beggars peculiarly well-versed in English. As soon as I get out of the taxi, one fellow walks up and points to a missing leg:

“I happened to have an accident on my way here. Now I need to go to hospital. Can you help me?”

I chip in.

So here is where Thomas’s journey ended, on the beach of the Bay of Bengal. At some point a chapel was built to mark the location. That would have been the same chapel Marco Polo visited in 1293, and the story he heard then was that Thomas died by accident: a hunter mistook the saint for a peacock and put an arrow in him. At that time Mylapore was a “little town having no great population, it is a place where few traders go, because there is very little merchandise to be got there, and it is a place not very accessible”. But, points out Polo, it was an important place of pilgrimage, which suggests that the location of the grave had not been forgotten. The red sand around the tomb healed fevers.

It is dusk and a strong breeze blows in from the sea. “And all the brethren wept; and they brought beautiful robes and much fair linen, and buried him in a royal sepulchre,” it says in Acts of Thomas. Archaeological excavations in the 20th Century confirmed that underneath the present basilica lay remains of brick lining vaguely similar to the bricks used at the Roman trading post in Arikamedu, so the sepulchre may have been built in the 1st Century. A capital of an ancient column, thought to be of late Greco-Indian style, perhaps from Kashmir, was also found.

Earlier the tomb, a small sandy pit by the altar, used to be viewed from above through foggy plate glass, but this view has been blocked. Now there is a proper, modern well-lit crypt one can go down into under the church (entered from the building behind it) where a symbolic tomb has been set up, including a life-sized resting Saint Thomas. Next to it is a glass receptacle labelled ‘Relic es ossia St Thomas Ap’, which contains a bone fragment.

The murder weapon — or rather, a very small piece of the ‘lancehead that killed St Thomas’, dug up by the Portuguese here in 1523 AD — is on display in the adjacent museum, and finally I know for sure how Thomas died. At the souvenir counter I pick up a credit card-sized memento that contains a few grains of sand from the tomb, sand that soaked up the saint’s blood. And so, it can be said, the apostle’s travels continue with everybody who takes some of that sand with them.

Zac O’Yeah is a part-time travel writer and part-time detective novelist based in Bengaluru

(This article was published on January 13, 2017)

The End of Catholic Marriage
DECEMBER 1, 2016 12:46 PM December 1, 2016 12:46 pm 54
Matter for Serious MEDITATION by the Faithful


I haven’t written in this space for some time, but now that the election is over some additional interventions seem necessary to capture what’s happening in Roman Catholicism’s remarkable period of controversy. My Sunday column talked a bit about the way in which varying interpretations of “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on the family, have produced variations in official Catholic teaching on marriage from diocese to diocese, region to region – a “submerged schism,” to borrow a phrase from the Vatican-watcher Andrea Gagliarducci, which thanks to the astringent words of certain bishops is no longer even that submerged.

One reading of Pope Francis’s intentions is that this is roughly what he wanted – a decentralized, quasi-Anglican approach to questions where the church and the post-sexual revolution culture are in conflict, in which different parts of the Catholic world could experiment with different pastoral approaches to confession and communion for the remarried-without-annulment. But at the same time, he and his allies have consistently – if not yet magisterially – expressed their strong preference for the more liberal side of the debate, suggesting that if they imagine a decentralization of pastoral practice, they also imagine it being temporary, with any differences ultimately resolved in favor of a reformed approach to divorce, remarriage and the Eucharist.

And what is that approach? From the beginning of this controversy there has been a stress, from Cardinal Walter Kasper and then from others, on the idea that the reform being proposed is modest, limited, confined to a small group of remarried Catholics, and thus in no way a public sign that the church no longer believes marriages indissoluble in general. More recently, among those Catholics proposing a hermeneutic of continuity between “Amoris” and the prior papal documents that it kinda-sorta-maybe contradicts, this stress on the rarity of what the reformers have in mind, the extremities involved, has become crucial to the case for continuity. For instance Rocco Buttiglione, an ally of John Paul II and now a prominent defender of Pope Francis, recently responded to the four conservative cardinals questioning “Amoris” with the following comments:

The first question the eminent cardinals ask, is whether it is in some cases acceptable for absolution to be granted to people who despite being tied down by a previous marriage, live more uxorio, engaging in sexual intercourse. It seems to me, that the response should be affirmative given what is written in “Amoris Laetitia” and what is stated in the general principles of moral theology. A clear distinction needs to be made between the act, which constitutes a grave sin, and the agent, who may find themselves bound by circumstances that mitigate their responsibility for the act or in some cases may even eliminate it completely. Consider, for example, the case of a woman who is completely financially and mentally dependent on someone and is forced to have sexual intercourse against her will. Sadly, such cases are not just theory but a bitter reality, witnessed more often than one would imagine. What is lacking here are the subjective conditions for sin (full knowledge and deliberate consent). The act is still evil but it does not belong (not entirely anyway) to the person. In criminal law terms, we are not in the realm of the theory of crime (whether an act is good or bad) but of the theory of liability and subjective extenuating circumstances.

This does not mean unmarried people can legitimately engage in sexual activity. Such activity is illegitimate. People can (in some cases) fall into non mortal but venial sin if full knowledge and deliberate consent are lacking. But, one could argue, is it not necessary for a person to have the intention of never sinning again in order to receive absolution? It certainly is necessary. The penitent must want to end their irregular situation and commit to acts that will allow them to actually do so in practice. However, this person may not be able to achieve this detachment and regain self- ownership immediately …

So here we have Buttiglione asking us to imagine a painful and complicated case, a second marriage (though of course it need not be a civil marriage; the same logic might apply to cohabitation or a same-sex relationship or a polygamous union or even — especially? — to a prostitute) defined by cruelty and domination, in which the psychological pressure is such that a prudent confessor might regard an imperfect contrition, a halting desire for amendment and escape, as sufficient to grant absolution and distribute the body and blood of Christ. Such cases certainly exist, and let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that they might provide a possible point of synthesis between the church’s traditional teaching on mortal sin, confession and communion and the new rhetoric of “accompaniment” for divorced and remarried Catholics – an example of how it might be licit for someone in the process of trying to escape from a toxic situation to receive communion along the way, even though their promise of amendment is inherently infirm; an instance where the current pontiff’s stress on gray areas might be consonant with the teaching of his predecessors; a case where John Paul II’s distinction between “sincere repentance” and “the judgement of the intellect concerning the future” might be plausibly applied.
Stipulate all of that, for argument’s sake. (I can hear certain true rigorists clearing their throats; later, gentlemen.) But then turn your eyes to the teaching document recently produced by San Diego’s bishop, the Francis-appointed, beloved-of-progressives Robert McElroy, following a diocesan synod convened to discuss the implementation of “Amoris.” The whole thing is worth reading, but here are some excerpts where Bishop McElroy is writing on (theoretically) the same moral issues as Buttiglione:

… many Catholics who have been divorced and remarried conclude for a variety of legitimate reasons — many of them arising out of caring concern for the effects that an annulment process might have on the feelings of adult children or former spouses — that they cannot initiate the annulment process. What is their status in the Church?
… no abstract rule can embody the many complexities of the circumstances, intentions, levels of understanding and maturity which originally surrounded the action of a man or woman in entering their first marriage, or which surround the new moral obligations to a spouse or children which have already been produced by a second marriage. Thus, Pope Francis rejects the validity of any blanket assertion that “all those in any (second marriage without benefit of annulment) are living in a state of mortal sin and deprived of sanctifying grace.”
This does not mean that there is not a deep level of contradiction in the life of Catholics who are divorced and remarried, as the Lord himself noted in the Gospel of Matthew. But Pope Francis explains that even in the face of substantial contradictions between the Gospel and the existential life of a disciple, the inexorable logic of divine grace seeks ever more progressive reintegration into the full life of the Church …
… In conversation with a priest, the believer with humility, discretion, and love for the Church and its teachings seeks to reflect upon their level of responsibility for the failure of the first marriage, their care and love for the children of that marriage, the moral obligations which have arisen in their new marriage, and possible harm which their returning to the sacraments might have by undermining the indissolubility of marriage. It is important to underscore that the role of the priest is one of accompaniment, meant to inform the conscience of the discerner on principles of Catholic faith. The priest is not to make decisions for the believer, for as Pope Francis emphasizes … the Church is “called to form consciences, not to replace them.”
… Some Catholics engaging in this process of discernment will conclude that God is calling them to return to full participation in the life of the Church and the Eucharist. Others will conclude that they should wait, or that their return would hurt others.
In pointing to the pathway of conscience for the divorced and remarried, Pope Francis is not enlisting an element of the Christian moral life which is exceptional. For the realm of conscience is precisely where the Christian disciple is called to discern every important moral decision that he or she makes.
You will notice a few things about McElroy’s teaching, as opposed to Buttiglione’s analysis. The first is that the language is completely different: Nothing gets called a “grave sin” or an “evil” or even “illegitimate” by the bishop; every tension and contradiction is resolved through gradual but inexorable processes that resemble a conversation rather than a confession. (Indeed, the word “confession” appears nowhere in the entire document; the word “sin” appears only in the quotation from Pope Francis suggesting when the term does notnecessarily apply.)

The second is that the priest’s sacramental role and responsibility diminishes dramatically. There is no sense that a confessor might have an active role himself in deciding whether to absolve a sinner, or that a priest might have some obligation (as indeed the priest does under canon law, which San Diego’s priests are effectively being instructed by their bishop to ignore) to protect believers from sacrilege and the eucharist from profanement. Instead the priest becomes basically a counselor, there to help validate the individual Catholic in a decision that only he or she can make, with no supernatural power or responsibilities of his own.
The third is that unlike in Buttiglione’s unhappy example, the cases being considered by the bishop do not seem extreme or (as he says) “exceptional” in the slightest. Instead, McElroy gives every evidence that he’s talking about the most stable and happy and high-functioning of second marriages, with no hint that abuse or emotional blackmail any other extremity is involved; the only factor constraining the people he’s addressing from taking steps that Catholic teaching requires are the “moral obligations” incurred by the new marriage and the desire not to wound others by going through the annulment process.

Which is why, finally, McElroy seems to take for granted that nobody in such a second marriage would ever consider permanently leaving it, or permanentlyliving as brother and sister, or permanently refraining from receiving communion. Instead, the decision to receive the body of Christ while living conjugally with someone who is not, from the church’s perspective, your true wife or husband is treated as a question of when, not if — do it now if you feel ready, wait a little longer if it might hurt your kids or your ex-spouse or you feel like have some spiritual maturing left to do.

This is a teaching on marriage that might be summarized as follows: Divorce is unfortunate, second marriages are not always ideal, and so the path back to communion runs through a mature weighing-out of everyone’s feelings — the feelings of your former spouse and any kids you may have had together, the feelings of your new spouse and possible children, and your own subjective sense of what God thinks about it all. The objective aspects of Catholic teaching on marriage — the supernatural reality of the first marriage, the metaphysical reality of sin and absolution, the sacramental reality of the eucharist itself — do not just recede; they essentially disappear.

Which means that is not at all a vision under which a small group of remarried Catholics in psychologically difficult situations might receive communion discreetly while they seek to sort those situations out. It is, in fact, by implication almost the reverse: The only people who might feel unready for communion under Bishop McElroy’s vision of spiritual maturation are Catholics whose lives are particularly chaotic and messed-up, who don’t feel sure at all about where they stand with God, to say nothing of their kids and ex-spouses or lovers or boyfriends or whomever. Is Sonia the prostitute from Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” ready for communion in the diocese of San Diego? Maybe not; maybe she should wait a while. But the respectable divorced father of three who gets along well enough with his ex-wife and has worked through all his issues in therapy can feel comfortable receiving ahead of her. This is not communion for the weak; it is communion for the stable and solid and respectable.

Let me make a personal aside, since I don’t mean to sound overly flippant about the virtues of respectability and stability. I am the child and grandchild of divorced couples; I know well the emotional complexities involved in getting to a stable place where people can manage the holidays, deal with blended families, behave decently to one another, etc. Indeed to Bishop McElroy’s first point, I know very well the emotional costs of the annulment process for the people touched by it, the extent to which the church’s requirements can seem to add burdens to people already going through a lot, and also the extent to which an annulment process that errs on the side of mercy can itself seem like a way in which the church doesn’t take the first marriage’s possible reality as seriously as it should.

But let’s be clear: The way out of all these difficulties proposed by the bishop of San Diego is a way out of the traditional Catholic understanding of marriage, period. Drop the mention of annulments and the pro forma nod to “indissolubility,” replace “priest” with “pastor,” and there is nothing in his language that couldn’t be reproduced by a Protestant church dealing with the same issues and seeking to reintegrate its remarried members to fellowship and the Lord’s table. It is a plausible approach if you don’t believe what Catholics are supposed to believe about the sacraments; it is perhaps well-suited to Christian traditions that do not. It is reasonable-sounding response to modern realities; so is Episcopalianism. But it is not an approach that treats Christian marriage as actually indissoluble, actually real in a way that transcends the subjective experiences of the spouses, and a Catholicism that takes this approach can claim to believe in its historic teaching on marriage only in the most vaporous of ways — which is to say, not.

At prior points in the Francis-era Catholic controversies I have noted with a certain alarm that the “liberal” side and the “conservative” side don’t seem to have much of a theological language in common; we argue past each other because we almost seem to belong to different Christian communities, with different baseline assumptions all the way down to the question of who Jesus actually was. But what is striking about reading Buttiglione and McElroy back-to-back is that here we have two supporters of Pope Francis who seem to be speaking different religious languages — Buttiglione trying to interpret “Amoris” in consonance with older Catholic ideas and categories, the bishop of San Diego essentially acting as those those ideas and categories have been superseded; Buttiglione envisioning a change that affects a few; the bishop of San Diego envisioning one that’s clearly for the many; Buttiglione laboring to treat “Amoris” as a modest development of doctrine; the bishop of San Diego entirely unconcerned with potential contradiction with the Catholicism of the ancient and very recent past.

Perhaps both men’s readings of Francis’s intentions are plausible; certainly the pope’s public commentary on marriage is now extensive enough to admit of multiple interpretations, modest and sweeping and everywhere in between.
But you will note that only one of these men is a bishop, a public teacher of the faith, a Francis appointee. I am uncertain of the wisdom of the dubia offered by the four conservative cardinals, fearful (unlike certain heighten-the-contradictions traditionalists) of what might happen in the church if the pope actually clarified his teaching and intentions. But if Pope Francis does not mean his apostolic exhortation to be implemented along the sweeping, come-all-eventually-back-to-communion lines proposed by Bishop McElroy, he should say so, and soon. Because in the diocese of San Diego, there may be something called the sacrament of matrimony, but the church itself plainly does not believe in Catholic marriage anymore.

Trichy Malayalam Drama Paereduthu, 1956

In 1956 the four-hundred odd Malayalee students studying at the St. Joseph’s College, Thiruchirappalli as part of the College Day function staged a Malayalam skit entitled “Pereduthu”. The play was written for the occasion by E. J. George of the 4th B.A. 1-b Maths class, and this 1956 play was his first publicly staged play. Many now-famous personalities acted in the play, which was a great hit not only with the Malayalam speaking members of the audience but also with the Tamil students, staff, and general public. After the performance many came to congratulate the playwright and the cast. There were many actors from the Physics and Economics M. A. Hons. classes of whom many became well known teachers and high Government officials.

In this 1956 photograph are seen

Fr. C. J. Varkey, s.j.(Prefect), Chev. Prof. Abraham Arackal (former Principal, Maharajah's College, Ernakulam), Prof. Joseph Meenattur ( former HOD Economics, Christ College, Irinjalakuda), Late Dr. Joseph John Nidhiri (Maryland USA), Prof. M. D. Kurian (Christ College, Irinjalakuda) Late Er. P. T. Thomas Njarackal, Prof. C. J. Thomas (Newman College, Thodupuzha),Late Anto Palathingal (Kattur), P. V. Mathai (former AEO), K. M. Clarence (Borneo), E. K. Matthew, Chev. Prof. George Menachery (E. J. George Playwright)

Most Enlightening Region: Documentary by Dr. N. S. Xavier M. D. (USA) with inputs by Prof. George Menachery



Christianity, a threat to Hinduism? Data and historical evidence prove otherwise.

Why Christianity Failed in India?
If you have been following Indian mass media or social media in the last few months, you couldn’t have escaped the narrative being spun by the Hindutva right-wing. It goes something like this: “Christianity is posing a growing and serious demographic threat to Hinduism by converting large
numbers of Hindus through aggressive proselytising. This effort is heavily funded by Christian organisations in the West that see India as being ripe for large-scale conversions. Since proselytising and conversions are not part of Hindu tradition, or that of any religion that originated in India, the playing field is tilted against Hinduism, and this is causing serious societal friction. This sometimes leads to spontaneous and violent reactions.”
There are about four individual assertions in there, so let us take them one by one, put them to the test of data and historical evidence, and see which ones hold up, and which ones do not.

Christianity poses a serious threat to Hinduism
To put it bluntly, this assertion would be laughable if its consequences were not so destructive of social cohesion. The fact is, the story of Christianity in India is a story of dismal failure, demographically speaking. No believing Christian would like to admit this in this manner, but both they and their detractors should open their eyes to the simple fact that stares them in the face: that India has mostly passed up Christianity, and that there is no other country in the world that has proven so resistant and so impervious to it as India.
And not for lack of effort on the part of the Christians, or for lack of listening on the part of the Hindus. Very few regions in the world have provided Christianity as much freedom to tell its story and propagate itself as India, and in no other country has Christianity tried to spread its message so hard and for so long—for nearly 2,000 years to be specific—which is about half as long as Indian civilisation itself.

Return ticket A ghar wapasi at Kharmadanga village, Birbhum
And so, what does Indian Christianity have to show for its humongous effort in terms of men, money and material, over two millennia? Almost zilch—or somewhere between two and three per cent of the population. And that number is on the way down, not up—from 2.6 per cent in 1971 to 2.3 per cent in 2001. The census figures for 2011 have not been officially released yet, but leaked figures suggest that there may have been another small decline.

Christianity’s demographic defeat in India is because for the first time it encountered a culture that didn’t need to persecute other faiths, or find the messiah exceptional.
To put that in numerical perspective, think of this. The first Hindu probably landed in London only about 200 years ago, not 2,000 years ago. So what would you expect the Hindu population of the city to be today? Half a per cent? One per cent? Two per cent? The actual figure is over five per cent, more than twice as big as the presence of Christians in India. London is just a city, one might say, so let’s look at the figure for the whole of the UK. Then you come up with 1.3 per cent. If you add those who identify themselves as Sikhs (thus bowing to the wishes of the Hindutva right-wing to treat all Indian-origin religions as essentially one group), then the number goes up to 1.9 per cent, quite comparable to the percentage of Christians in India. And mind you, the Hindu figures for the UK are on the way up, not down. And the UK is no exception. Here are some other figures—New Zealand: 2 per cent, Canada: 1.6 per cent, Australia: 1.28 per cent, Malaysia: 6.3 per cent and Indonesia: 1.69 per cent. This is without even considering our immediate neighbours such as Sri Lanka or Bhutan, or countries such as Fiji or Mauritius, where the figures are, of course, much higher.

So the accurate and insightful question to ask is not why Christianity is expanding in India, but why it is NOT expanding. A full answer is beyond the scope of this article, but if one were to pick out one reason, it would be this: Christianity, probably for the first time, came up against a philosophy and culture that did not feel the need to persecute other faiths, did not find the Christian messiah and his teachings either objectionable or exceptional, and therefore, didn’t see why anyone should convert either. This embrace-cum-rejection was such a novel experience for it that Christianity probably didn’t know quite how to respond. After all, the Church is so used to growing amidst persecution that theologian Tertullian’s statement in second century AD that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” has not yet been forgotten.

There is no better way to bring this situation to life than to quote the knighted Sanskrit scholar Monier Williams, an avid supporter of Christian evangelisation in India, who wrote this in 1878: “The chief impediment to Christianity among Indians is not only the pride they feel in their own religion, but the very nature of that religion. For pantheism is a most subtle, plausible and all-embracing system, which may profess to include Christianity itself as one of the phenomena of the universe. An eminent Hindu is reported to have said: ‘We Hindus have no need of conversion; we are more than Christians already.’”

The last sentence, in this writer’s opinion, captures the essence of the situation, and you see that in action again and again, when even those Hindu intellectuals who had taken a particular liking for the teachings of Jesus found no reason to accept baptism. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is an example. He had no difficulty whatsoever in citing Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount as one of the great influences on his life, but neither had he any difficulty in plainly telling Christian missionaries, who would never cease their attempts to convert him, this: “I am not interested in weaning you from Christianity, and I do not relish your designs upon me, if you had any, to convert me to Christianity. I would also dispute your claim that Christianity is the ONLY true religion.” It is not surprising, therefore, that the limited successes that Christianity has had in spreading its message in India has come from communities that were regarded as outside the hold of mainstream Hinduism, such as people in the Northeast or tribals in central India.

The first-ever proselytising, world-conquering religion owes its origin to India, and it is called Buddhism. No other cultural export from India has been more influential.
To fully appreciate the exceptional nature of the demographic defeat that Christianity experienced in India, one has to look at its track record in the rest of Asia, which itself has been a difficult terrain for Christianity in comparison to other regions such as, say, the Americas or sub-Saharan Africa where the Christians today form over 60 per cent of the population. So here is a partial list from Asia—Indonesia: 9.8 per cent, South Korea: 29.3 per cent, the Philippines: 85.5 per cent, Sri Lanka: 7.5 per cent, Myanmar: 7.9 per cent. Even giant China, where Christianity arrived centuries later than in India, has been a far more fertile ground, despite the Communist dictatorship severely restricting religious freedom. The most reliable estimates are that Christians today form 4-5 per cent of China’s population, more than double the figure for India.

What if we pulled back a little now, and took a global view? Would Hinduism be under threat then? Nope. Hindus today form 15 per cent of the global population, compared to 7.1 per cent for Buddhists, 23.2 per cent for Muslims and 31.5 per cent for Christians. And the number for Hindus is inching up, not sliding down—a century ago, Hindus formed less than 14 per cent of the world population. In other words, if any religion has to worry about its future, from a national or global perspective, it is not Hinduism, but Christianity.

Stroke of history A painting of Nagasena debating King Milinda
More and more Christians are turning to atheism, agnosticism and alternative spirituality (think Deepak Chopra, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Dayananda) in Europe and the US. Already in the UK, for example, people who identify themselves as Christians have come down to 59.3 per cent. In fact, churches in Europe are now being repurposed as shopping malls and office spaces as the number of worshippers fall, and priests are being imported from countries such as Korea, Vietnam and India, as priestly vocations decline. The fast declining Christian population in the US today stands at 77 per cent, compared to the Hindu population in India of 78.3 per cent, which means both the UK and the US are less Christian nations today than India is Hindu, and they will be even less so in the future.

So the next time you see a Hindutva right-winger painting a scary picture of Christianity posing a growing, serious threat to Hinduism, you have to assume one of only two possibilities. One, he or she has not taken the slightest effort to know the facts, or two, he or she knows the facts, but doesn’t want them to get in the way of a good, well-running hate campaign.
Religions of Indian origin do not proselytise or convert. These ideas have come from outside.

Really? Want to think again? The first-ever proselytising, world-conquering religion that history has seen owes its origin to India, and it is called Buddhism. When Emperor Ashoka became a Buddhist a couple of hundred years before Christ was born, and put his considerable resources, influence and support behind the idea of propagating his newly adopted religion beyond the limits of his empire, the first world religion and its learned monks got off their mark in a manner that inspires awe even today. Ashoka’s son and monk Mahinda, who took the religion to Sri Lanka; Sage Nagasena, who debated with and converted King Milinda of Bactria; Santaraksita, the abbot of Nalanda who helped establish Buddhism in Tibet—the list of Buddhist heroes of proselytisation is very long and even more impressive.

There is no cultural/intellectual/philosophical export from India that comes anywhere near Buddhism in the way it has influenced, and continues to influence, human activity in the world. There are about 350 million people who identify themselves as Buddhists now, the vast majority of them outside of India, and they are standing testimony to the fact that proselytisation, first and foremost, was an Indian invention, along with its accoutrements such as an order of celibate monks/missionaries; prayer and preaching routines; codes of behaviour for the monks and the laity; seminaries and retreat centres. If there had been a patent on proselytisation, we would perhaps be the richest country in the world!
The country’s largest single temple trust had a revenue of Rs 2,262 cr last year, twice the donations 10 biggest Christian or Christian-affilated outfits got in 2011-12.

And it’s not just Buddhism. Hinduism spread itself out too, though not over as vast a region as Buddhism and not mainly through monks and missionaries. The men who carried Hinduism beyond the borders of Bharatvarsha were empire-builders and traders who conquered many regions of Southeast Asia. They took their religion with them and then popularised it among the local people. The hundreds of ancient Hindu temples in Cambodia, Indonesia, Viet¬nam and elsewhere and the continuing traditions among their populations bespeak the fact that Hinduism too obtai¬ned new adherents in areas far from its region of birth. The earliest historical record of Hinduism in Southeast Asia is in the island of Borneo (now divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei), where Sanskrit inscriptions of the late 4th century talk about the performance of Vedic sacrifices by Brahmans.

According to a Tamil commemorative inscription, Chola king Rajendra Chola I launched naval raids on Srivijaya in present-day Indonesia in 1025 AD, and conquered territories. In fact, successive Chola kings occupied coasts as far as Myanmar and Vietnam, and became dominant players in Sri Lanka through multiple invasions and occupation. (Aside: the common tale that Hindutva right-wingers often tell, of Hinduism and Hindu kingdoms going into decline around the 8th century with the beginning of Arab invasions, betrays an exclusively northern Indian Hindutva perspective; South Indian Hindu kingdoms were still reaching for the heights of culture, influence and riches in the eighth century, and were hundreds of years away from reaching their peak yet!)

It’s not just outside Bharatvarsha that Hindu religion got new adherents. Hindu proselytisation within India has also been very much part of our tradition, and this took forms ranging from Adi Shankara’s epic mission throughout India to defeat Buddhism ideologically, to what sociologist M.N. Srinivas called Sanskritisation and others call the Hinduisation of tribal societies. The ghar wapasi movement now in vogue is nothing new either; it has a history going back at least 100 years to Swami Dayananda Saraswati and his Shuddhi movement.
The story would not be complete without taking into account the cutting edge of Hindu evangelisation today: the new-age gurus who have very large global followings and the commensurate funds to sustain their missions. Just one of them, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, claims 20 million followers wor¬ldwide for his Art of Living Foundation. Nobody explains the phenomenon better than probably the most influential right-wing columnist today, Swapan Dasgupta. This is what he wrote in 2004: “There is a thriving tradition of what can be called evangelical Hinduism. It comprises the likes of Asaram Bapu, Murari Bapu, Swami Ramdev, Amma, Satya Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and many others who feature on the various religious channels on TV. They are the Pat Robert¬sons and Billy Gra¬hams (controver¬sial evangelical Christian movement leaders in the US) of modern Hinduism.”
So historically, or even in a contemporary sense, it is highly inaccurate and facile to say that proselytisation and gaining new adherents is an idea foreign either to Indian-origin religions in general, or to Hinduism in particular.

The playing field is tilted against Hinduism, because Christianity is heavily funded by foreign donations that Hinduism cannot match.
The problem with this argument is this: if the playing field is tilted in favour of Christianity, how is it that Christianity has been such a resounding demographic failure for over 2,000 years? Logically, there are only four possibilities: the playing field is not tilted as charged; the tilt is too minor to be of consequence; the tilt has no role to play in determining outcomes; one side is too weak in other, more important ways to take advantage of the tilt of the field.

Christian evangelists have been preparing for the great harvest of souls for centuries and they are no nearer now than they were in 52 AD, 190 AD or 1757 AD!
But let’s leave that aside and still try to figure out how much money flows to Christian missionary organisations in India in a year. One would think this is an easy question to answer. After all, donations to anyone in India are controlled by the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), and organisations receiving it have to provide information to the government under the Act. So one would think the government would find it easy to give the answer, especially since BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power at the Centre for about 10 years over the last four decades, or about a quarter of the period in question. Since foreign donations to missionary organisations is such a sensitive issue for the BJP, one would think this is something over which the party would have kept a hawk’s eye, at least when it is in power. One has to wonder why it has not.

In the absence of official data on this, one is forced to do guesswork. The total amount of money that comes in under FCRA for non-governmental organisations in the country annually is about Rs 11,000 crore (the figure has more or less stayed stable since (2006-2007). It is received by about 13,193 organisations. This includes Christian organisations such as Believers Church India (Rs 190 crore), Hindu organisations such as Mata Amritanandamayi Math (Rs 98 crore), Islamic organisations such as Aga Khan Foundation (Rs 110 crore), and secular organisations with a variety of objectives like the Public Health Foundation of India (Rs 130 crore) or Greenpeace or the Shiv Nadar Foundation.

Ritual cleansing A baptism in Nagpur. (Photograph by Reuters, From Outlook 13 April 2015)
How much of this money goes to Christian organisations? According to one study which looked at all ngos receiving more than Rs 1 crore in 2010-11, about 30 per cent of foreign contributions could be going to Christian evangelical organisations such as Gospel for Asia, and another 10 per cent to other organisations focused on charity rather than proselytisation, but have a strong Christian identity such as World Vision. Let’s go with the higher figure for argument’s sake. Forty per cent of Rs 11,000 crore is Rs 4,400 crore. No one has yet attempted to figure out how much of the remaining funds go to Hindu religious or religiously-inclined organisations, and until we have that figure, it is difficult to decide to what extent the playing field is unlevel.

But there is another proxy indicator that one can use, to check how big a factor Rs 4,400 crore is in terms of the overall religious donations and spending in India. The country’s largest single temple trust had a revenue of Rs 2,262 crore last year, which is nearly twice the foreign donations received by the 10 biggest Christian and Christian-affiliated organisations in 2011-12.
Christian organisations in the West see India as being ripe for large-scale conversions and are gearing up for a great harvest of souls.
This assertion is both right and wrong at the same time. It is correct that there are Christian organisations in the West, mostly independent evangelical churches, that believe India is ripe for a great ‘harvest’ of souls for Christ. But what is wrong about the assertion is that it suggests this is something new. Christian missionaries have been preparing, planning and acting for the great harvest in India for at least half a millennium—ever since Vasco da Gama set foot on Kappad beach in Kozhikode in 1498 (and discovered there was already an independent, flourishing and prominent community of Christians in the region, who had known Christ for far longer than the Portuguese themselves and were determined to keep their own independence, but that’s a different story!)

The narrative that the intending harvesters build is always the same, whether they are writing/speaking in the 15th century, 17th century, 19th century, or 21st century, and it goes like this: “Christianity has been an utter failure in India until recently for a variety of reasons, but all that has changed! Now the time has come for the great harvest, because a new window of opportunity has opened! So please open your hearts and wallets!” This is so partly because the missionaries do not readily want to admit defeat, and partly (and perhaps more importantly) because they are in fact trying to raise money and resources, and you can’t do that without giving hope!

Here is one such passage from a book written by James Vaughan, a missionary who spent 19 years in Calcutta, writing about the coming total victory of Christianity in India. This was written in 1876, and makes a prediction about what would happen 150 years hence, or in other words, by 2026! This prediction about a great turnabout in the fortunes of Christianity in India comes after long explanations of why Christianity had made no headway in the country for the previous 18 centuries!

Constitutional amputation for remedying what is essentially irritation to public order and good sense would probably be an over-reaction.
“If we compare the statistics of 1852 and 1872, in a period of twenty years, the native Christians have multiplied at a rate of 150 per cent. Suppose this rate of increase were to continue, and, say, in less than 150 years, the Christian community will be equal to the present population of India, say 250,000,000. But it will still be observed that the ratio of increase in the last of the two decades is much greater than the former; thus it is quite supposable and, indeed, probable, that each succeeding decade will show a proportionate advance in the ratio. If, therefore, any of our readers prefer figures to faith, and numerical probabilities to a quiet reliance on prophetic assurance, they may readily satisfy themselves that the prospect of India’s evangelisation is neither so visionary or so remote as many persons imagine!”

Examples like this abound over the entire period of colonialism. If any Indian of any faith had the interest of Christian donors abroad in mind, this is what he would tell them: “Brothers, don’t be fools! Don’t get taken in by these false hopes and propaganda! Stop throwing good money after bad! There must be other parts of the world where you can get better returns on your investment!”

SOS Christian children protest fire in Delhi church
Vivekananda, in fact, said something similar. “As to the way of converting, it is absolutely absurd. The money the missionaries bring is accepted. The colleges founded by missionaries are all right, so far as education is concerned. But with religion it is different. The Hindu is acute: he takes the bait but avoids the hook! It is wonderful how tolerant the people are. A missionary once said: ‘That is the worst of the whole business. People who are self-complacent can never be converted.’”

There is no better place to see the absurdity of the whole Christian conversion effort and debate than the state where Vivekananda was born, Bengal. Bengal was the first large province to fall under the complete control of Europeans (after the Battle of Plassey in 1757), and it later became the seat of British power in the subcontinent. No other region in India has seen such forceful, concerted conversion efforts by well-funded foreign missionaries, learned scholars, builders of institutions and veritable heroes in the annals of proselytisation. Some of the country’s earliest English schools, colleges, printing presses, all came up in Bengal. The state also saw many leading intellectuals, such as Keshub Chandra Sen and Kali Charan Banerjee, falling under the spell of Christianity.

In the post-Independence period, this powerful missionary tradition was carried forward by Missionaries of Charity founded by the Alban¬ian nun Teresa, who acquired a larger-than-life image in India and the world for her charity work focused on the poor and the homeless in Calcutta. With all that background, and keeping in mind the statement made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that Teresa’s services were motivated by the desire to gain Christian converts, you cannot blame anyone for thinking that Bengal would be a veritable citadel of Indian Christianity.

So what do the numbers say? Hold on to your chair please—00.64 per cent of the West Bengal population is Christian, according to the latest census figures available! And that leaves one wondering, where have all the converts that the great missionaries of their age and, most of all, Teresa of Calcutta, were supposed to have won, disappeared?! I think neither Monier Williams nor Vivekananda would have been surprised.

So to come back to the fourth assertion, that Western evangelists are all preparing for a great Indian conversion: of course they are! They have been in preparation for centuries, and the harvest is no nearer now than it was in 52 AD, 190 AD, or 1757 AD! If the Christian evangelical efforts in India pose a threat to anyone, it is to the pockets of Christian donors in the West.

But this does not mean there is no problem. There are evangelical activities that pose serious irritation to Indians of all religions (or no religion). For example, there are cringe-inducing videos up on Youtube and other social media of Christian pastors moving around poverty-stricken areas, talking into the camera for the benefit of potential donors in the West, patting their own backs about the great job they are doing of converting Hindus to Christianity, and explaining why they need support in terms of ‘prayers’ and perhaps, some greenbacks as well. A new breed of independent, evangelical churches that has sprung up in recent decades, unaffiliated to the long-established mainstream churches such as the Catholics or the Anglicans or the Protestants, are particularly to blame. In their single-minded focus on money-raising, they seem no different from some of the godmen who have gained notoriety for their devotion to mammon.

There are also other practices that some proselytisers resort to that are either dubious or deeply annoying: holding ‘faith-healing’ meetings that are indistinguishable from plain old quackery, for example. It is perhaps time for the mainstream churches that are not into these practices, but are probably feeling tempted to use them as they lose some of their own flock to these new-fangled churches, to wield their influence and powers of moral suasion to create a code of ethics for all Christian organisations or, if that is not feasible, at least create a public distance between themselves and those who violate that code, in order to put more social pressure on them.

To sum up, the Hindutva right-wing narrative of a growing, serious threat from Christianity to Hinduism does not stand the test of data and evidence. In fact, India is that exceptional country that listened to all that Christianity had to say without feeling threatened, and we know from history that this confidence was justified and it continues to be so. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that aggressive proselytisation efforts of a limited number of new evangelical chu¬rches is causing annoyance, but that is probably not reason enough to start a concerted hate campaign with violent overtones against a mini-minority of the population. Cons¬titutional amputation for remedying what is essentially irritation to public order and good sense would probably be an over-reaction; but fanning hatred against fellow citizens of a different faith is indeed an abomination not worthy of us.
(Tony Joseph is former editor of BusinessWorld. The author, who bears a Christian name, ceased to be a believer of any religion in his early 20s, and considers himself an atheist with a liking for the original teachings of the Buddha.)




New Chapter for Classic Paris Bookstore: Books Printed on Demand


“We’re completely revising the chain of book production because we’re a bookseller, a publisher, a printer and also a distributor,” said Alexandre Gaudefroy, Les Puf’s director. CreditDmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

PARIS — Gauthier Charrier, a graphic design student, stepped inside one of Paris’s newest bookstores and wondered, “Where are all the books?”

“I saw this empty, open space — just a couple of stools — and I wondered, ‘Did someone mess up?’” Mr. Charrier, 20, said.

No one messed up.

The pronounced stock shortage inside the Librairie des Puf, run by the publisher University Press of France, or Les Puf for short, is not the result of an ordering mistake, but the heart of the shop’s business model.

There are books, but they are not delivered in advance from wholesalers. They are printed on request, before the customer’s very eyes, on an Espresso Book Machine. On Demand Books, the American company that manufactures the machine, chose the name as a nod to an activity you can complete in the five minutes it takes to print a book: Have a quick coffee.

Labeled, not so modestly, the “Gutenberg press of the 21st century” by its creators, the machine sits in a back corner of the shop, humming as it turns PDFs into paperbacks. Customers use tablets to select the titles for print — adding, if they want to, their own handwritten inscriptions — while sipping coffee in the light and airy storefront in the Latin Quarter of Paris. “The customers are all surprised,” said the shop’s director, Alexandre Gaudefroy. “At first, they’re a little uncomfortable with the tablets. After all, you come to a bookshop to look at books. But thanks to the machine and the tablets, the customer holds a digital library in their hands.”



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From a business standpoint, Mr. Gaudefroy said, “I don’t have to worry about space for the stock. We’re in a space which measures less than 80 meters squared, and I can offer readers as many titles as I want.” And that is a lot of titles. All 5,000 books published by Les Puf are available, as well as an additional three million books compiled by On Demand Books, including titles from 10 large American publishers and the public domain.

Les Puf’s prestige in the industry has helped it secure even more titles — a group of French publishers are expected to hand over PDFs of their titles in a few weeks. “What’s really exciting is that, thanks to the on-demand model, we can revive old titles, which we previously hadn’t bothered with because they’d only sell five or 10 copies in a year,” Mr. Gaudefroy said. “On-demand, it’s a new economy for us.”

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About 2,000 out-of-print Puf titles will be made available to customers in the coming months, Mr. Gaudefroy said. “We’re completely revising the chain of book production because we’re a bookseller, a publisher, a printer and also a distributor,” he said.

It is a radical reinvention of a store that first opened its doors in 1921. The original Librairie des Puf occupied a far larger, multilevel space in the corner of Place de la Sorbonne, and had packed window displays and a bustling intellectual crowd from nearby universities. It was long a cultural and academic symbol, until it was forced to close because of falling profits and soaring rents. Then, about 10 years ago, the site was sold to a men’s-clothing chain, much to the chagrin of locals.

But its closing was no exception. From 2000 to 2014, 28 percent of Paris bookstores closed, according to a 2015 report from the Paris Urban Planning Agency, a body assembled by the City Council in 1967 to chart social and economic evolution in the French capital. Crippling rent increases in Paris’s densely populated center were mostly to blame, as well as growing competition from e-commerce sites that are able to offer far more titles than a cramped city bookstore. The decline in sales of newspapers and magazines also contributed, since these are often sold alongside books in French bookstores.

The Espresso Book Machine is made by On Demand Books, which chose the name as a nod to an activity that can be completed in the five minutes it takes to print a book: Have a quick coffee.CreditDmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times


The Latin Quarter, which has the highest concentration of bookshops in the city, was among the worst-hit areas. In an effort to protect the neighborhood’s unique character — and prevent so-called blandification — the Paris City Council in 2008 made it the center of its Vital’Quartier program. The program buys retail spaces across Paris, renovates them and rents them to small culturally significant enterprises at far below market rates. Les Puf was leased one of these spaces on Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, allowing it to reopen in March just a few blocks from where it closed.

“We’re already thinking about opening in other big cities in France — in university towns like Lille, Bordeaux and Lyon,” Mr. Gaudefroy said. “After a few weeks of business, there’s a real commercial motivation for doing so because, well, we’re selling a lot of books. A lot more than predicted. We thought we’d sell 10, 15 books in a day, but it’s been more like 30 or 40.”

“It’s an investment, but if it’s well managed, it can be very profitable,” Mr. Gaudefroy said. Along with the low rent for its retail space and the elimination of the cost of overproducing books that may not sell, Les Puf benefits from an affordable two-year lease on the Espresso Book Machine from the French printing association Ireneo. And France’s fixed-book pricing law, which prohibits anyone from selling books at a discount, means Les Puf can charge the price set by the publisher for each book. “A lot of publishers I know are interested in the idea, especially when we tell them how little it costs us,” Mr. Gaudefroy said.



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So far, the store has relied on foot traffic and the pull of the machine’s novelty to draw customers, but a social media and leafleting campaign aimed at students — Les Puf’s original demographic — is planned.

Les Puf’s success is not an anomaly. Times are still tough for brick-and-mortar shops, but signs of a recovery are widespread. In the United States, sales in physical bookstores rose by 2.5 percent last year, the first increase since 2007. In Britain, the largest chain bookseller, Waterstones, announced a return to profitability at the end of last year after the arrival of the indie book-selling success story James Daunt as managing director.

Mr. Daunt decentralized control of the chain’s 275 stores, encouraging individual managers to modify their stores’ layouts for the local book-buying audience, thus scrapping an ingrained industry practice that had effectively allowed publishers to dictate which books appeared in best-seller sections.

Independent bookstores, too, are beginning to carve a path out of their business’s decade of decline. “It’s an industry which is very much starting to rebound,” said Nick Brackenbury, one of the founders of NearSt, a mobile application created in London that is helping to wean customers off buying books on, encouraging them to return instead to their local stores.

“Bookshops are starting to do lots of little innovative things and getting people to come back into them,” Mr. Brackenbury said. For many bookstores that have the space, like Gogol & Company in Milan, La Fugitiva in Madrid and Java Bookshop in Amsterdam, remaking themselves as hybrid bookstore-coffee shops has become a reliable way to attract customers. Other shops are emphasizing something unavailable online — the experience of visiting a bookstore.

The Society Club in London’s Soho district is as much a cocktail club and members’ lounge as a bookstore. Books for Cooks — a store in Notting Hill entirely devoted to cookbooks — offers a sensory experience by cooking up one of its books’ many recipes in an open kitchen at the back of the store every morning.

Mr. Brackenbury and his team are allowing bookstores to innovate on a more fundamental level: convenience. “The main feedback we get from our users is: ‘I buy from Amazon reluctantly because it’s so easy,’” he said. “Everyone will say, ‘I want to support my local shops.’ But few people actually do today because it’s so much hard work.”

NearSt aims to help local shops adapt to the needs of the modern customers by making local shop inventories “shoppable” from a smartphone, allowing customers to search for titles, find local stores that sell them and see routes there. “We just want local stores to be able to offer customers something which is just better than Amazon,” Mr. Brackenbury said.




Garfield, NJ, USA: Prof. George Menachery recieves award for his contributions to the fields of history and archaeology from Msgr. Madathipparambil at a function presided over by Msgr. Kandankudiyil in the presence of Fr. Joy Alapatt, later Aux. Bishop of Chicago.




CHAI  Kerala Chapter Formed

Bangaluru, March 6, 2015.

During the course of the CHAI workshop held at the DVK Research Center Bangalore ably led by Dr. D. Sami of the Chennai Loyola College conducted for CHAI office-bearers and CHAI  writers of the History of Christianity in India Project participants from Kerala got together to form a Kerala Chapter of the Church History Association of India under the guidance of National President Dr. Jetti A. Oliver and other national leaders and reputed scholars. For a long time the feeling was there that in spite of the presence and availability  of a large number of Church History scholars in Kerala there was no forum, especially no ecumenical forum, where they could come together for study, research, and exchange of thoughts and findings. This feeling was also expressed by the scholars who participated in the Dr. Mathias Mundadan National Seminar conducted at JEEVASS Alwaye.

The following office-bearers were elected for the Kerala Chapter of CHAI:

Prof. George Menachery (President), Dr. Varghese Perayil (Vice-President), and Dr. Charles Dias (Secretary cum Treasurer). Those members of CHAI and others interested in the activities of the Chapter and wish to register may contact the Secretary.



‘Buon Natale’ enters Guinness World Records
THRISSUR, December 28, 2014


For the record:Thrissur Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath addressing a gathering of Santa Claus (right) on Saturday.— Photos: HINDU

: ‘Buon Natale’, a Christmas procession taken out here on Saturday by the Thrissur Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, entered the Guinness World Records for having the largest number of people dressed up as Santa Claus (Father Christmas).
18,112 people
With 18,112 people donning the red-and-white costumes, the procession was declared at 4.35 p.m. “the largest gathering of Santa Claus” by authorities of the Guinness World Records.
Pontifical Lateran University Major Rector Archbishop Enrico dal Covolo witnessed the procession.
Elaborate arrangements
Elaborate arrangements were made for counting the participants.

Manorama Photo
M.P. Vincent, MLA, Thrissur Mayor Rajan Pallan, District Collector M.S. Jaya, Thrissur Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath, Auxiliary Bishop Raphael Thattil, KPCC general secretary Padmaja Venugopal, and Cochin Devaswom Board president M.P. Bhaskaran Nair were present.




Fr. Dr..Sebastian Karotemprel, SDB passes away

Well known Church Historian Fr. Sebastian Karotemprel, SDB, long associated with CHAI activities passed away on July 20 at Shillong. He was 83. Father Karotemprel had authored several books and was a great authority on matters related to the Church, esp. The North Eastern Churches. “He has left behind a legacy of theological authenticity, academic rigour and indefatigable labour,” said Archbishop of Shillong Diocese, Reverend Dominic Jala.. Sometime Professor of Theology of Mission at the Pontifical Urban University, Rome and member of the International Theological Commission he was a member of the Salesian Guwahati/ Shillong Province. Founder editor of the pioneerring Indian Missiological Review now named “Mission Today”., Dr. Karotempral, brother of Bishop Emeritus Gregory Karotempral of Rajkot, also was chiefly instrumental in starting the seven-storey Don Bosco anthropological museum in Mawlai. He was a key resource person at CHAI’s Shillong Triennial. May his soul rest in peace.

Prof. George Menachery, Chairman, Organising Committee 0091-9846033713 may be contacted

Dear scholars,

May I invite your attention to the attachment where details of the International Conference proposed to be held from 23-25 Feb. 2014 on megalithic burial sites of south India wsrt Kerala and possible Jewish Connection of these sites followed by a tour of megalithic monuments on the 26th are given. You are invited to participate. If you have suggestions for papers pl. share it with me.

-Prof. George Menachery, Chairman Organising Committee. 00919846033713



Ollur St. Antony's Forane Church Shrine of Archangel St. Raphael Popularly Called LITTLE ROME in Festival Mood
- Mathrubhoomi Interviews Prof. George Menachery

LITTLE ROME or Chinna Roma Ollur Church -Its Antiquity, Architecture, Art Treasures - Hosten and Brownrigg Photos
- Prof. George Menachery interviewed by Mathrubhoomi


Cardinal Oswald Gracias for Pope

 I propose Cardinal Oswald Gracias for Pope. Two weeks back I would not have made such a, perhaps. surprising statement. Then I was thinking that one of the media’s proposed papabili or a punters’ choice would be and should be elected Pope without much ado. But having arrived in Rome on the 25th of February and having watched with concern almost bordering on consternation the chaos and confusion caused also by the media revelations each and every day and the Cardinals’ own responses and reactions in public and in private I have been forced to suggest an entirely new name for the meditation of the electors.. My experiences in Rome during papal elections and other occasions and my four decades long research into and study of the Church emboldens me to make this suggestion. Cardinal Gracias who considers himself a Goan Catholic, comes from “non-aligned” and generally independent thinking India, a Commonwealth country, a leader of the third world, and a country which still provides a large number of religious and priestly vocations, with an almost self-dependent Church, and active in all mission fields globally. Cardinal Gracias is known to be impartial, highly knowledgable,  an excellent leader, heading with demonstrated skill in holding together a Catholic community divided by heterogenous groups of rites, castes, tribes, languages, and regions in a country whose population is as large as the world Catholic population. He heads one of the largest Archdioceses in the world, is the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, and was elected FABC Secretary General. His good record in the fields of ecumenism and dialogue has been much appreciated.  Of course I am carrying coal to Newcastle as the Cardinals surely know their man. He is a man for all seasons and the man for our own turbulent and uncertain times.

--Chev. Prof. George Menachery, Chief Editor: Christian Encyclopaedia of India, a temporarily accredited journalist in the Vatican.   




Is it permissible for a Pope to resign?

Pope Benedict IX: resigned in 1045.

John Paul II, perhaps the second longest-serving pope in history, died 2005 while still a Pope, showed that popes are expected to carry on until death.Today diocesan bishops must resign once they reach 75. Cardinals over 80 are disqualified from voting  in a Conclave. But the Bishop of Romethe Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church i.e. the Pope is Pope until death.

Only rarely have Popes resigned. Almost a 1000 years back  in 1045, the scandalous Benedict IX –  who even sold the Papacy -  resigned apparently for the cash. He has been accused by St Peter Damian of "feasting on immorality", by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of committing "many vile adulteries and murders" and by Pope Victor III of being a pope "so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it," Benedict ostensibly resigned to get married – but not before he had sold the office to his godfather, who became Gregory VI (and had to resign himself the following year because, even by the standards of the 11th century, buying the papacy wasn't really on).

More edifying is the case of Celestine V in 1294. A former Benedictine hermit, Celestine had never wanted to be pope. After a mere five months in office he issued a solemn decree declaring it permissible for a pope to resign and then promptly did so himself, citing "the desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life". He died in May 1296 probably murdered by his successor  Pope Boniface.

Pope Gregory XII: the last pope to resign the office.

The last pope to resign was Gregory XII six hundred odd years back in 1415 to end the damaging Western Schism, the split that divided the Catholic church for nearly 40 years and had, by the stage Gregory resigned reached the point where there were three different claimants to the papal throne: Roman Pope Gregory XII, Avignon Antipope Benedict XIII, and Pisan Antipope John XXIII.

Since then, a couple of popes – Pius VII and Pius XII – reportedly signed documents of resignation that were to take effect if they were ever kidnapped and imprisoned by (respectively) the French or the Nazis. So VI is a shock, it is not entirely unprecedented

Pope Benedict XVI's shock resignation breaks '600-year taboo'

Pope Benedict, whose eight-year rule was characterised by theological conservatism and what critics said was complicity in the cover-up of clerical sexual abuse, blames health problems

Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Roman Catholic church on Monday as he announced his intention to carry out the first papal resignation in almost 600 years, prompting shock from even his closest confidants and acerbic judgment from critics of his eight year-long reign.

In an address read out in Latin before a group of cardinals in the Apostolic Palace, the 85-year-old pontiff said he had decided that, due to his "advanced age" and deteriorating strengths, he would be stepping down as head of the Catholic church on 28 February.

"The pope has just broken a taboo by breaking with several centuries of practice," Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, told journalists, hailing the move as a "liberating act for the future".

The dramatic move – almost entirely unexpected – paves the way for a successor to be chosen by Easter. Whoever is named the next pope by a conclave next month will inherit a church struggling with many of the same controversies that blighted Benedict's papacy, from clerical sex abuse to fears over inadequate money laundering controls.

Benedict said he had taken the decision to resign "with full freedom" and great awareness of the "seriousness of this act". In order to fulfil the role of pope, he said, "both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me".

Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, insisted the pope had "no current illness that would influence his decision". The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, said he had made up his mind nearly a year ago after trips to Mexico and Cuba in March left him tired. His 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, told reporters: "Age is weighing on him. My brother would like more rest at this age."

The German, who in 2005 was the oldest man to be elected pope in almost 300 years, will now become the first pope to resign his position since Gregory XII in 1415 and the first to have done so voluntarily since Celestine V in 1294.

Fears that a papal resignation could cause a schism in the church are generally thought to have deterred previous popes from stepping down, but Lombardi insisted there would be "no risk" of this happening as canon law specifies that a former pope has no right to govern.

Around the world, leaders expressed surprise and sorrow at Benedict's departure. David Cameron said the outgoing pope had "worked tirelessly to strengthen Britain's relations with the Holy See", while Barack Obama said in a statement that he had "appreciated our work together over these last four years".

The leader of England and Wales' Roman Catholics was not given warning of the resignation. "Pope Benedict's announcement today has shocked and surprised everyone," said the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster.

Nichols, who described the pope's decision to stand down as one of "great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action", said Benedict recognised both the challenges facing the church and the "strength of body and mind" required to deal with them. "I salute his courage and his decision," he said "I ask people of faith to keep Pope Benedict in their prayers."

Glowing tributes, however, were not ubiquitous. Victims of the sex and child abuse scandals that erupted under Benedict's papacy either accused him of being directly complicit in a conspiracy to cover up the thousands of cases that have come to light over the past three years, or of failing to stand up to reactionary elements in the church who were resolved to keep the scandals under wraps.

Norbert Denef, from north Germany, who was abused as a boy by his local priest for six years and was later offered €25,000 (then £17,000) by his diocesan bishop to keep quiet, said: "We won't miss this pope."

In and around the Vatican, the view was unsurprisingly more positive.

Luke Doyle, a seminarian from Kansas studying at the American College in Rome, said he was saddened by the news. But, he added: "This decision by the holy father fills me with admiration for him, and a deeper respect."

Once he stands down, Benedict will be taken to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat near Rome, and will subsequently live in a cloistered monastery. In his statement he said he wanted to "devotedly serve the holy church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer".

His departure will set in chain the process designed to choose his successor from those candidates who are deemed papabile, or suitable for the papacy. Unlike some previous occasions, there are no obvious frontrunners, but Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, are thought to be among the most plausible candidates.

Benedict will not himself vote in the conclave, in which all cardinals under the age of 80 will take part.

But his conservative theological influence is expected to make itself felt through the decisions of those cardinals – a large number of whom were picked by the outgoing pontiff.

Minorities not given even their allotted share in the 11th Plan-Prof. Menachery

Thrissur: It is indeed a matter of regret that the Planning Commission has made very little change in the 12th Five Year Plan outlay for minorities compared to the 11th Plan, said Prof. George Menachery here today. Even out of the 1% of the National Plan Expenditure allotted for minority development in the 11th Plan period only a fraction has been spent in reality. This is because the State Governments are not giving this matter much importance. To avoid a repetition of this drastic negligence the PM and the CMs must put efficient and honest mechanisms in place so that the minorities will benefit at least to the extent envisaged by the central government, he went on to say. Prof. Menachery is a member of the local District Minorities' Committe for the implementation of the PMs 15 pt. programme for Minorities.For example, although every municipal and Panchayat ward must be allotted an Aanganwadi, this has not been implemented in most districts and most states, he continued.. 

“12th Five-Year-Plan &
Conference organized in Lucknow
Reproduced by Prof. George Menachery, Member, PM's 15 pt. Minorities' Development Programme Committee,
Thrissur Dt.,for the attention of Minority Organisations and Institutions. Coutsey ICAN

Lucknow, January 16, 2013: The concerted and sustained campaign to get allocated substantial increase in the funds in the 12th Five-Year-Plan (2012-2017) for the welfare of minorities, especially Muslims, has borne fruits.

The efforts put in by Muslim cleric Maulana Mohammad Fazlur Rahim Mujaddidi, chairman of Strive for Eminence and Empowerment (SEE) and trusted band of his lieutenants who orchestrated the whole campaign, came for all round praise from one all at the National Conference on “12th Five Year Plan & Minorities” here in Lucknow at Ganna Sanstha on Sunday last.

Maulana Fazlur Rahim Mujaddidi, who is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Planning Commission, while delivering keynote address at the conference declared that in the last 65 years after India’s independence, eleven Five-Year-Plans have passed away into darkness and gone to the winds and the minorities, especially the Muslim community, remained cocooned in the web of ignorance and illiteracy while wallowing in the memories of their long-gone glorious past. But now, the Muslims have awakened and they will keep track of each and every paisa allotted for their welfare in the 12th Plan, he thundered.

Maulana Mujaddidi said: “In the 11th Plan mainly we concentrated on Ministry of Minority Affairs (MOMA), wherein we had three tasks viz. 1. To Understand the Plan & Process; 2. To understand the guideline & 3. To understand the implementation mechanism. Now, after being okayed by the National Development Council (NDC) on December 27, 2012 the 12th Plan: PM’s New 15 PP & Flagship Schemes we will have only one task i.e. monitoring each and every paisa.

Nirmal Khatri, Member of Parliament and President Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC), presided over the national conference, while Prakash Jaiswal, Union Coal Minister, was the chief guest at the conference. Dr. Rita Bahuguna Joshi, ex-president of UPCC; Zafar Ali Naqvi, Member of Parliament; Dr. Mohammad Muslim, MLA from Sultanpur in Rai Bareli in Lok Sabha constituency; Akhtar Husain Akhtar; Masood Ahmad and Anees Ansari (Rtd. IAS), were guests of honour on the occasion. Many important dignitaries, academicians, social activists, NGOs and delegates from all over India participated in the programme.

Talking about the 12th Plan which has been claimed to be faster, more inclusive and sustainable growth, Maulana Mujaddidi pointed out that the total allotment outlay for minority affairs has been hiked from Rs.7,283/- crore in the 11th Plan to Rs.7,323/- crores in the 12th Plan which is 137.85 per cent increase. While in the social services sector the total allotment outlay has been increased from Rs.1,197,576/- crore in the 11th Plan to Rs.2,664,843/- crores in the 12th Plan which is 122.52 per cent hike out of which 15 per cent share is Rs.399,726/- crores for minorities. As per his own calculations, a whopping Rs. 1 lakh crore has been allotted for the Uttar Pradesh Muslims under social services, Maulana Mujaddidi stated.

He pointed out that specific interventions under PM’s 15 Point Programme, the 12th Plan document states that in order to provide the best quality education, the endeavour in the 12th Plan will be towards having one residential school along the lines of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya and Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya. It will be established in a phased manner in minority concentration blocks and minority concentration towns/cities. Norms in these schools need to ensure admission to at least 50 per cent children belonging to minorities.

A sizeable minority population in towns and cities is socio-economically disadvantaged and requires a whole range of special initiatives to improve their living conditions and opportunities. It is, therefore, necessary to initiate special programmes for the promotion of education, including skill and vocational education, in such backward towns/cities for empowering members of minority communities, among others.

Talking of the ground realities Maulana Mujaddidi lamented that in the11th Plan under the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) for minorities only 2 per cent of the targeted 15 per cent houses were allotted to them.

India as world super power without Muslims impossible:

Speaking as chief guest, union minister, Prakash Jaiswal said the importance of education must be inculcated among Indian Muslims and they should be acquainted with the schemes brought out by the Union Government for their welfare so that they can derive maximum utilisation and thereby extricate themselves from the morass of illiteracy and poverty. He told the audience that it is their responsibility to make the government answerable by taking two steps and then ask it to take four steps.

Jaiswal said that then only India can aspire to become a world super power. He candidly admitted without any inhibition that without the progress and development of 15 per cent Muslims, who are denied their due share, India cannot become a Super Power in the 21st Century. It would remain only a pipe dream if Muslim community is not brought into the mainstream to enjoy the fruits of development as equal partners, he remarked.

He said that there are ample welfare schemes for the uplift of Muslims by the Union government. However, the benefits do not reach the common man as the regional governments which are the implementing agencies are equally responsible for this, he added.




Jaiswal, while heaping praises on Maulana Fazlur Rahim Mujaddidi for his vision and mission, said the erudite Muslim cleric has wealth of knowledge to uplift Muslims educationally through Union government’s welfare schemes. He said when he visited Maulana Fazlur Rahim’s Jamea-Tul-Hidaya Madrasa at Jaipur of which he is Rector, he was spell-bound by the ambience of education that pervades at his institute. It is a unique Madrasa in Jaipur (Rajasthan), wherein religious, modern and technical education have been so well combined for the all round development of Aalims (graduate students) studying there in. Though a product of madrasa education the Maulana is a real educationist and a social activist in the true sense, who has engaged himself with making the Muslim community aware of their rights and duties, he added. Every state should be endowed with such a personality which would transform the fate of Muslims in particular and the country at large to become a super power, he opined.

Dr. Rita Bahuguna Joshi, in a most humble manner acknowledged the contributions of Maulana Mujaddidi for the uplift of Muslim community which we politicians have failed to do so. She also admitted that India gained freedom due to great sacrifices of Madrasa education stalwart.

Three books related to 12th Plan brought by SEE were released on the occasion. At the end of the National Conference three resolutions were unanimously adopted. The resolutions which were passed are:-

(i) The concerned Union Ministries should immediately make public the action taken report. One year of the 12th Plan has already been passed, the community had bad experienced of 11th plan implementation specially related with educational infrastructure. Therefore it is proposed that concerned Ministries are requested to prepare an implementation Schedule for 12th Plan.

(ii) Though, The Scholarship Scheme has been made Demand Driven in the 12th Plan but the amount layout will not fulfil the financial needs to make it Demand Driven. Therefore, it is proposed that the Scholarship outlay should be increased and matched as per recommendations of Working Group (Ministry of Minority Affairs) & Steering Committee (Planning Commission) proposal. Further, the guidelines should also be amended according to the proposal.

(iii) The 12th Plan has introduced three (3) new Schemes viz. (a) Educational Infrastructure for 100 MCTs, (Minority Concentrated Towns); (b) Scholarship for Civil Services Exams & (c) Appointment of Welfare Officer in MCDs (Minority Concentrated Districts). These schemes are yet to be launched. It is proposed that these schemes should be launched immediately.



Granite (Rock) lampstands or Deepasthambas 

Making their Reappearance in Syrian Christian Churches

adhering to  the Syro-Malabar, Orthodox, Jacobite,

Syro-Malankara and MarThoma Churches of Kerala 


Parur Church and the Shape of Old Kerala Churches

These comments by Prof. George Menachery are vis-a-vis rhe following article by Khristós Agápē:

“There are few, if any, Syrian churches in Kerala that preserve the architecture that existed prior to the 16th century. One church that was still in existence during the early 1800s was the ancient church in Parur. Here is an account from “Lingerings of Light in a Dark Land”, by the Rev Thomas Whitehouse, M.A., formerly Minister of the Government Church, Cochin, and afterwards Principal and Chaplin of the Lawrence Military Asylum (aka Lovedale), Ootacamund, South India. (1873):

Buchanan (Rev. Claudius Buchanan) was there (Parur) in 1806, and in the second volume of his memoirs by Pearson there is an engraving of the old church (in Parur) which he found there. If it be at all a correct representation, it was very unlike all other Syrian Churches now existing in Malabar, especially in it’s having no raised chancel , but a round tower at the extreme end (east end) of the building – towers of any kind being very unusual in their churches. In his book Christian Researches he speaks thus: “Not far from Cranganore is the town of Parur, where there is an ancient Syrian Church, which bears the name of Apostle Thomas. It is supposed to be the oldest in Malabar, and is still used for divine service. I took a drawing of it.

The old church, sketeched by Buchanan, no longer exists. Major Mackworth, visiting the place in 1821, calls it the oldest church in possession of the Jacobite Syrians, and states that another was then building in its room. The church now occupied by them is a spacious building, and singular to say, has a square bell tower of four stories on the left hand side of the front entrance. The idea of the tower has been borrowed from Romish structures as at Verapoli, Balarpat, and Ernaculum.

Foot note: This venerable structure was one of many burnt by Tippoo Saib’s soldiers when they invaded Travancore in 1790. The injuries then received had probably led to another building being necessary.”

Remarks by Prof. George Menachery:
I do agree that the said Parur church is given as the oldest church structure in Kerala by some writers. I have myself reproduced a picture of the church forty years back in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, 1973,right side end paper which I had taken from the "Travels of Marco Polo," Vol.II, by Yule, edited by Cordier, London, 1926. This church is described as the oldest existing structure only because sketches of other churches were not available to the writers concerned. In Parur itself there is an old church where Roz and other bishops were buried. We must remember that there were no less than one hundred church buildings in Kerala at the time of the Synod of Diamper, 1599. There are many detailed references to the churches in the "Jornada," Coimbra, 1606 and in the various Acts and Decrees of the Synod. (cf. e.g. Geddes, 1694, reproduced in the Indian Church History Classics, Vol. I, The Nazranies, ed. George Menachery). There are references to the Syrian churches of Kerala in Joseph the Indian, 1500, ed. the late Antony Vallavanthara and also in the letter of the four bishops, 1504. The story of Vasco da Gama mistaking a temple for a church is well known. The impression we get from all these sources is that the churches at the beginning of the 17th C. were more or less like the typical old churches of the early 20th C., except for the Portuguese facades and the interior Baroque decorations. For more details on this matter cf. the various volumes referred to and the numerous those volumes. - Prof. George Menachery.

Islam  to Overtake Christianity in 50 Years to become Largest Religious Group in the World Un-Affiliated Equal Catholic Population of the World

Half of the Christians Catholics, Protestants 37%, Orthodox 12%

Roughly one in six people around the world has no religious affiliation, a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found, making the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population.The religiously unaffiliated population includes atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion in surveys, the study issued Tuesday reads. Many of the religiously unaffiliated, however, hold religious or spiritual beliefs, the study emphasized.

"For example, belief in God or a higher power is shared by 7 percent of Chinese unaffiliated adults, 30 percent of French unaffiliated adults and 68 percent of unaffiliated U.S. adults," it read. Making up 16.3 percent of the world population, this group comprises a majority of the population in six countries. China's number of religiously unaffiliated is the largest, with a 62 percent share.The Pew Forum's study is based on self-identification.

Titled "The Global Religious Landscape," the study analyzed data available as of early 2012 from more than 2,500 national censuses and large-scale surveys, and found that Christians are the world's biggest religious group, with 2.2 billion people

or 32 percent of the world’s population. The largest share of all Christians live in the United States, followed by Brazil and Mexico.

About half of all Christians are Catholic, while an estimated 37 percent of Christians are Protestant, the study shows. Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians make up 12 percent of Christians.

The second-largest are the Muslims  with 23 percent of the world's population  and are a majority in 49 countries, including 19 of the 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Hindus make up 15 percent of the population, while the nearly 500 million

Buddhists add up to 7 percent.

The study also found that the median age of Muslims (23 years) and Hindus (26) is younger than the median age of the world’s overall population (28), and more

than 12 years younger than the median age of Jews, which is 36 years old.But average age of Christians is 30, two more than overall age.

"Muslims are going to grow as a share of the world's population, and an important part of that is this young age structure," Pew Forum demographer Conrad Hackett said.

Judaism has the weakest growth prospects in comparison.

There are about 15 million Jews in the world, or about 0.2 percent of the global population, and about 44 percent of them live in North America, while about 41 percent live mostly in Israel.

The Pew Forum study also shows that an estimated 405 million people practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. More than 70 percent of the world’s folk religion practitioners live in China.

Pope Benedict XVI puts Paul VI on first step to sainthood


Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree on Thursday recognising the "heroic virtues" of late pope Paul VI, putting him on the first step towards beatification and eventual sainthood. 

Italian-born Giovanni Battista Montini, who was elected pope in 1963 following the death of Pope John XXIII who initiated Vatican II and reigned until 1978, succeeded by Pope John Paul I & II, oversaw a complex series of reforms in the Roman Catholic Church following the Vatican II Ecumenical Council. 

The Vatican said the pope signed the decree after meeting with the prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato. 

Vatican investigators will now try to identify a miracle that can be attributed to Paul VI in order for him to be beatified. A second confirmed miracle is required for canonisation. 

Paul VI had a particularly active pontificate and was one of the first popes to engage in extensive international travel. 

It was a turbulent time in the Church and the pope had to handle the departure of tens of thousands of priests and nuns who wanted to marry, as well as face criticism from the 1968 generation. 

He was also heavily criticised for the encyclical "Humanae Vitae" in 1968 in which he forbade the use of contraception even by married couples. 

Ollur Church-supplementary matter

Church Elephants of Kerala

Every old Syrian or Thomas Christian or Nazraney Church of Kerala has two exquisitely carved wooden elephants supporting its main beam, one a fully caparisoned Festival Elephant and the other a Plain Working Elephant used mainly to pull and carry heavy weights like timber. 

Beatification of martyr Devasahayam Pillai under way in Nagercoil on Sunday.

Nagercoil: A large number of people witnessed the beatification ceremony of martyr Devasahayam Pillai at a programme organised on the Carmel school campus here on Sunday, 1st Dec. 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI, Head of the Catholic Church, declared Devasahayam Pillai, Blessed. An idol of the martyr was sanctified on the occasion. Religious personalities, including Angelo Cardinal Amato, Salvatore Pennacchio Oswal Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai Telesphore P. Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, Curia Bishop Dr. Bosco Puthur and more than 40 archbishops from various places across the country witnessed the ceremony. Over thousand parish priests, reverend fathers and Sisters also were witnesses to the ceremony.
K.T. Pachaimal, Forest Minister; J. Helen Davidson, Kanyakumari MP; A. Nanjil Murugesan, Nagercoil MLA among other politicians cutting across party lines participated.
• Church beatifies India's first 'lay' martyr
• Nagercoil (TN), Dec 2 (PTI) Devasahayam Pillai, the 18th century "martyr" who "sacrificed" his life for the faith in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, was today beatified by Catholic Church here.

Pillai is the first lay person to be elevated to the rank of the "Blessed" in India as a procedure ahead of raising a person to Sainthood under the Canon Law followed by the Church.

(23 April 1712-14 January 1752)

The Servant of God, Devasagayam Pillai, was born in 1712, of Vasudevan Namboodri and Devakiamma at Nattalam, formerly of South Travancore, now in the civil district of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu .
He was named Neeakanda Pillai, and “Pillai” denotes his caste affiliation, Nair, and it is among the high castes in the Hindu social order. A man of character and well educated, Nilakanda Pillai started his career as a soldier and then became a Palace official in charge of Kingdom’s treasury.

During his tenure as Treasury official, the Kingdom suffered due to lack of revenues and loss of property. Neelakanda Pillai shared his sufferings and the difficulties with Eustachius Benedictus De Lannoy, the captured Dutch Captain, who was then serving as an army advisor to King Marthandavarma. A fervent catholic that he was, De Lannoy, quoting the Book of Job, counseled him. Taken up by his explanation, Neelakanada Pillai wanted to become a Christian. Fr. Giovanni Battista Buttari, a Jesuit Missionary based in Vadakkankulam, baptized him as Devasagayam, Lazarus, on May 14, 1745.
After his conversion, Devasagayam Pillai converted many people including his wife, Bhargaviamma. Convinced of the equality of all as Children of God (Gal.3:28) he decried caste distinction and superstitions. At the insistence of the infuriated Hindu Priests, the King wanted him to reconvert to Hinduism. But Devasagayam Pillai was firm in his faith and so the King ordered him to be arrested. He was arrested on Feb.23, 1749, and for three years he was tortured and paraded in chains to various places including Pukliyurkuruichi, now a parish in Kottar Diocese. A defiant Devasagayam refused to give up Christ and so he was shot to death on January 1752 at Kattadimalai forest, Aralvaimozhy. His mortal remains were discovered by the Christians who brought them to Kottar and buried in front of the main altar of the Church of St. Francis Xavier, Kottar, which in turn became the Cathedral of the Diocese of Kottar.

Attempts were made to present his cause to the Holy See, starting with the Ad Limina visit Report-1756. Recently in 1993 the Cause was canonically instituted in the diocese of Kottar. The Diocesan Enquiry was duly sent to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints and the validity of the Diocesan process was confirmed on 18th March 2010. The Historical commission (2011) and the Theological commission (2012) in Rome have unanimously approved the POSITIO and the fact that the Servant of God suffered death for his faith. On June 28, Pope Benedict XVI has authorized the Pontifical Commission for the Cause of Saints to promulgate the decree declaring the Servant of God Devasagayam Pillai( Lazarus) from the Diocese of Kottar beatified.

Address: Vice Postulator, Bishop’s House, P. Box 17, Asaripallam Road, Kanyakumari District, 629 001, Tamil Nadu.

Dr. John C. B. Webster's
"North West India in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"

CHAI is planning to release the book History of Christianity in India, Vol V, Part 2 written by
Dr. John C. B. Webster: "North West India in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"
on October 30, 2012 at the Constitution Club of India, Rafi Marg, Behind Reserve Bank of India, New Delhi, 110001 at 4 pm..
All students and scholars of History, and Church History in particular are welcome.

Please inform your views:
Kevin Villoth 

Prof. George Menachery (RC historian) printed it in the back coverof the book edited by him with the title Indian Church History Classics Vol. I, The Nazaranies, (The South Asia Research Assistance Service, Ollur, 1998). He identified it asArchdeacon Geevarghese in the imprint page.

John Fenwick, in his book The Forgotten Bishops, (gorgias press, 
Piscataway, N.J., 2009) quoted this picture from The Nazaranies. However, He refused Menachery’s claim as Archdeacon Geevarghese.

A Syriac inscription about his demise is engraved in the eastern wall of the nave. However, according to the practice existed until the late nineteenth century, only the bishops were entombed in the nave of the Nazrani church.

Being an Archdeacon according to the East Syrian rite, Archdeacon 
Geevarghese was only a priest in the hierarchy. The priests and deacons were entombed within the railings west of the nave until the nineteenth century.

Also, the costumes of the person in the mural under discussion, 
correspond with that of a bishop. The Mitre, pectoral cross, blessing are clearly identified him as a bishop. As the primate of the Nazranis, along with similar Mitre, the Malankara Metropolitan occasionally uses the same vestments even today. Whatever be the counter arguments, the pastoral staff he carries does betray the claim as Archdeacon Geevarghese. All the above clearly proved that 
the person in the mural is nobody but a bishop.

[Note from Prof. George Menachery: Both in 1971 and in 1997 when I visited the church to take photographs, and on my other visits to the church the priests and elders of the locality were unanimously of opinion that this was the picture of Archdeacon or Arkhadayakon Gheevarghese of Christ who was appointed bishop of Palayur but did not take charge. Pakalomattom history wikipedia says, "

Geevarghese of Christ was appointed as bishop of Palayur, but due to Portugese intrigue he couldn’t be ordained. As Archdeacon’s Position was above that of bishop it is suspected that the may have refused the position also." Again:Pope Gregory XIII wrote on 5th March 1580 to the Thomas Christians:" But be obedient in the lord to Mar Abraham , your Archbishop and to George, the bishop of Palur..."(The Nazranies, ICHC I, Ed. Prof. George Menachery, p.119 from the reprinted book by Mackenzie and its f.n. 46). The same is found in "Epistola Gregorii XIII Pont. qua Clerum et Christianos S. Thomae in oris Malabaricis ..."  "Datum ...die  quinta Martii MDLXXX.": "Obedite vero in Domino Abrahamo Archiepiscopo vestro, Georgio item Episcopo Palurensi..." (p.158, George Cathanar, The Nazranies, 1998). It was in the light of these findings that I had described the picture to be of Archdeacon Gheevarghese - G.M.


4th Century Assyrian Church in Saudi Arabia

      For photos :

(Courtesy AINA) -- Bordering the Arabian Gulf and containing the towns of Dhahran, Al-Khobar, Dammam, Qatif, Hofuf and Jubail, the Eastern Province of Suadi Arabia is where oil was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s.

Near Jubail are the ruins of what was unearthed in the mid-1980s by a group of people attempting to dig their vehicle out of the sand. The ruins are known as the Jubail Church and are acknowledged by the Saudi government, who will not issue permits to visit it because 'the site is being excavated.' In any case, the original ruins contained four stone crosses, which later went missing, though the marks where the crosses were are still visible. The ruins are thought to date from the 4th century, which make them older than any known church in Europe. Not much else is known but speculation is that it was in some way connected to one of the five Assyrian Church of the East bishoprics which are known to have existed in this area of the Gulf in the 4th century.

The following photographs taken by Robert and Patricia McWhorter during 1986 shortly after the ruins were partially excavated and protected by the Saudi Department of Antiquities.

© 2012, Assyrian International News Agency.  All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use.


Gulf Middle East Christian Kuwait SMCA Christianity














SMCA Kuwait
The Syro Malabar
Cultural Association of Kuwait
St. Thomas Day Celebrations 2012

Detailed program for Prof. George Menachery will be as below:

5th Thursday Morning 9.00- GM arrival Kuwait

5th n o Kuwai4.30 pm = meeting with the vicar general Rev Fr. Mathews Kunnelpurayidom
8.00 pm = meeting with the vicar Rev. Fr. Mathai Madathikunnel OFM Cap

6th Friday 9.30 am to 10.30 am baladeepthy seminar for teens Inagural session
Talk by Prof. George Menachery for 30 mins
Sub: Knowing the teen, as a college professor

6th Friday 5.15 pm = Holy Mass in connection with the St Thomas Day

7th Saturday 10am to 12 noon - Talk to Teens by Prof. GM
“My community, values, and tradition”

8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th- ( Sunday to Thursday)
6.00 pm - exhibition starts
7.00 pm to 8.30 pm - inter family unit quiz ( preliminary and final)
Quiz Master- Bijoy Palakunnel
Prof George Menacherry will be the moderator

8.30 pm to 9.30 pm Talk by Prof George Menacherry(All 5 days)
Sub: Development of Catholic faith in India through centuries, with special emphasis on the history of the Syro Malabar Church
9.30 pm to 10.00 pm - Interactive Session- with Prof George Menacherry

13th Friday: 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm SMCA's cultural events in connection with St thomas day and sabhadinam

6.20 pm Talk by Prof George Menacherry ( 15 mins)
Concluding the week long efforts of history orientation.

Dates: 8th Sunday to 12th Thursday July 2012
8.30 PM Introduction by the Moderator:
8.35 PM Talk By: Chevalier Prof George Menacherry (Each Day)
9.30 to 9.50 Question Answer Session
9.50: Concluding Remarks by the Moderator

Subjects and Moderators date wise:
8th : Cultural Heritage of theThomas Christians
Moderator: Fr. Jose Nirappil OFM Cap

9th: The Beginnings: 1. Apostle Thomas in India
2. St. Bartholomew
3. Thomas Cana (Kynayi)
Moderator: Fr. Albert S Raj OCD

10th: Cana to the Synod of Diamper
Moderator: Fr. Joy Marangattikala SDb

11th: Diamper to the Vathemanappusthakam
Moderator: Fr. Mathai Madathikunnel OFM Cap

12th: 19th & 20th Centuries up to the present & Vision for the future.
Moderator: Fr.Mathews Kunnelpurayidom OCD

13th Friday: 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm SMCA's cultural events in connection with the St Thomas Day and Sabhadinam

6.20 pm Talk by Prof George Menacherry ( 15 mins)
Concluding the week long efforts of history orientation.

Vice-President inaugurates 15th Triennial Conference on Museums

New Delhi, (UNI) Vice-President M Hamid Ansari today said museums, libraries, national galleries and archives were not only a major contributor to the creative and tourist economy but also powerful places of social learning for the promotion of creativity and innovation.

Inaugurating the 15th Triennial Conference of International Council of Museums - Conservation Committee (ICOM-CC) here, the Vice President said that in an increasingly globalised world, people looked towards their cultural heritage to reaffirm their identities and nurture the sense of belonging to their communities, social groups and nations. He said restoration and conservation preserved the very object that served as our link to the past and as a key to the structuring of our future.

The deliberations of the conference would provide an opportunity for the professionals to present and discuss the results of their work and new developments and innovations that occurred during the last three years, when the Triennial was last held, he said. Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni, addressing the conference being held on the theme "Diversity in Heritage Conservation: Tradition, Innovation and Participation", emphasised the need to build adequate system for the heritage preservation and protection, and called for public-private partnerships in a big way, partnerships between Indian heritage management professionals and organisations with their counterparts abroad, and interactions between scientists, conservators and craftsmen. She said that there was also need to encourage much greater community involvement in cultural heritage management and conservation in generating a sense of pride and ownership.

The Governments, scientists, religious leaders, conservators and artisans were needed to come together to engage in the problem solving exercise urgently needed to conserve heritage, she said.

The Minister reiterated India's commitment to bring global community together in an endeavour to preserve and promote cultural heritage.

She said, while a number of conservation projects had been initiated in the arenas of manuscript conservation, art object conservation and the conservation of built heritage, many more such initiatives were required.

The International Council of Museums is an organization of museums and museum professionals, which is committed to the conservation, continuation and communication to society of the world's natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible. Established in 1946 with links to UNESCO. it now has over 18,000 members in 143 countries. The five-day 15th Triennial Conference of ICOM-CC was being attended by more 550 participants from over 74 countries.

The Bishop Vazhappilly Memorial Church History Award was presented to Prof. George Menachery at the Basilica Hall, Thrissur by Sri P. C. Chacko, M. P. in the presence of the Mayor of Thrissur Sri I. P. Paul, Bishops Antony Chirayath of Sagar, Bp. Thomas Vazhappilly of Mysore, Bishop Emeritus Paul Chittilappilly, Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, Bp. Raphael Thattil, M.P.Vincent MLA, P. Madhavan MLA, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Rector Dr. Louis Edakkalathur, Prof. V. G. Thampy and others. The Award purse of Rs. 25,000 was handed over to Chev. Prof. Menachery by Archbishop Thazhath. 

DR KJ JOHN passes away

No Indian Church historian, or general historian for that matter, could resist a sense of immense loss at the most untimely demise of Prof. Dr. K. J. John Ochanthuruth, Secretary General of the Church History Association of India, and former Head of the Department of History and Archaeology at the Calicut University, at 4.30 am on Monday 27th February, 2012 at his home in Calicut.

I was in Kodaikkanal in the middle of a photography expedition of the East Coast of India when Alexander telephoned me the news, which I could not believe, and I informed Dr. Jetti and Dr. Thonippara and others only after I verified the information more than once from different sources. 

It was only a few days before his sad passing that he was honoured with the Samudaya Ratnam award of the Kochi-based Catholic Forum in recognition of his contribution to the Latin Catholic community in Kerala. Dr. Ochanthuruth has done extensive research and published many scholarly papers on the history of Christianity in Kerala.

It was only a few months back that he had organised a very elaborate national seminar at Kochi on Christianity in India with the active collaboration of Dr. Charles Dias, M. P., Dr. Jos Kalappura and others which was attended by almost all well known Church historians of India irrespective of Church and denomination. He had conducted another similar seminar one or two years before also.

The publication of his work ‘Christian Heritage of Kerala’ in 1976 or so – I could not contribute the article on Art and Architecture which John had kindly asked me to write for that volume - and his well researched book ‘The Road to Diamper’ established him as one of the foremost Church historians of the state.

My own acquaintance with him started in the early seventies when I used to visit the Department of History at the Calicut University to consult the library and to discuss problems in Kerala History with Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan, and with some of his brilliant students like Dr. Veluthat Kesavan. Ochanthuruth’s interest in archaeology was one thing that very much attracted me. Earlier his wife Dr. Wilma John, Professor at the Providence College, had contributed an excellent article on the Basel Mission to the first volume of my St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India. Dr. John organised some interesting seminars under the auspices of the University of Calicut where I had been kindly requested to present papers. I had also the good fortune to serve along with Dr. John on the Advisory Board og Archaeology of the Government of Kerala, the Executive Committee of the Census of India Publications (Kerala) and other bodies in all of which his presence and contributions were much appreciated by all. The expert members and officials.

Just a few days before he left us he had conducted a well covered press conference on Hortus Malabaricus, the 333rd anniversary of which publication falls this year, in which  he clarified many points on its compilation often mis-represented by scholars and others. This was another example for his great commitment to veracity in matters historical.

My association with him in the Church History Association of India goes back to many years and even decades. When he was unanimously elected Secretary General of the Association at Hyderabad this October we all envisaged great progress for the association under the leadership of Dr. John along with Dr. Oliver Jetti, Dr. Thonippara and others. But alas that was not to be.

George Menachery

India is a rising Catholic power too

We give this earlier report on India's Catholics from NCR Today for its continuing relevance

President Barack Obama’s red-carpet welcome this week (2009) for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first state visit of Obama’s presidency, is obviously calculated to deepen ties with one of the world’s emerging superpowers. With a massive population of 1.2 billion, India has always been a potential global titan, but today it’s increasingly exploiting that capacity.

An under-appreciated point about India’s rise, however, is that it [India] is also home to some of the impressive growth in Christianity anywhere in the world. That includes the Catholic church, which means that as the 21st century rolls on, India is positioned to become an important player not just in geopolitics but Catholic affairs too.

Here’s some background on Catholicism in India, drawn from The Future Church.

Though Catholics represent only 1.6 percent of the population, India is so big that this [Catholic percentage] works out to a sizeable Catholic community of 17.6 million. The Church is divided into three rites: Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, and the Latin rite. The Syro-Malabar rite has an estimated four million adherents, the Syro-Malankara about 500,000, and the rest belong to the Latin Rite. Local tradition credits the apostle Thomas with the introduction of Christianity, and believers who trace their ancestry to him are known as “Thomas Christians.” Missionary efforts in the South, centered on Kerala and Goa, followed the Portuguese conquest of Goa in 1510.

In many ways, Indian Catholicism is thriving. The Church is growing at a rate ahead of overall population growth, and by 2050 there could be almost 30 million Catholics. (That would put India well ahead of the Catholic population of Germany, for example, and bring it close to Poland.)

Outside its traditional base in the south, Catholicism is also expanding in the northeast. In the state of Arunachal Pradesh on the eastern border with China, where Catholicism arrived barely 25 years ago, there are today 180,000 Catholics out of a total population of 800,000.

Catholicism enjoys wide respect for its network of schools, hospitals and social service centers. When Mother Teresa died in 1997, the Indian government afforded her a state funeral, only the second private citizen after Mahatmas Gandhi to receive the honor. Her casket was born by the same military carriage which carried Gandhi’s remains in 1948.

Yet as the 21st century dawns, Indian Catholicism also faces three major headaches.

The Indian Church History Classics Vol. II The CATHOLICS

The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India [in 3 vols.]

Subscribe to these to get all the information and special features on Christianity in India that aren't  available anywhere else. 


First, India has acquired a reputation for some of the most adventurous theology in Catholicism today, especially in “religious pluralism.” Thinkers such as Michael Amaladoss, Felix Wilfred, Raimon Panikkar, Aloysius Pieris and Jacques Dupuis, all of whom are either Indian or influenced by India, have been controversial because of the various ways in which they try to give positive theological value to non-Christian religions. That’s a logical development given India’s religious diversity, but it has raised alarms in quarters of the Church identified with evangelical Catholicism. Catholic leaders will want to encourage theological exploration that can open up dialogue, but without transgressing doctrinal limits.

Second, a noteworthy point about Catholic demography in India is the disproportionate share of Dalits, or untouchables. Estimates are that somewhere between 60 and 75 percent of Indian Catholics are Dalits, who often see Christianity as a means of protesting the caste system and of affiliating with a social network to buffer its effects. Beginning in the 1970s, the Catholic Church took up the Dalit cause in Indian society. Recently, India's Catholic leaders have backed efforts to repeal laws that provide protection to Hindu Dalits but not those of other religious backgrounds.

Yet some critics say the Church itself has a mixed record. Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad, the first Dalit archbishop, said in a 2005 interview that “discrimination against Dalits has no official sanction in the Church, but it is very much practiced.” Joji told a story about a meeting between Catholic leaders and the former Prime Minister Indira Ghandi in the 1970s. When the bishops complained about the treatment of Dalits, according to Joji, Gandhi shot back: “First do justice to the Dalits within your Church, and then come back to me and make your representation on their behalf. I shall do my best for you then.”

As of 2000, just six of the 156 Catholic bishops in India were Dalits, and out of 12,500 Catholic priests, only about 600 were Dalits [in 2012 CBCI meet at Bangalore there were many more Dalit Bishops]. Sensitivity to caste distinctions in the Church still runs strong. When Joji was appointed to an archdiocese where Dalits are not a majority, outgoing Archbishop Samineni Arulappa of Hyderabad complained, “Rome is being taken for a ride. Rome does not know the ground realities.”

Third is the rise of aggressive Hindu nationalism. Radical Hindu movements often claim that Christians engage in duplicitous missionary practices in an effort to “Christianize” India. Though by most accounts the Hindu nationalists represent a tiny fraction of the population, they have the capacity to create tremendous grief. Organized radical groups today sometimes move into Christian villages, preaching a gospel of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, and urge people to take part in “reconversion” ceremonies. These groups also routinely stage counter-festivals during Christmas celebrations.

Fear of a Christian takeover in nationalist circles is pervasive. In 2001, when Italian-born Sonia Gandhi ran in national elections, one national newspaper carried the headline, “Sonia – Vulnerable to Vatican blackmail!”

Sometimes these tensions turn violent. In 2006, for example, Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore and two priests were attacked by a mob in Jalahally, 10 miles south of Bangalore. The three clerics had come to inspect the scene after St. Thomas Church and St. Claret School in Jalhally had been sacked by Hindu nationalists. Members of Catholic religious orders are also exposed. In April 1995, nationalists cracked the skulls of two nuns in a convent on the outskirts of New Delhi; another mob broke into a residence of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Angels and beat the five sisters, along with their maid, using iron rods.

Navigating the rise of Hindu radicalism, while still identifying with India's legitimate national aspirations, will require a delicate balancing act.

The Economic Times: 30 Jan, 2011, Nupur Amarnath,ET Bureau

Parsis, Jews, Syrian Christians, Bohra Muslims

Professor George Menachery, Dr. K. C. Zachariah, Sayeed Unisa, Yazdi Tantra, Pronoti Chirmuley, Pheroza J Godrej speak to ET.

Businesses held by diminishing races in a crisis to stay afloat

Ratan Tata is used to being feted. So when shareholders showered effusive eulogies in the mid-August annual general meeting, the managing director of the country's largest conglomerate hardly batted an eyelid. Basking in the assorted praise where people implored, "Don't leave us" or "We cannot lose our Ratan," Tata said he will step down by December 2012.

After that, if he stays on in an advisory role is another issue. The real issue is that the organisation that JRD Tata helped build in the early 20th century and Ratan Tata helped chisel may have to make its peace with the fact that its next in line successor may not be a Parsi. There is speculation that, given the group's increasing global focus, the choice need not be an Indian. Tata himself has clarified that the new chief need not be either a Parsi or even a Tata. The Parsis are a wealthy business community in India. And the community is shrinking.

Professor Sayeed Unisa in the department of mathematical demography and statistics at the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) in Mumbai says that the population of Parsi community was 111,791 in 1951; it declined to 69,601 in 2001. Projected population based on estimated births and deaths shows that the community's population will shrink to 40,000 by 2041. "The community has one of the lowest fertility (0.99 in 1999) in the world. This is because of very high non-marriage and late marriage," he says.

The Parsis' isn't a unique case. Businesses held by diminishing races all over the world are in a crisis of sorts to manage to stay afloat. The Greek-Australian community in Greece is dealing with issues where the second and third generation does not want to be involved with community organisations. Religion doesn't bind them and the culture is alien to them.

Enter organisations like the World Zoroastrian Chamber of Commerce (WZCC). Yazdi Tantra, the technical director of the WZCC says that while bigger corporations like Tatas and Godrejs are secure as they have a brand image, smaller businesses and home-base operations face a threat as the younger generation may or may not want to carry on the enterprise.

Tantra, along with WZCC members and some eminent Parsi industrialists, is trying to rekindle the flame of entrepreneurship among the Parsi youth. In 2009, WZCC launched a business plan contest, inviting Parsi youth to come up with business ideas that the community will help to promote and develop. "Since then, we have introduced many hand-holding schemes to encourage Parsi youth to rediscover their spirit of entrepreneurship. This year we have launched an entrepreneur development programme to promote the same," Tantra says. "Today the attitudes have changed. Earlier the Parsis were the pioneers in entrepreneurship, but maybe the license raj or fighting the government for privileges changed that," notes research scholar Pronoti Chirmuley at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has been researching on the Parsis for the last three years.

To involve the young, the Parsi community has initiated programmes to strengthen and revive traditional practices by teaching the younger generation the required skills. "Parsi embroidery-gara and cor-is a unique traditional craft. This skill is being promoted by UNESCO-assisted PARZOR, a non-profit research organisation projecting vulnerable heritage," Pheroza J Godrej, an Bohra Muslims eminent Parsi who has also co-authored A ZoroastrianTapestry:Art,ReligionandCulture.                                                           

The dwindling numbers is not affecting the Parsis alone. There are many pure races in India that are getting battle ready to save their numbers. The Syrian Christians and Jews of Kerala and the of Gujarat are cases in point. In Kerala, first the Syrian Christians and then the Jews rose to high ranks of society through excellence in business. But their numbers too have been dwindling over the years, impacting the businesses they built. According to former senior demographer for the World Bank and honorary professor at the Centre for Development Studies Dr KC Zachariah, in 2009 the Kerala population was 32.5 million while the Syrian Orthodox were accounted at 6,94,000 only and Jacobites (another sect of SyrianChristians)was6,05,000.

Historian and anthropologist Professor George Menachery, an expert in the history of Kerala, says that in Kerala, the figures for Christians have dwindled from around 25 percent in say 1970 to 19 percent today. "There are only 52 Jews left in Kerala although there are half a dozen synagogues and cemeteries left in the State," he says. The orthodox Christian and Jewish communities in the country are not a homogenous group and even in the Syrian Christians there are many denominations. Prof Menachery adds that except for the Knanaya community of central Kerala the other Syrian Christians are more or less of the same stock, although inter-cultural and inter-religious marriages are on the rise. While Parsis are mainly concentrated in Maharashtra and some pockets of Gujarat, Jews and Orthodox Christians are primarilysituatedinKerala.

Prof Menachary claims that businesses that flourished because of the numbers in a family are the ones being increasingly affected. But Dr Zachariah says that while dwindling numbers of the Syrian Christians doesn't affect business to a large extent but it does affect their representation to get any aid from the state, or to get noticed as community.

But clout is not restricted to numbers, says Zafar Sareshwala, chief executive officer of Gujarat-based Parsoli Corp Ltd, who hails from the minority community of Sunni Bohris. Having worked and travelled extensively to the UK and US since 1995, Sareshwala has noticed how the Jews in these countries, despite being a minority, have extended their sphere of influence. "In an increasingly globalising world, education-both men and women-not community will be the key differentiator," he says.

Sareshwala, who runs a vocational guidance centre in Ahmedabad for the Class XII passouts to guide them for further studies started it as a service for Muslim youth but now entertains interests from other communities as well. Dawoodi and Sunni Bohras are an adventurous and enterprising community because of education, he believes. "India has a population of 1.75 million Muslims in all but they have no influence. To be counted, they have to build their sphere of influence which can only come through education," he says.

Emigrations are cited as the leading cause for the dwindling numbers especially among the Jews in Kerala, where a sizeable chunk emigrated to Israel in 1962-70, says Aviv Divekar who runs Aftech Informatics in Gujarat and is a fifth generation Jew residing in India. Among the 40 families left in Gujarat, Divekar feels business has moved from the sense of community. "Jews came to India primarily as a trading community but as time passed most of them have taken to the service sector," he says but refrains from calling it an attitudinal shift.

Some communities are responding to the threat by fighting back. Godrej specifies that the Bombay Parsi Panchayat has initiated a number of innovative programmes to curtail the trend. "There are holiday programme for youth called Zoroastrian Youth for the Next Generation (ZYNG), career guidance programme and a central employment bureau," she says. The Panchayat has also got a matrimonial bureau, subsidised housing for young couples, fertility project run by Dr Anahita Pundole, a third child scheme, medical care for the elderly and home for the aged.

The Jews too have their own community organisations, Divekar tells us but they are not as active as the Parsis. "Jewish organisations conduct meetings to introduce young boys and girls or carry programmes out for education but not on a large scale," Divekar says.

The diminishing races are fighting back. But as Prof Menachery says, "They are fighting a half-hearted battle and a losing one at that."


The tallest stone cross in the world the  great cross at Valle de los Caídos near Madrid Spain soaring to a height of 150 Mts. Ca. 450 ft. probably inspired by the open air or outdoor crosses of the Kerala churches termed Nazraney Sthambams, the pedestals of which are ‘balikkallus’ or sacrificial altars or stones.


Holy Land Pilgrimage Subsidy Welcomed by

Former Member, Karnataka State Haj Committee

By: Magdum Ismail-Magdum BELGAUM
On: 20 Jan 2011 09:18 am
YES, YES, YES! No doubt, a very appreciative, obligatory and logical step to fulfill the religious obligation for believers of Judaism, Christian and Muslims etc. There is no constrain for rich people to perform religious pilgrimage in any part of the world. But nfortunately, those who are desirous to perform holy pilgrimage but unaffordable air fare to the economical weaker sections make a day dreaming! Therefore, the central govt should initiate positive steps to introduce the historic policy to sanction the subsidies for the Jerusalem pilgrimage to any believers of communities’ par with Haj subsidies to Muslims at the earliest. In this context, I strongly support and urge the Dr, Manmohan Singhji’s Govt as well UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhiji to look into the genuine and acceptable grievances of the Christian community and sanction the subsidies for Holy Jerusalem Pilgrimage from the
auspicious year 2011! Jai Hind. Former Member, Karnataka State Haj Committee.

Dispose Of Pleas On Christian Pilgrimage Subsidy, Apex Court Tells A.P. HC

Earlier Report

SECUNDERABAD, Andhra Pradesh :- The Supreme Court of India has directed the High Court of Andhra Pradesh to dispose of the main writ petitions on the government order granting subsidy to Christians for pilgrimage to the Holy Land within four months. The apex court order came August 2.

The Christian community in the state is eagerly awaiting the final judgment of the High Court and hoping that it would lift the stay on the matter and issue orders in its favour.
This will enable poor Christians to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and strengthen their faith and knowledge about Jesus Christ to live a better spiritual and moral life, said a press release issued August 3 by Archbishop Marumpudi Joji of Hyderabad, the executive vice-president of the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches, a state-level body of bishops and Church heads.

The Churches in the State also supported the move of the government of Andhra Pradesh government to grant subsidy to the Hindu brethren for their pilgrimage to the Manasarovar Yatra, the release said.

This proposal of the government was informed to the High Court already. The government has been spending huge amounts for "jatras," "kumbh melas," "pushkaras" and other Hindu festivals. It has been also granting subsidy to the Haj pilgrimage of the Muslim brethren, the prelate pointed out.
"Hence, we appeal to the general public and the leaders of other religious communities not to oppose the subsidies given by the government to the Christians. Otherwise, the government will be deemed to be violating the right of equality under the Constitution and would be considered as 'discriminatory', he added.


Kuravilangad Conference of Syrian Christian Historians and other Scholars
Here are some pictures of the historic Mar Thoma Nazrani Panditha Sangamam held at the Arkkadayakkon Center of Kuravilangad under the austices of the Four Families i.e. Pakalomattom, Kalli, Kalikavu, and Sankarapuri and the Vicar Forane of Kuravilangad

Inaugural address by Hon. Minister Sri K. M. Mani

Presidential address by Prof. George Menachery

Dr. Mini Kariappa presents her paper based on her
research on Syrian Christian, Jewish, and Namboothiri
DNAs at the Hyderabad Center

Anugraha Prabhashanam by Metropolitan Dr. Mar Aprem


Chai: "Living"

The numeric value of the Hebrew word Chai is 18 and this may be the reason why gifts to charity are routinely given in multiples of 18.
This symbol which we often come across on necklaces, bangles, and other jewelry and ornaments, is simply the Hebrew word Chai (living). It combines two Hebrew letters Cheit and Yod attached to each other. There is also the view that it refers to the Living G-d; but another prevalent opinion is that it simply reflects the focus of Judaism on the importance of life itsef. In any case one has to admit that the concept of chai is important in Jewish culture. Remember the typical Jewish toast: l'chayim (to life).
Gifts to charity are routinely given in multiples of 18 the numeric value of Chai
-Prof. George Menachery


CHAI Platinum Jubilee and 15th Triennial 

The Platinum Jubilee Celebrations and 15th Triennial Conference of  the Church History Association of India (CHAI) will  be held from October 6 to 9, 2011 (i.e. from the Vijayadashami Thursday to the following Sunday) at HYDERABAD,  A.P. at Jeevan Jyothi, Begumpet, Hyderabad. Begumpet is about 4kms from Secunderabad railway station and 6kms from Hyderabad(Nampally) railway station. Bangalore train terminates at Kacheguda railway station which is about 10kms from the venue.Prepaid taxis are available at the Airport.Registration fee for Delegates / Participants is Rs.300/- Boarding and lodging will be provided at no extra cost. The half day city tour also will be financed by the organisers.

Conference Theme:

 Indian  Christian Historical and Cultural Studies -Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, For other particulars contact the Secretary General 0091 9846033713, +91 487 2352468, +91 487 2354398 or other National office-bearers.

2. The last date for receiving entries for the CHAI Platinum Jubilee All India Essay Competition on the theme"Preservation of Christian Monuments and Landmarks in India" (1000 to 1500 words) is 31st August 2011. Separate competitions are being held for a) Seminarians, b) University and College Students, and c) the General Public. In each category there will be three prizes of Rs. 8000/-, 5000/-, and 2000/-.For further details contact the Convener Dr. Varghese 09447359139, Prof. Agnes De Sa, 09967801723, or the Rev. Jeremiah ACTC Hyderabad prjapadam@gmail.comm 09247463467 or the General Secretary 09846033713.

3. The Platinum Jubilee Commemoration Volume containing 75 scholarly papers on India's Christian Heritage is in the press. For details contact the chief editors Dr. Oberland Snaitang 09856642859 or Prof. George Menachery 09846033713. 

4. Objects of historical, artistic, archaeological...significance are invited for the Christian Historico-Cultural Exhibition to be held at the venue on the theme Indian Christian Heritage of the South, West, North, East, and North-East. Contact the local organising committee: Dr. Oliver 04027002498, Rev. Jeremiah 09247463467 or the CHAI Southern India Branch Secretary cum Treasurer Dr. Manasseh 09848123927.

5. Useful numbers for details regarding registration of delegates and participants, accommodation, travel details, local taxi and auto fares, bus routes, other directions: Dr. Oliver 04027002498, Rev. Jeremiah 09247463467 or the CHAI Southern India Branch Secretary cum Treasurer Dr. Manasseh 09848123927 or the General Secretary 09846033713, 09400494398.

 CHAI members are cordially invited to participate. Other interested scholars also may kindly contact the organisers.

-Prof. George Menachery, General Secretary, CHAI

Pallinada, OLLUR, Thrissur Dt., pin 680 306; Ph. Nos. 0091-98460 33713,

0487-2352468, 0487-2354398, 09400494398.

Email :,

CHAI website : 


Pope John Paul II beatified before big crowd
A figurine of Pope John Paul II is displayed in a religious shop in Rome April 29, 2011.The late Pope John Paul II was moved a major step closer to sainthood at a ceremony that drew about a million and a half people to Rome and was celebrated by Catholics around the world.

"From now on Pope John Paul II shall be called 'blessed,'" Pope Benedict proclaimed in Latin, bringing cheers to the largest crowd in Rome since John Paul's funeral six years ago.

Benedict praised his predecessor as a man who "restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope."

John Paul, who was the first non-Italian pontiff in 450 years and brought a message of peace to every continent on more than 100 foreign trips, died in 2005 and his sainthood cause was given fast-track treatment by his successor.

He is credited with having hastened the fall of communism in the East Bloc in 1989 because of his strong support for the Solidarity trade union in his native Poland, whose leader, Lech Walesa, was among the dignitaries in St Peter's Square.

In Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said John Paul had brought about a "miracle" in the former communist country.

The crowd in Rome stretched as far back as the Tiber River, more than half a kilometer away. Devotees, many clinging to national flags, rosaries and water bottles as they sang, thronged the Vatican from all directions from before dawn.

Many camped out during the night near the square, which was bedecked with 27 posters illustrating each year of his pontificate, and his most famous sayings, "Do not be afraid!"



Syro-Malabar bishop tells pope his church is treated unjustly

Coutsey Catholic News
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican and many of the Latin-rite bishops of India are not treating the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with justice, and that makes the church look bad, Auxiliary Bishop Bosco Puthur of Ernakulam-Angamaly told Pope Benedict XVI.
While other Christians and other religions enjoy the freedom to build churches and conduct services anywhere in India, the Eastern Catholic churches "are denied it, paradoxically not by the state, but by our own ecclesiastical authorities," the bishop said.
Bishop Puthur, administrator of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, made his remarks to Pope Benedict April 7 at the end of the Syro-Malabar bishops' "ad limina" visits to the Vatican to report on the status of their dioceses.
Generally, the leaders of the Eastern Catholic churches such as the Syro-Malabar church enjoy full freedom to elect bishops and erect dioceses only in their church's traditional territory; otherwise, the responsibility is left to the pope, often in consultation with the Latin-rite bishops of the region concerned.
In the case of the Syro-Malabar church, Bishop Puthur told Pope Benedict that its traditional territory was all of India until Latin-rite missionaries arrived in the 15th century. Now any of its faithful living outside Kerala state are subject to the authority of the local Latin-rite bishop.
"We are convinced that it is the credibility of the Apostolic See that is at stake if this jurisdictional right is not restored to its pristine status," the bishop said.
Bishop Puthur presented five requests to Pope Benedict: the restoration of "all-India jurisdiction" to the Syro-Malabar Church; permission to establish dioceses throughout India; permission to set up archdioceses in Delhi and other large cities; the establishment of a special jurisdiction for the Persian Gulf states, in order to serve the tens of thousands of Syro-Malabar Catholics from India working in the region; action to improve the pastoral care of Syro-Malabar Catholics in Europe, Australia and other parts of the world.
The Syro-Malabar leader thanked the Latin-rite bishops of the United States and Canada for supporting the appointment in 2001 of a Chicago-based bishop for his church's faithful in North America.
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has about 3.7 million members around the world, Bishop Puthur said. Currently, there are 29 dioceses served by: 32,855 women religious; 3,987 diocesan priests; 3,133 religious order priests; and 745 religious brothers, he said.
In his talk to the bishops, Pope Benedict urged them to work for unity within their dioceses, in their church and with the all the bishops of India.
"This responsibility is of special importance in a country like India where the unity of the church is reflected in the rich diversity of her rites and traditions," he said.
Another area where efforts toward unity must be given priority is the family, the pope said.
"A privileged expression of sharing in the divine life is through sacramental marriage and family life," he said.
Pope Benedict said the church can no longer assume that society at large will support or supplement its efforts to provide a "sound and integral education of young people in the ways of chastity and responsibility," nor will it always reinforce a vision of marriage as a permanent bond between a man and a woman open to having and educating children.
"Have your families look to the Lord and his saving word for a complete and truly positive vision of life and marital relations, so necessary for the good of the whole human family," he said. "Let your preaching and catechesis in this field be patient and constant.



2011 Paithrika Jnana Yatjnjam DUBAI

May 13th, 2011 | Dubai

2011 Paithrika Jnana Yathnam led by Chevalier Professor George Menachery

Friday, May 13th, 2011 | Dubai – 12 noon to 5 pm

A Passion for the Heritage of the Syro Malabar Community

"Several essential features of the Syro Malabar culture, history, traditions and customs are challenged and unknown in our day. It is important that we be well grounded in these truths so that we may have a deep affection for our unique heritage." --- Chev. Prof. Menachery

On May 13th, 2011, UACT is proud to invite you to join us with Prof. George Menachery as he looks at several important and at the same time forgotten or halfforgotten aspects of the great Syro Malabar tradition, such as the Indian sojourn of Apostle St. Thomas, culture, art, architecture, customs, manners and festivals, Syro Malabar folklore, food habits, costumes, and ornaments, Malayalee names and their origins, the Syro-Malabarians’ rightful place in India and in all regions, their international presence, chief events in their history and many other interesting matters…..

We look forward to your active participation

For registration please call: +971 508751316 (Mr. Franson), +971 504995102 (Mr. Alex)

To read What People Are Saying about Chev. Prof. Menachery’s works, please browse:



H E Varkey Card. Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church presents Prof. George Menachery with the first Syro Malabar Church Research Award in the presence of more than thirty Syro Malabar Bishops / Archbishops


His Eminence Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil the Major Archbishop greets Prof. George Menachery by presenting him a Bouque on his being selected for the LRC Award



Mar Varkey Vithayathil presents Pope Benedict XVI the first copy of the Third Volume of the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India at Castel Gandolfo

Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer speaks after receiving the first copy of the Indian Church History Classics Vol. I “The Nazranies” from His Eminence Mar Varkey Card. Vithayathil.

Silver Jubilee of the Indian Visit of Pope John Paul the Second 

Double Delight for Kerala Christians

His Holiness Pope John Paul II commenced his Kerala visit on the 7th of February 1986. The first public function of the day was at Trichur or more familiarly Thrissur - the Cultural Capital of Kerala where the Pope enjoyed the “Pooram” with 15 caparisoned elephants and Muthukkudas (colourful parasols) staged by the Paramekkavu Devaswom and the 25 cultural programmes arranged around the papal path at the St. Thomas Nagar - today’s Shakthan Thamburan Nagar.  During his Kerala visit the Pope beatified Sr Alphonsa (who is now a Saint of the Church) and Fr Chavara Kuriakose Elias at a great function in Kottayam.The whole of Kerala is commemorating this Silver Jubilee event with colourful functions and religious ceremonies. This Silver Jubilee occasion has become memorable on account of another event too viz. the beatification of the saintly pope on 1st May 2011, the first Sunday after Easter, hardly four score days after the event, at the Vatican by the Roman Pontiff Benedict XVI.. It is a “first” in Church History since it is for the first time that the Catholic Church is beatifying a person  just after 6 years of his death on 2nd April 2005.

Pope John Paul II, shard his world-view and vision with dozens of countries and cultures during his long tenure of almost three decades as the Supreme Pontiff. He was a Leader for All Seasons and was accepted by the tens of millions of people who who thronged to have a glimpse of him in various continents as Guide, Philosopher, and Friend. H            is leadership to liberate millions from the yoke of unjust governments has been much appreciated, including his role in the liberation of his own country Poland from Commuism.

He was the most travelled pope ever, visiting more than 120 nations during the third longest papacy in history covering it is said a distance equalling 1.5 trips to the moon.Pope John Paul II is also remembered for raising a record number of persons to SAINTHOOD. He was perhaps the only Pope who was shot at but he survied the May 13 1981 attempt on his life and lived to forgive the would be assassin. His voice resounded from all corners of the world exhoting people againt war, abortions, and human rights violations.  

He passed away on April 2, 2005. During the last ceremonies for the pope attended by millions the cry went up to cannonise him immediately and Pope Benedict XVI waived the 5 year wait for the commencement of the process and now after just 5years of his death he is being beatified - after the miraculous healing of a French nun suffering from the Parkinson’s disease.  

Reuters adds: During his 2005 funeral Mass, crowds at the Vatican shouted for Pope John Paul II to be made a saint immediately, chanting “Santo Subito!” for one of the most important and beloved popes in history.

His successor heard their call and on Friday, in the fastest process on record, set May 1 as the date for John Paul’s beatification — a key step toward Catholicism’s highest honor and a major morale boost for a church reeling from the clerical sex abuse scandal.

Pope Benedict XVI set the date after declaring that a French nun’s recovery from Parkinson’s disease was the miracle needed for John Paul to be beatified. A second miracle is needed for the Polish-born John Paul to be made a saint. 

The May 1 ceremony — which Benedict himself will celebrate — is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Rome for a precedent-setting Mass: never before has a pope beatified his immediate predecessor.

Though the numbers aren’t expected to necessarily reach the 3 million who flocked here for John Paul’s funeral, religious tour operators in John Paul’s native Poland were already making preparations to bus and fly in the faithful to celebrate a man many considered a saint while alive.

“We have waited a long time and this is a great day for us,” said Mayor Ewa Filipiak of John Paul’s hometown of Wadowice, Poland, where the faithful lit candles Friday and prayed at a chapel in the town church dedicated to John Paul.

Father Pawel Danek, who runs a museum in John Paul’s family home, said Benedict had listened to the prayers of the faithful.

“The Holy Father has confirmed what we all felt somehow,” he said. “For us, John Paul II’s holiness is obvious.”

Benedict put John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood just weeks after he died, waiving the typical five-year waiting period before the process could begin. But he insisted that the investigation into John Paul’s life be thorough to avoid any doubts about his virtues.

The beatification will nevertheless be the fastest on record, coming just over six years after his death and beating out Mother Teresa’s then-record beatification in 2003 by a few days.

It is not without controversy, however. While John Paul himself was never accused of improprieties, he has long been accused of responding slowly when the sex abuse scandal erupted in the United States in 2002. Many of the thousands of cases that emerged last year involved crimes and cover-ups that occurred on his 26-year watch.

Critics have faulted John Paul’s overriding concern with preserving the rights of accused priests, often at the expense of victims — a concern formed in part by his experiences in Communist-controlled Poland where priests were often accused of trumped up charges by the regime.

And here’s what the BBC had reported in 2005:

Pope seeks to beatify John Paul - pilgrims at the Pope’s funeral called for his immediate sainthood.

Pope Benedict XVI has begun the process of beatifying his predecessor John Paul II, the first step to sainthood. 

“The cause for the beatification of John Paul II is open,” the new Roman Catholic leader told priests meeting at Rome’s Basilica of St John in Lateran. 

The Pope waived the usual rules which require a five-year wait before the Church begins to make someone a saint. 

John Paul II died on 2 April, leading to widespread calls from Catholics worldwide for him to be made a saint. 

Standing ovation 


Beatification requires that a miracle has occurred Group approaches local bishop After Rome’s approval an investigation is launched Findings are sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Case is presented to the Pope Blessed may be accorded a feast day Relics of the candidate may be venerated Canonisation (actual sainthood) requires proof of a second miracle 


“And now I have a very joyous piece of news for you,” Pope Benedict XVI said in Italian before making the announcement in Latin. 

The Pope read out a letter from Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the official in charge of sainthood, in which it said that Benedict XVI himself had authorised the start of the beatification process. 

The news was met with a standing ovation from the priests attending the meeting. 

It comes on the anniversary of an assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981, when he was shot in St Peter’s Square by a Turkish gunman. 

Life Examined 

Information will now be gathered on the former pope’s life and teachings, including all private writings from the period before he became pope, and checked for orthodoxy to ensure that he expressed no heretical views. 

Pope John Paul II abandoned the five-year rule when he beatified Mother Teresa

A commission of historians will be appointed to gather all of the documents together, which will then be examined by panels of theologians, and cardinals and bishops. 

If a two-thirds majority agree with John Paul II’s beatification Pope Benedict XVI will then be called upon to give his own approval. 

But Vatican expert Michael Walsh told the BBC that for the process to be complete the Vatican authorities will then have to establish that a miracle has been ascribed to Pope John Paul II. 

“They have to prove someone has been miraculously healed... by his intercession, by praying to John Paul II, he or she has recovered from cancer or something of that sort,” he said. 

Miracle needed 

In the days following his death Italian media carried a number of reports of alleged miracles attributed to Pope John Paul II, including one claim that an American man suffering from a brain tumour was cured after receiving communion from the late pontiff. 

But the alleged miracles occurred during the Pope’s lifetime, and the beatification process studies those occurring after the candidate’s death. 

Beatification allows public veneration of the person and for the person to be known as “Blessed”. For actual sainthood, proof of at least two miracles is required. 

Beatification allows public veneration of the blessed person

In normal circumstances five years must pass between the death of the person proposed for beatification and the start of the procedure, to avoid emotion playing a part. 

However, John Paul II dispensed with this rule himself when in 2003 he beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta. 

The entire process was completed just six years after her death. 

On Friday Pope Benedict XVI also announced who would succeed him as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

Sixty-eight-year-old William Levada, Archbishop of San Francisco, is the first American to hold the post as the Vatican’s chief watchdog of orthodoxy. 


Platinum Jubilee Celebrations and 15th

Triennial Conference

October 6 to 9, 2011 



Conference Theme : Indian Historical and Cultural Studies -Yesterday,

Today, Tomorrow

A. The Jubilee Celebrations include the following academic programmes:

1. The CHAI is pleased to invite Scholarly Papers related to the above theme from CHAI members and other scholars

2. An Essay Competition on the theme, "Preservation of Christian Monuments and Landmarks in India" is being planned for three categories ofparticipants: a) Seminarians, b) Graduate and Post Graduate University /College Students, c) the General Public.

3. A Panel Discussion by selected scholars during the Jubilee Celebrations(theme to be announced shortly).

4. A Platinum Jubilee Commemoration Volume on India's Christian Heritage

5. A Christian Historic-Cultural Exhibition on the theme Indian Christian Heritage of the South, West, North, East, and North-East to be held at the venue.

Details of all the above programmes will be published in the December 2010

issue of the Indian Church History Review. 

Prof. George Menachery



Board of Trustees and Regional Branch Office-bearers, Since May 7, 2009 


Dr. Oberland L. Snaitang, Kench's Trace, Opp. Assamese Girls Secondary

School, Shillong 793 004, Meghalaya

Mob. 09856642859, Email:


Dr. Thomas Edmunds, Jehovah Shalom, Lutheran Church Cross Street,

Kadaperi, Tambaram, Chennai - 600 045

Ph: 044-22417238, Mb: 09380002895, Email>

General Secretary:

Prof George Menachery, Pallinada, Ollur, Thrissur City, Kerala-680 306.

Ph 0487-2352468, 0487-2354398, Mb-09846033713, Email>,

Joint Secretary:

Ms. Agnes De Sa, 2 Abhilasha, Saibaba Park, Evershine Nagar,

Malad, Mumbai - 400 064

Tel.022-28822577. Email>


Fr. Sebastian Edathikavil, CMI, Dharmaram College,

Dharamaram College, P. O., Bangalore-560 029.

Ph 080-41116234, 9448381255, Email>

BOT Members:

1. Dr. Varghese Perayil, Perayil Christy Bhavan, Adoor P.O.,

Pathanamthitta, Kerala, Email>

2. Dr. George Oommen, New Theological College, Sahastradhara Road,

Kulhan P.O., Dehradun - 248 001,Email>> 




Dr.Leonard Fernando, S.j., Vidyajyoti College of Theology,23 Raj

Niwas Marg, Delhi-110 054. Tel. 011-23947609,


Fr. Monodeep Daniel, The Brotherhood House, 7 Court Lane,

Delhi-110 054,Tel 011-2396851,


Rev Sujeev Das, Pastor, Methodist Church, 58/h-19,

Sector 7, Rohini, Delhi-110 085



Dr. Francis Thonippara, President Dharmaram College, Dharmaram College, P. O.,

Bangalore-560 029., Mb:09447340596; Email>


Dr. P. Manasseh, 10-1-639, Lane No. 3, Street No. 10,

West Marredpally, Secunderabad-500 026, Andhra Pradesh

Mob-9848123927, 8121023927; Email>



Dr. M. D. David,28/12, Sagar Sangam, Flat No. 12, Bldg. No.28, Bandra,

Mumbai-400 050. Ph: 022-26416377. Email>


Dr.Kranti K. Farias, 104 Asit, 197 A Kane Road, Band Stand, Bandra,

Mumbai-400 050 Ph: 022-26420565, Email>


Prof. Mrs. Agnes de Sa,2, Abhilasha, Alpha C.H.S., Saibaba Park,

Evershine Nagar, Malad-West, Mumbai-400 064. Tel.022-28822577.


Prof. Ms. Joan Dias, Victoria Apts. St. Alexius Road, Bandra, Mumbai-400 050.

Tel.022-26551122. Email>



Rev. Manmasih Ekka, Gossner Theological College, Main Road,

Ranchi - 834001, Jharkhand,Mb-08431326659,



Rev. Pratap Digal, Serampore Theological College,

P.O Serampore-712 201, Dt.Hooghly, West Beangal.

Mob-09433137360, Email>


Dr. S.C. Canton, 303, Prabha Apartment, Siromtoli Old H.B. Road,

Ranchi - 834001, Jharkhand

Ph - 09334725625/09771185003; Email :



Dr. Dr. Oberland L. Snaitang, Kench's Trace,

Opp. Assamese Girls SecondarySchool, Shillong 793 004, Meghalaya

Mob. 09856642859, Email:


Dr. David R.Syiemlieh, Dept. of Hostory, NEHU,

Nongthymmai, Shillong-793 014.

Ph: 0364-2721211, Mb: 9436193103; Email>


: Prof. Ms. A.N.Passah, Dept. of History, NEHU, Nongthymmai,

Shillong-793 014.

Ancient Christian site in UAE opens to visitors
Dec 12, 2010,Courtesy AFP

A general view of the United Arab Emirates' only discovered Christian monastery on November 29, 2009, in Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Photograph: MARTIN PFEIFER/ TDIC/AFP 
DUBAI - A 1,400-year-old monastery that is the only known pre-Islamic Christian site in the United Arab Emirates has opened to visitors, The National newspaper reported on Sunday.
The monastery on Sir Bani Yas island in Abu Dhabi emirate is "believed to be the only permanent settlement ever established on the island" and "the only pre-Islamic Christian site known in the UAE," it said.

It is believed to have been built around 600 AD by a community of 30-40 monks and was discovered in 1992, said the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Development Company which is developing the island.

Dr Joseph Elders, the chief archaeologist for the Church of England, is leading the team excavating the site, the company said in a statement.

"Twenty years ago, we had no idea that Christians came this far south and east" in the Gulf region, The National quoted Elders as saying. "We don't have many monasteries from this period."

The people who lived at the monastery probably belonged to the "Nestorian Church, or Church of the East," it said, adding that the settlement was abandoned after about 750 AD.

It opened to the public on Saturday.


As it happened: Pope in Britain: 19 September 2010

• The fourth day of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the UK saw him lead a beatification service for 19th Century theologian Cardinal Newman at Cofton Park in Birmingham
• He also visited the Catholic Seminary of Oscott, which trains future priests, and held a meeting with the Bishops of England, Scotland and Wales
• Prime Minister David Cameron thanked the Pope for making the country "sit up and think", and vowed to increase co-operation between the UK and the Vatican on issues like poverty and climate change

BBC Well, that's a wrap. Thank you for joining us for our live coverage of the Pope's visit and for all your contributions. We hope you've enjoyed our efforts and will join us again for some more live commentary soon.

Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for the Times newspaper, says that where protests occurred they were conducted with "dignity and decorum". She says she was told ahead of the visit that police were on "hair trigger" alert because of previous assassination attempts on the Pope's life, and if there had been any attempt to make an citizen's arrest of the pontiff, as some had suggested, officers would have had to decide in a split second whether to use their weapons.

Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes, policing co-ordinator for the papal visit, tells the BBC it's been challenging, but "enjoyable". He says colleagues at the Vatican have been "amazed" at the British ability - "spirit of fair play", he calls it - to allow both well-wishers and protesters to gather in the same area and make their views known without any problems.

Leo Goatley, from Gloucester, writes: "Perhaps surprisingly, the Pope omitted to place family at the centre of his preaching, which should be pivotal to the teaching of the Church. As a lapsed Catholic married to a devout member of the Church, I found the plea for dialogue between faith and reason curious as the idea of a belief in a God is, to me, far less challenging than a faith required to accept the full creed of Christianity or any other religion for that matter."

If you missed the events in Birmingham earlier today, the BBC's Sitala Peek was there and has written about her experiences.

Adrian Winchester writes: "I had my doubts about how successful this visit would be but I'm now sorry to see the Pope go. He has addressed some important issues that go to the heart of the sort of society we want."

Lord Patten, the government's papal visit co-ordinator, says the cost to the taxpayer is "pretty low", about £10m. "I think it's been an investment in a very important relationship," he tells the BBC. "A relationship with an organisation which is the second largest development organisation in the world, and a relationship with a faith which provides 30,000 different examples of social care in this country."
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, tells the BBC the visit has gone better than he could have expected. Contrary to the image often painted of him, he says the Pope came across as he truly is - "as a gentle, sensitive, eloquent and really lovely person". "It's out of that loveliness that he brings the message that he did," the Archbishop adds.
John Nixon in York writes: "The Pope has penetrated the superficiality and shallowness of many aspects of life today. He speaks in a calm and eloquent manner without an emphasis on him personally or his performance. This has stood out in contrast to the spin and gloss we see from many of our political and religious leaders."

Spoke too soon. The Pope squeezed in one more wave, from the window of the plane as it taxied away for take-off. It's bound for Rome's Ciampino airport where it's due to land at about 2230 local time.

One last wave from the top of the steps and that's it. The Pope steps inside the plane - known in some quarters as Shepherd One - which is flying both the union jack and the papal standard.

After a final shake of the hand and a few private words with the prime minister, Pope Benedict walks the red carpet for the last time and says goodbye to a number of his bishops.

The Pope says he will "treasure the time" spent with members of his Church while in the UK. He once again mentions Cardinal Newman and the lessons he feels we can all learn from him.

The Pope now takes centre-stage and thanks all those who have helped to organise his visit. He says the diversity of modern Britain is a challenge to the government, but also offers an opportunity for greater inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue.

The PM concludes by saying the government and the Vatican have agreed to increase their co-operation "on the key international issues where we share a common goal", including tackling climate change, fighting poverty and disease, and working for peace around the world.
David Cameron says Britain is characterised by a deep, but quiet compassion, and he has felt it personally in recent days "as I have cradled a new daughter and said goodbye to a wonderful father".

"Faith is part of the fabric of our country," the prime minister continues. But he adds: "People do not have to share a religious faith or agree with religion on everything to see the benefit of asking the searching questions that you, your Holiness, have posed to us about our society and how we treat ourselves and each other."

"You have spoken to a nation of six million Catholics, but you have been heard by a nation of more than 60 million citizens," David Cameron says. "For you have offered a message not just to the Catholic Church, but to each and every one of us, of every faith and none. A challenge to us all to follow our conscience, to ask not what are my entitlements, but what are my responsibilities? To ask not what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for others?"

The Pope has now arrived on the airport tarmac. He emerges from his car, surrounding by his ever-present be-suited security guards, and takes David Cameron by the hand. After a few private words they take to the podium.

David Cameron has arrived at Birmingham airport. He's standing on the red carpet in front of the podium, complete with two gold-trimmed chairs, from which he and the Pope will speak.

The BBC's Robert Pigott says that while the visit has been a success and the turnout pretty good, most people have come out to see A Pope, not The Pope, because Benedict does not embody the Catholic Church as his predecessor John Paul did.

Sarah in Birmingham writes: "I'm not Catholic, but I have really enjoyed the Pope's visit to the UK this week. He has come across as a lovely man, he has spoken wisely and in a way anyone could listen and understand, and the crowds seemed to have responded to this at the events he has been too. He has looked happy to be here and I hope he enjoyed his visit."

RCYouthWorker tweets about the Pope's speech to the bishops: "Nothing in the speech that is a telling off but plenty that will be spun as such. Just wait and see."

The Pope leaves St Mary's on his way to Birmingham International airport.
More photo opportunities. Inside the chapel, the Pope poses for a picture with the heads of the Church in Scotland and England and Wales and the assembled cardinals and bishops. Outside, in St Mary's College garden, it's the turn of the West Midlands Police officers who have guarded him today. Then it's on to a group photo with the seminarians, who go on to give him a rousing send-off.
BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says the invitation to Anglicans is a "very sensitive subject" and the Pope's first public reference to it on this visit was surprising.

In his closing address the Pope defends the Vatican's offer to welcome disenchanted Anglicans into the Catholic fold. He says the move, which allows Anglicans to retain elements of their heritage, could help contribute "positively" to relations between the two churches. Pope Benedict says the abuse scandal "seriously undermines the moral credibility" of the Church but suggested the lessons could be shared for the benefit of wider society.
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, says the visit will "long remain in our hearts".
"Already in Scotland we are speaking of the Benedict bounce", says Cardinal O'Brien, as he refers to the four "wonderful days" of the visit.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, thanks the Pope for graciously wearing a special tartan during his time in Edinburgh on Thursday. He says he's pleased the pontiff was "proud to be an honorary Scotsman for a day". Cardinal O'Brien says the welcome the Pope received in Scotland reminded the world of the country's ancient Christian roots.
The meeting between the Pope and the bishops of England, Scotland and Wales has now wrapped up and we're expecting to hear a few words from some of those who were involved.
LicklePickle, in Birmingham, tweets: "The Pope was running late, so instead of the Popemobile going walking pace, it rushed past about 15mph! Sooo disappointing!"

Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley says he is delighted with how smoothly today's events have gone and how warm the welcome has been. "The city has shown its concern for people of faith," he told the BBC.

Father Christopher Jamison, a Benedictine monk who appeared in the BBC series The Monastery, has given his take on turnout. "I think it is the spontaneity of those 200,000 people in London that will really surprise the Vatican because they'd been led to believe that while the Catholic faithful would welcome the Holy Father, there would be a great upsurge in scepticism and doubt among ordinary British people."

Nick Clegg has been asked about the Pope's visit at the Lib Dem conference in Liverpool. "I think the differences that people might have with the doctrine of the Catholic Church speak for themselves," he said. "But, I have to say that I also believe we are, above and beyond everything else, a liberal and tolerant nation, and that whilst debate, criticism, analysis of the teachings of the Catholic Church is, I think, necessary, I think as a community, as a nation and certainly as a government we have an absolute duty to welcome what is the leader of a very, very significant world religion."
Something else a bit special for you from our team in Birmingham - it's a gigapan image of the beatification service. You can use the controls to scroll around and to zoom in to see specific details up close.


Research & Regional Centre of Mahatma Gandhi University 






8 - 16 September 2010



                                      ܒܫܢܬ ܕܥܣܪܝܢ ܘܚܡܫ ܢܘܕܐ

ܐܝܣܚܩ ܠܒܪܐ ܕܚܣܟܗ ܒܛܘܪܐ

ܡܢ ܣܟܝܢܐ ܘܗܘܐ ܚܠܦܘܗܝ

ܐܡܪ ܩܛܠܐ ܦܠܛ ܡܝܘܬܐ

ܘܡܝܬ ܡܚܐ ܟܠ  ܒܪܝܟ ܩܘܪܒܢܗ


In the 25th year let Isaac give thanks

to the Son who preserved him on the mountain

from the knife and became, in his place,

the lamb that was slaughtered:   the mortal escaped,

while there died He who gives life to all!

Blessed is His offering!


                        (St Ephrem, Hymns on the Nativity 18:30)  






Wednesday, 8th September 2010 at 14.30



     To’ ba-šlom: Rev. Fr. M.P George and Group (Orthodox Theological Seminary)


Prayer Song: M A Syriac Students (SEERI)


Welcome: H.G. Thomas Mar Koorilos

                                         (Metropolitan Archbishop, Tiruvalla and President, SEERI)


      Presidential Address: H.B. Baselios Cleemis Catholicos

                                                        (Major Archbishop, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church)


Benedictory Speech: H.G. Joseph Mar Thoma

                                                               (Metropolitan, Mar Thoma Church)


Inaugural Address: Prof. Dr. Rajan Gurukal

                                                           (Vice Chancellor, M.G. University, Kottayam)


Keynote Address: Prof.  Dr.  Sebastian P. Brock 

                                                                             (Oxford University)



Prof. P.J. Kurian, Member of Parliament.

H.G. Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Archbishop of Kottayam.

H.G. Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Metropolitan Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.         

H.G. Kuriakose Mar Ivanios, Knanaya Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church.

Rt. Rev. Dr. John R. K. Fenwick, Bishop, Free Church, England.


Vote of Thanks: H.G. Mar Aprem,

                                                             Metropolitan, Church of the East, Thrissur.




Special Programme: A thirteenth century Chinese source on a certain Syrian Christian  

                                  Ruler in Kollam/Quilon, India 





Thursday - 9th September 2010


06.30 – 07.30: Holy Qurbana 


Celebrant: H.G. Mar Aprem (Metropolitan, Church of the East, Trichur)


Registration: 08.00- 08.45




Moderator: Rt. Rev. Dr. John Robert Kipling Fenwick

                                                                                        (Free Church of England)


08.50 –08.55 Prayer Song (Sisters, Udhanashram, Idukki)


08.55–09.30 Alison Grace Salvesen: Jacob of Sarug’s memre on the book of Daniel.


09.30–10.00 Colette Pasquet: Oriental Syriac Commentaires on Gen 1.26 and     

                                    Incarnation’s Mystery.


10.00–10.30 Buda Lorenzo: Mar Aprem: Martyr and Singer of the Word.




Moderator:   Prof. Dr. Dr. Hubert Kaufhold

                                                         (Jura, Univ. München, Germany)


11.00–11.30 Christophe Vielle: Johann Ernst Hanxleden S.J. (1681-1732) and St. Thomas  

                                    Christians: from Malayalam poetry to Syriac liturgy and philology.         


11.30–12.00 Paul Blaize Kadicheeni: Baptismal liturgy in the writings of Timothy II.


12.00–12.30 Johnny Messo: The Syriac Universal Alliance, the endangered Syriac Cultural

                                          Heritage and the envisaged role of scholars.


12.30–12.40 Noon Prayer (Church of the East – Archdeacon Emmanuel Yokhanna)


Session III  


Moderator:  Rev. Dr. John Kochuthundiyil        

                                        (Rector, St. Mary’s Malankara Major Seminary, Trivandrum)  


14.00–14.30 Istvan Perczel: New sources for the history of the Chaldean Syrian                                                     

                                    community in India.


14.30–15.00 Toda Satoshi: Reconsidering the Intellectual Background of Bardaisan.


15.00–15.30   Emmanuel Thelly: Prayers of the Feast of Denha in the Syro-Chaldean



Session IV


Moderator:     Dr. F.B. Chatonnet

                                 (CNRS IVRI Paris, France)


16.00–16.30    Robert Hawley:  Plants of Indian origin in the Syriac Pharmacopeia.


16.30–17.00   Joseph Palackal: Kerala, the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia: The

                                    Cultural Interface of Music and Religion.


(After supper: Discussion for setting up the syllabus for the proposed theological college of the Church of the East, Sydney as requested by Mar Meelis Zaia, Archbishop of Australia)


Friday - 10th September 2010


06.30 – 07.30 Holy Qurbana


Celebrant:  H.E. Mar Joseph Kallarangattu

                                                     (Syro Malabar, Bishop of Pala)

Session V 


Moderator:      H.G. Dr. Mar Aprem

                                          (Metropolitan, Church of the East, Trichur)                               


08.50–08.55    Prayer Song (Students of SEERI, East Syriac).


08.55–09.30   John R K Fenwick: Some Neglected Sources for the History of the St.

                                    Thomas Christians.


09.30–10.00   Hubert Kaufhold:  Die Reise des Syrisch-Orthodoxen Patriarchen Petros          

                                    IV, nach Indien (1876/1877).  


10.00–10.30    Martin Tamcke: “Bishop Gabriel”.      


Session VI


Moderator:       Prof. Dr. Jürgen Tubach

                                                (Martin Luther Univ., Halle, Germany)


11.00–11.30   Theresia Hainthaler: Christ in the flesh, who is God over all (Rom 9,5                   

                                    Pesh.). The letter of Catholicos Timothy I. (780-823) to the monks of Mar Maron.


11.30–12.00  Hidemi Takahashi: Additional information on the Syriac manuscripts
                                    at Yale University.

12.00–12.30  David A. Michelson: Proposals for Syriac Prosopography & Authority Control.


12.30–12.40  Noon Prayer (Syro Malabar – Fr. Emmanuel Thelly CMI)


Session VII


Moderator:    Prof. Dr. Rainer Voigt

                                                            (Freie Univ. Berlin)


14.00–14.30  Timothy B. Sailors:  Quotations of Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians in                                               Syriac.


14.30–15.00  Simon S. Ford: Translating the faith: Syriac scholarship and the legislative program in the canons ascribed to Maruta of Maiphweqat.


15.00–15.30 Abraha Tedros: Isaac of Nineveh, Filoxenus of Mabbug, John Saba: three fundamental names of Ethiopian monasticism, theology and spirituality: History of the translation of the texts attributed to them and their influence.


Session VIII


Moderator:  Rev. Dr.  Johns Abraham Konat

                                                                       (Prof., SEERI, Kottayam)


16.00–16.30  Thomas Koonammakkal: Justin and Ephrem: A parallel.


16.30–17.00  Andrea Schmidt & Gaby Abousamra: Cataloguing the Syriac Manuscripts and Fragments of the Manuscripts Institutes in Yerevan and Tbilisi. The case of Syriac Amulets from the Urmia Region.


Saturday - 11th September 2010


06.30 – 07.30 Holy Qurbana


Celebrant:  Msgr. Jacob Vellian

                                      (Syro-Malabar Knanaya Catholic, Kottayam)

Session IX


Moderator: Prof. Dr. Martin Tamcke

                                              (Georg-August Univ. Göttingen, Germany)


08.50-08.55   Prayer Song (Bethany Sisters).


09.00–09.30  F.B. Chatonnet & Jimmy Daccache: Researches on Syriac writing in the background of Antioch.


09.30–10.00  Rainer Voigt: From the Aramaic script to the Indian scripts & from the Indian scripts to the Ethiopic scripts.

10.00–10.30  Baby Varghese: West Syrian Liturgy: A survey of hundred years of  


 Session X 


Moderator:   Prof. Dr. Andrea Barbara Schmidt

                                                             (Université Catholique de LLN,  Belgium)


11.00–11.30 Amir Harrak: New evidence on the Christian emirs of Mesopotamia during the Mongol period.


11.30–12.00 Abdo Badwi: The painting of the crowning of Our Lady between Lebanon and Kerala.


12.00–12.30 Mar Aprem: East Syriac books printed in India.


12.30–12.40   Noon Prayer (Abuna Abdo Badwi - Maronite Church).



Session XI


Moderator:  Dr. Alison Grace Salvesen

                                                              (Oxford University, UK)


14.00–14.30 Ugo Achille Zanetti: "Fraction prayers" in the Coptic Mass.


14.30–15.00 Philippa Malas: The illustrations of Syriac lectionary Add. 7170 in the British Library as evidence of cultural exchange.


15.00–15.30 Thomas A. Carlson: The nature of the Church (of the East) in Ishaq Shbandnaya’s “Poem on the Divine Economy”.

Session XII


Moderator:   Moderator:  Hidemi Takahashi

                                                                 (The University of Tokyo,  Japan)


16.00–16.30 Steve Cochrane: Angamaly: a re-examination of its importance in the light of early 9th century Asian comparative history.


16.30-17.00 JMF Van Reeth & Peter Strauven: The emergence of the Syriac Oktoèchos: a liturgical translation of the Universe.



Sunday - 12th September 2010


08.00 – 09.30: Holy Qurbana


Celebrant: Rev. Fr. Raju Parakkott

                                        (Vicar, St. Thomas Malankara Catholic Church (SEERI))



Excursion Programme (Foreign Delegates)


            10.00: Depart from SEERI. In the list, there are 10 destinations.  Necessary changes in the destinations will be made during the journey, according to feasibility and availability of time. Those interested should give their names at the registration counter by Friday, Sept. 10, to facilitate booking of transportation.


1. St. Mary’s Church, Kuravilangadu (There we can see “The boat of Jonah”. This is the only church where the 3-day fast in Kerala is solemnly celebrated. We can also see Pre-Diamper bell with Syriac inscription & Tomb inscriptions in Syriac).


2. Visit to Beth Aprem Nazrani Dayra, Kappumthala near Kuravilangadu.


3.  Kaduthuruthy St. Mary’s Church (Syro-Malabar Knanaya Church with the oldest and biggest granite Cross.


4. Pampakuda (The famous Konat collections of Syriac manuscripts, guided by Fr. Dr. Johns Abraham Konat).


5.  Mulanthuruthy Mar Thomman Church   (the venue of several Synods; pre-Diamper Syriac inscriptions on the main entrance and the tomb inscriptions of Mar Koorilos Yuyakim - responsible for West Syriac renaissance in the region).


6. Kandanad (Jacobite Syrian) Church, with mural inscriptions on the parish house and facade of the church.


7. Tripunithura Nadamel Palli (Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church), with beautiful Syriac inscriptions on the altar & tombs.


8. Kadamattam Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church with Syriac inscriptions. Famous for the legend of Kadamattathu Kathanar.


9. Pallikkara Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church with Syriac inscriptions and one of the best Portuguese interior decorations of the madbaha.


      10. Kothamangalam Cheriyapalli (Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church), famous for Altar and biographical inscriptions in Syriac.


Monday - 13th September 2010


06.30 – 07.30 Holy Qurbana

Celebrant:  H.E. Mathews Mar Aprem

                                                     (Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church)

Session XIII


Moderator:      Rev. Dr. Philip Njaralakkatt

                                                  (Prof. Syriac, Retd. Principal St Thomas College, Pala)


08.50-08.55   Prayer Song (Bethany Sisters, Kalathilpadi).


08.55–09.30  Erica C.D. Hunter:  Syriac prayer-amulets from Turfan.


09.30–10.00  Frederic Alpi: Severus of Antioch and Eastern Churches (512 -518).


10.00–10.30   Philip Vysaneth: Music, the language of heart in the Syro-Malankara liturgy and its relation to Raga in the Indian Music.

Session XIV 


Moderator: Rev. Dr. Xavier Koodapuzha

                                     (Reš Dayro. Mar Thoma Šliha Nazrani Dayara, Nallathanni)


11.00–11.30 Thomas Kollamparampil: Multiple covenants and the “People from the

                                    Peoples” in Aphrahat.


11.30–12.00 Kuriakose Valavanolickal: Attitude of Aphrahat to the poor.


12.00–12.30 Jiphy Mekkattukulam: Acts of Thomas: new findings.


12.30–12.40 Noon Prayer (Fr. Saju Keepanassery - West Syriac)


Session XV 


Moderator:  Amir Harrak

                               (Professor, Univ. of Toronto, Canada)



14.00–14.30 Gebremedhin Dimetros Woldu: The Significance of St. Ephrem in the

                                    Ethiopian Christian Tradition.

14.30–15.00 Rima Smine Gannage: The Iconography of Syriac Lectionaries: British Library Add. 7170 and Vatican Syr. 559.


15.00 –15.30  Paul C. Dilley: Heavenly visions in the martyrdom of Mihr-Narse. 


Session XVI 


Moderator:  Rev. Dr. Mathew Mannakattu

                                             (President, Paurastya Vidya Pitham, Vadavathoor, KTM)


16.00–16.30 Jean-Paul Deschler: Word and Meaning: A Glossary in Liturgy and Iconography with special reference to the theology of the Eastern Churches.


16.30–17.00  Rifaat Ebied: A Collection of acrostic admonitions in Syriac attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian.  


20.40 -21.30  Cultural Programme: (Music, dance etc) led by Msgr. Jacob Vellian and his troupe.


Tuesday -14th September 2010


Jubilee Celebrations: Liturgy Service

                            Holy Qurbana (09.00 a.m.): 

Chief Celebrant: H. B. Ignatios Youssef III Younan,

                                                                             Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch

            Co-celebrants: The Archbishop and Bishops of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. 


             Homily: H.E. Abraham Mar Julios,

                                                  Bishop of Muvattupuzha.


11.00 a.m. Public Meeting


           To’ ba-šlom – Rev. Fr. M.P. George and Group


Prayer Song: Bethany Sisters


Welcome Speech: H.G. Thomas Mar Koorilos,

(Metropolitan Archbishop, Tiruvalla & President, SEERI)


Presidential address: H.G. Mar Joseph Powathil,

                    (Archbishop Emeritus, Changanacherry & Chairman, Inter-Church Council for Education)


Inaugural address: H.B. Ignatios Youssef III Younan,
(Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch)



Rt. Rev. Sebastian Thekethecheril, Bishop of Vijayapuram, Roman Catholic Church.

H.G. Mathews Mar Aprem, Malankara Jacob Syrian Church, Angamaly.

Mr. K. M. Mani, Member of Legislative Assembly.

Mr. V.N. Vasavan, Member of Legislative Assembly, Kottayam.

Dr. Rajan Varghese, PVC, M.G. University, Kottayam.

            Tuvaik SEERI: Rev.Fr. Emmanuel Thelly CMI, Poonjar.

Msgr. Gabriel Quicke, Secretary, Pontifical Council for Christian Unity.

Prelate Prof. Dr. Lothar Waldmüller, Munich, Germany.

Ms. Borgna Luciana, Missio Munich.

Mr. M.L. Thomas, CNEWA.

Abuna Abdo Badwi, Director, School of Sacred Arts, Holy Spirit Univ. Kaslik, Lebanon.

Prof. Andrea Schmidt, Catholic Univ. Louvain, Belgium.

Prof. Jürgen Tubach, Martin Luther Univ. Halle, Germany.


Vote of Thanks: Rev. Fr. Raju Parakott

                                                              (Asst. Director, SEERI)


Photo Session 

 Session XVII (A) 

Moderator:  Prof. Rifaat Ebied                  
(Emeritus Professor of Semitic Studies, University of Sydney, Australia)

14.00–14.30  Jürgen Tubach: Indigenous and foreign Christians in the East Arabian dioceses of the hyparchy Persis. 

14.30-15.00  Roula Skaf: La définitude en araméen-Syriaque. 

15.00–15.30    Lutz Greisiger: Emperor Heraclius in Jerusalem as reflected in 7th century Syriac and Hebrew apocalyptic narratives. 

Session XVII (B) 

Moderator: Theresia Hainthaler

                                        (Hochschule Sankt, Georgen, Frankfurt, Germany) 

14.00–14.30  Jacob Vellian: Taksa d’Raze. 

14.30–15.00 Stephen Plathottathil: Ramšo d-Denho: Technical terms and themes of Penquitho

15.00–15.30 Garry Moon Yuen Pang: The historical and theological significance of the Chinese-Syriac Jingjiao Monument in China.

Session XVIII (A) 

Moderator:  Rev. Dr. Abraham Kuruvilla
(Principal Mar Thoma Seminary, Kottayam)

16.00–16.30  Behnam Keryo: St. Ephrem, a monk in love. 

16.30–17.00  John Vattanky: Understanding Christian eschatology against the background of the thought of Ephrem and Sankara.


Session XVIII (B)  

Moderator: Dr. George Anton Kiraz

                                        (Beth Marduto - Gorgias Press,  USA)

16.00–16.30 Kuriakose Moolayil: Printed versions of the Nomocanon 

16.30–17.00 George Menacherry: Realities of South Indian social life and apostolic traditions as reflected in certain hymns of Ephrem.  

Wednesday - 15th September 2010 

Session XIX  

Moderator:  Prof. Erica C.D. Hunter

                                           (SOAS, London Univ., UK) 

08.50-08.55 Prayer Song: Orthodox Theological Seminary Students           

08.55–09.30 Zeki Aydin: Jacob of Sarug’s Mimro on Zakai. 

09.30–10.00 Assad Sauma Assad: Ephrem's commentary on the Blessings of Jacob 

10.00–10.30 Simone Isacco Maria Pratelli: The most ancient manuscripts of the store house of mysteries & Gregorius Barhebraeus’ commentary on the prophets: a few remarks.

Session  XX

Moderator:  Fr. Dr. K.M. George

                                  (Principal, Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam) 

11.00–11.30 Sebastian P. Brock: The significance of the new finds of Syriac manuscripts at St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai 

11.30–12.00 Jomy Joseph: The eco-theological perspectives of Ephrem the Syrian.    

12.00-12.30 George Kiraz: The šhimo in the Syriac tradition. 

12.30–12.40 Noon Prayer (West Syriac Orthodox Seminary students)                                 


Session  XXI 

Moderator:  Rev. Dr. Thomas Kollamparampil CMI

                                      (President, Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore) 

14.00–14.30  Jonathan Loopstra: Perceptions of the Syriac Bible in the works of the 17th century biblical critic Father Richard Simon. 

14.30–15.00  Jincy O.U.:   A study on the commemoration of Sts. Peter and Paul from the Hudra of the Church of the East.  

15.00–15.30   Robert Gabriel: The first printed books in Syriac. 

Session  XXII 

Moderator:     Rev. Fr. Jerome, Peedikaparambil OIC

                                            (Provincial, Navajeevan Province, TVM) 

16.00–16.30   Robin Beth Shamuel: The Western missionaries and the revival of the neo-Aramaic dialects (Sureth). 

16.30–17.00    Shinichi Muto: Christ's descent to the underworld in the
            Khara-Khoto Syriac document found in inner Mongolia. 

Thursday - 16th September 2010 

Session XXIII (A) 

Moderator:  Gaby Abousamra

                                                (Kaslik Uni. Beirut, Lebanon)


08.50-08.55  Prayer Song: SEERI Students           

08.55–09.30  Rifaat Ebied & Lionel Wickham: A short Treatise on the Trinity in Syriac  

                                        attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian. 

09.30–10.00  P.V. Philip: John the Evangelist, the disciple that Jesus loved.           

10.00–10.30  Saju Keeppanasseril: A Homily on the Number 12. 



Session XXIII (B)     


Moderator: Dr. Assad Sauma

                                        (Aram Stockholm, Sweden) 

08.50-08.55  Prayer Song: SEERI Students 

08.55-09.30  Stephen Olikal: The concept of “woman” in Mar Jacob of Sarug’s Mimre.                

9.30-10.00 Varghese George: Tesbuhtho d-Pothuro according to Jacob of Sarug. 

10.00-10.30 Luis Philipe Thomaz: St. Thomas in a 16th century Portuguese poem.


Valedictory Session: 11.15 hrs.           

Prayer Song: Rev. Dn. Severios 

Welcome: Rev. Dr. Kuriakose Moolayil Corepiscopa 

Valedictory Address: Prof. K. Mathew, Member, Syndicate, M.G. University             

            Moderator for Evaluations: Dr. Mary Hansbury (Philadelphia, USA) 

            Evaluations: A delegate from each of the following regions/countries is

                                    requested to evaluate this conference:








Recommendations and suggestions: Open to floor. 

Vote of Thanks:  Rev. Dn. Shaun Mathew (1st Year M A Student) 

Tuvaik seeri & Abun d basmayo

Visit to Mannanam Collection of  Syriac Manuscripts & M. G. University: 16th September 2010

Fr. Prior of the St Joseph Monastery has invited us to visit Mannanam the citadel of Syriac heritage. Those interested may give their names at the registration counter. We will also be visiting Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala’s largest university, which also has the greatest number of affiliated colleges in Kerala. 

Additional Papers           

Nelson P.: Anaphora of Dionysius Areopagite 

Varghese Varghese: Ido d-Denho according to Mar Jacob of Serugh.  

Jose Charuvil: Prayer of peace in the Anaphora of St. James in comparison with those of other Anaphorae. 

John Kannanthanam: Jewish influence on East Syriac traditions with a special mention of marriage ceremonies.                  

            Raju Parakkott: St. Paul according to Narsai. 

            Mathew Kuttiani: Persian martyrs of early 5th century.            

             Johns  Abraham Konat: Cataloguing of the Syriac Manuscripts of  Pampakuda collection.  

            Thomas Mannooramparampil: An ancient Commentary of an anonymous author on the East Syriac Holy Qurbana.

            Jacob Thekeparampil: Simon as tupso – a model for penitence according to Jacob of Serugh.


                                             CRI Meets the Challenge of a New India

The Conference of Religious India (CRI) is to launch a special scheme to prepare new Indian Religious congregation leaders to meet challenges posed by the country’s expected rapid development in the next decade. “There are many people predicting that India will be adeveloped country by the year 2020 and the Catholic Religious will have to prepare for that,” said Brother Mani Mekkunnel, CRI national secretary. He said the conference will organize courses on “visions for the future” for young Religious in its 13 regions across India. “We are planning to bring one Religious aged 30-35 from each region for the program,” Brother Mekkunnel explained. The first session is scheduled for July 1-4 at the Renewal Centre in Kochi, for the Kerala region. The program will conclude with a national convention in March, 2011 in Pune, where more than 1,000 young Religious are expected to attend. CRI represents more than 125,000 Catholic Religious brothers, priests and nuns in India. Some 30,000 religious are aged 30–35.
Religious who participate in the program would become leaders in their congregations and regions by the year 2020, Brother Mekkunnel said. The participants will make a commitment to seek ways to make Religious life more relevant in the modern world. They will set 10 goals to achieve this. Many of the traditional functions done by Religious today will become irrelevant in the next ten years, said Brother Mekkunnel. The Religious will have to look for ways to make their life meaningful and purposeful, he said, adding “nothing will be imposed” on the participants during the program. It would be a collective search, he added.

Popes and Ecumenical Thinking 

 Eastern Theology Has Enriched the Whole Church    

  by Pope John Paul II

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Continuing my reflection on Eastern Christianity, today I would like to focus attention on the development of Eastern theology, which, even in the centuries that followed the age of the Fathers and the sad division with the Apostolic See, led to profound and stimulating perspectives at which the whole Church looks with interest. Although there is still disagreement on this point or that, we must not forget that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

An important doctrinal development occurred between the eighth and ninth centuries after the "iconoclast" crisis unleashed by several Byzantine emperors, who decided radically to suppress the veneration of sacred images. Many were forced to suffer for resisting this absurd imposition. St John Damascene and St Theodore the Studite come to mind in particular. The victorious outcome of their resistance proved decisive not only for devotion and sacred art, but also for a deeper understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation. Indeed, in the final analysis the defense of images was based on the fact that God truly became man in Jesus of Nazareth. It is therefore legitimate for the artist to endeavour to portray his face, not only with the aid of his talent, but especially by interior docility to God's Spirit. The images refer to the Mystery that surpasses them, and they help us feel its presence in our life.

2. The hesychast controversy marked another distinctive moment in Eastern theology. In the East, hesychasm means a method of prayer characterized by a deep tranquillity of the spirit, which is engaged in constant contemplation of God by invoking the name of Jesus. There was no lack of tension with the Catholic viewpoint on certain aspects of this practice. However, we should acknowledge the good intentions which guided the defense of this spiritual method, that is, to emphasize the concrete possibility that man is given to unite himself with the Triune God in the intimacy of his heart, in that deep union of grace which Eastern theology likes to describe with the particularly powerful term of "theosis", "divinization".

Precisely in this regard Eastern spirituality has amassed a very rich experience which was vigorously presented in the famous collection of texts significantly entitled Philokalia (love of beauty") and gathered by Nicodemus the Hagiorite at the end of the 18th century. Down the centuries until our day, Eastern theological reflection has undergone interesting developments, not only in the classical areas of the Byzantine and Russian tradition, but also in the Orthodox communities scattered throughout the world. One need only recall, among the many studies worthy of mention, the Theology of Beauty elaborated by Pavel Nikolaievich Evdokimov, which is based on the Eastern art of the icon, and the study of the doctrine of "divinization" by the Orthodox scholar, Loth Borovine.

How many things we have in common! It is time for Catholics and Orthodox to make an extra effort to understand each other better and to recognize with the renewed wonder of brotherhood what the Spirit is accomplishing in their respective traditions towards a new Christian springtime.

3. Let us ask Mary, Mother of Wisdom, to teach us to recognize promptly the infinite expressions of God's presence in the history of mankind. May she help us to concentrate on the positive rather than the negative, and to use all the creativity of mutual understanding for engaging in fruitful dialogue, even on points where differences remain. For this reason, may the Holy Spirit grant us the wisdom of heart so dear to Eastern spirituality and essential to any genuinely Christian experience.

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking visitors who have joined us for this Angelus prayer. May these summer holidays be a time of relaxation and spiritual renewal for you and your families.

Today, as we remember St Clare of Assisi, my thoughts turn to the Poor Clares and to all cloistered nuns. I express to them the loftiest esteem which the Christian community has for this kind of life, "a sign of the exclusive union of the Church as Bride with her Lord, whom she loves above all things" (Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, n. 59). By offering themselves to Jesus for the world's salvation, they represent "a joyful proclamation and prophetic anticipation of the possibility offered to every person and to the whole of humanity to live solely for God in Christ Jesus" (ibid.). They therefore deserve my gratitude and that of the whole Church, and an encouragement to persevere faithfully in the cloistered life according to their specific charism.



Platinum jubilee of CHAI to be held in Hyderabad

The Hindu, Hyderabad, April 26 Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: The National Board of the Church History Association of India which met on Saturday has resolved to hold platinum jubilee triennial assembly here in July 2011. A massive exhibition of early Church initiatives dating back to the first century AD covering the themes of socio-economic upliftment, literacy and printing technology initiation, peace promotion and other subjects would be the highlight of the assembly. Historians from India and observers from other countries will attend the event, according to Prof. Snaithong of Shillong and Prof. George Manachery of Kerala, president and general secretary respectively of CHAI.

Hyderabad, 24 April
The Church History Association of India CHAI celebrates its Platinum Jubilee and 15th Triennial together at the American Research Centre Complex Hyderabad / the ACTC on a large scale with five-day long programmes. The National office bearers and the Church History Association of Andhra Pradesh CHAAP the local organisers took this joint decision at a meeting presided over by Bishop Parmar at NCC HQ / Satyodaya, Hyderabad.

More than 18 Scholars will present papers at the Triennial on "Indian Christian Historical- Cultural Studies- Yesterday, today". A platinum Jubilee Commemoration Volume containing 75 learned papers edited by Dr. Oberland Snaithang (CHAI President) and Prof. George Menachery (CHAI Secretary General) will be published on the occasion. A National Essay competition on the preservation of Christian Monuments in India will be conducted under the charge of Dr. Varghese Perayil, prof. Agnes d’Sa, and Rev. Jeramia (ACTC). An Indian Christian Historico-Cultural Exhibition under the auspices of the association’s Northern, North-Eastern, Eastern, Western, and Southern branches will be organised under the leadership of Dr. Oliver, Dr. Francis Thonippara, Dr. Pasupalethi Manasseh, Dr. Thomas Edmunds, Dr. George Ummen, Dr. Mathias Mundadan, Rev. Jeramiah, Rev. P. Diggal and Dr. Leonardo Fernando. The national executive committee and the Twin Cities’ organizing committee solicited the active co-operation of Church leaders and historians to make the CHAI Platinum Jubilee celebrations a success. The delegates were received in typical and traditional Telugu style and decorated with Ponnadas and Veshtis by former Moderator Bishop Rev. Dr. Parmar.  

A Source of Hope
The flourishing Church in India is destined to play a leading role in ecclesiastical affairs
 in the 21st century. in ecclesial affairs in the 21st century.

by Jeff Ziegler

Nearly two millennia ago, a doubting apostle saw, believed, and preached the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Fifteen hundred years later, a student at the University of Paris met Ignatius of Loyola, helped found the Jesuit order, and obeyed an order to accompany the Portuguese who were colonizing the East. The apostolic labors of St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Francis Xavier have borne much fruit in the ensuing centuries. If demography is destiny, then the Church in India, more than any other nation, is destined to play a leading role in ecclesial affairs in the 21st century, much as the Church in France left its mark on the 13th century and the Church in Spain deeply influenced the 16th. At the end of 2007, India’s Catholic population ranked 16th in the world, behind Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, the United States, Italy, France, Spain, Colombia, Poland, Argentina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany, Peru, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Yet more than the faithful of any other nation, India’s 18.6 million Catholics have fostered a culture in which priestly and religious vocations and Catholic institutions flourish. India has more seminarians (14,120) than any other nation—nearly 5,000 more than second-ranked Brazil. (This figure does not include India’s 10,875 high-school seminarians.) Between 1999 and 2007, the number of Indian seminarians increased by an astounding 40 percent. Nearly 64 percent of India’s seminarians will be ordained for religious orders rather than local dioceses. Between 1999 and 2007, the number of diocesan priests ministering in India rose by 24 percent, from 10,690 to 13,290—not counting the 1,032 diocesan priests serving in other nations— while the number of religious-order priests rose by 33 percent, from 8,248 to 11,003. During the same time period, the number of diocesan priests in the United States—which has 67.8 million Catholics—fell by 5 percent, and the number of religious priests plummeted by 17 percent. Vocations to non-ordained religious life are flourishing as well. India has more nuns than any other nation (except Italy), and will soon rank first in the world if trends continue. Between 1999 and 2007, the number of professed women religious grew by 19 percent, from 79,608 to 94,450, during a time

when the number dropped by 23 percent in the US, from 81,364 to 63,250. During the same time period, the number of non-ordained male religious in India rose by 37 percent, from 2,558 to 3,502, while the number declined by 13 percent in the United States to 5,124. Accompanying the continued growth of the priesthood and religious life in India is an institutional presence unmatched anywhere in the world. India has 10,240 Catholic elementary schools with more than three million students— more than any other nation in the world, and more than all the nations of North and Central America combined. India has more than five thousand high schools with over three million students— again, more than any other nation, and more than double the number of Catholic high school students in all of North and Central America. There are more Catholic hospitals in India than in all of North America. Indeed, the Church in India has more hospitals (754), medical dispensaries (2,504), leprosaria (220), and orphanages (2,327) than any other nation. These institutions are desperately needed in a nation where the per capita gross domestic product is $2,900 but 42 percent of the people live on less than $1.25 a day.

Sacramental statistics point to an active missionary presence within India and a seriousness with respect to Catholic marriage. Nearly 17 percent of baptisms in India are baptisms of adult converts; in the United States, the figure is 7 percent. Less than 6 percent of Catholic weddings in India are mixed marriages between a Catholic and non- Catholic spouse; in the United States, the figure is more than 27 percent. In addition, Church authorities in the United States annulled 22,174 marriages in 2007; in India, the number was 801. THRE RITES While the majority of Catholics in India belong to the Latin rite, the Church there is also blessed with the presence of two vibrant Eastern Catholic Churches: the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

In A.D. 52, St. Thomas the Apostle preached the Gospel in what is now the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. The St. Thomas Christians in time adopted the Chaldean liturgical tradition, now used by the Chaldean Catholic Church and the separated Assyrian Church of the East. When Portuguese explorers encountered the St. Thomas Christians in 1498, the latter professed the primacy of the pope. By 1510, Portuguese missionaries began to spread the faith further up the coast at Goa. The Latin Catholic hierarchy was established with the founding of the Diocese of Goa in 1533; its territory stretched at one time from South Africa to China. Even today, the archbishop of Goa and Daman is also known as the Primate of the East and the Patriarch of the East Indies. Latin-rite Catholicism established a much firmer foothold with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier; using Goa as his base, he preached in western India from 1542 to 1545. In time, the Portuguese Latin rite hierarchy angered many St. Thomas Christians down the coast by imposing changes on the ancient Chaldean liturgy. In 1653, thousands of St. Thomas Christians left the Catholic Church and sought communion with the Syrian Orthodox Church, forming the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, which now numbers 2.5 million members. A Malankara Orthodox Syrian monk and bishop, Geevarghese Mar Ivanios, was reconciled with the Holy See in 1930, leading to the formation of the Syro- Malankara Catholic Church, which now has 413,000 faithful and celebrates the sacred liturgy according to the Antiochan tradition. The cause of beatification of Archbishop Mar Ivanios— hailed by G.K. Chesterton as the “Newman of India” when the two met at a Eucharistic congress in Dublin—was opened in 2007.

The St. Thomas Christians who remained faithful to Rome in time became the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Now the second-largest Eastern Catholic Church (after the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church), it is a community of astonishing vitality. Led by the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, it has 3.7 million faithful, 9,121 priests, 2,607 seminarians, and an astounding 35,000 women religious. The typical Syro- Malabar parish—there are 3,200 of them—has 1,150 laity, three priests, and 11 nuns.

“Not attending Sunday Masses is almost unthinkable for one growing up in a Catholic family,” says Father George Madathiparampil, vicar general of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago, as he discussed the vitality of the Syro- Malabar Catholic Church. “It would even invite social condemnation.” “There is a great respect for the pope and the bishops and hence, here is very little chance of any act of challenge to their authority,” he added. “Humanae Vitae did not create any ripple of disobedience among Indian Catholics.” Both the Syro-Malabar and Syro- Malankara Catholic Churches—unlike the majority of Eastern Catholic Churches—practice the discipline of clerical celibacy.

“In India, renunciation of worldly pleasures is the hallmark of a person of God,” observed Archbishop Benedict Varghese Gregorios Thangalathil, who led the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church from 1955 to 1994. “A celibate Brahmachari is one who lives and moves in Brahman (God),” he noted in a 1993 essay. “If the non-Christians do not fail to see the advantage of celibacy for the good of religion and society, for a Christian…the motives for celibacy are much more deep and the benefits are much more lofty. Jesus, who lived a virgin life and exhorted his close followers to leave all, including marriage and family attachments, is the ultimate inspiration and the most exalted model of perfect renunciation.”

India has more seminarians than any other nation— nearly 5,000 more than second-ranked Brazil. (This figure does not include India’s 10,875 high school seminarians.) February2010_Complete1.indd 16 1/22/2010 1:03:03 PM THEE CATHOLLIIC WORLLD REEPPORT,, FFeebbrruuaarryy 22001100 1177 A MINOR ITY PRESENCE The least Catholic area of the United States is north-central Mississippi, where the 65 counties that form the Diocese of Jackson are 2.4 percent Catholic. India is even less Catholic than north-central Mississippi: only 1.6 percent of India’s 1.17 billion people are Catholic. India remains an overwhelmingly Hindu nation (81 percent) with a substantial Muslim community (13 percent) and a tiny Christian minority (2.3 percent, including Catholics). “In India the people have a sense of religion deeply rooted in them,” says Salesian Father Joseph Parippil, secretary to the archbishop of Guwahati, a northeastern Indian archdiocese where only 1 percent of area residents are Catholic. “All traditional families are deeply religious whatever religion they belong to. The common people do follow their conscience and are ever seeking the spiritual values.”

“Indian Catholic culture is closely linked with the rich cultural tradition of the country,” concurs Professor K.V. Thomaskutty, a historian at St. John’s College in Anchal, Kerala, and one of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church’s most prominent laymen. The vice president of Malankara Catholic Association told CWR that “decaying but still strong family bonds, dependence, love, care, and associations are there in the social structure of the Indian society.” “Even Communism could not establish atheistic Communism, though so far three states have been ruled by the Communist Party,” adds Father Parippil. “Indian Communists are not atheists.”

While India’s deeply religious non- Christian culture in a sense supports Catholic devotional life and the discipline of clerical celibacy, it also has led to the persecution of the Church. The US State Department’s 2009 international religious freedom report notes that “the government has not admitted new resident foreign missionaries since the mid-1960s. There is no national law barring a citizen or foreigner from professing or propagating religious beliefs; however, the Foreigners Act prohibits speaking publicly against the religious beliefs of others.”

Although India is a secular nation whose constitution respects religious freedom, five of India’s 29 state governments have enacted anti-conversion laws, and some states have turned a blind eye to the persecution of Christians. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—which ruled the nation from 1999 to 2004 and remains a major political party—has called for the passage of anti-conversion laws throughout India. Anti-Christian persecution in India attracted worldwide attention in 2008 when violence in the northeastern state of Orissa left 90 dead and fifty thousand homeless (see “Kill Christians and Destroy Their Institutions,” CWR, December 2008). Most anti-Christian persecution, however—such as these incidents that took place during the last six months of 2009—is rarely mentioned in the Western media.

• In July, the BJP government in Karnataka refused to extend a property lease and demanded that a Catholic social service agency return 58 acres to the government. In 1977, the state government had leased the property to the agency to help care for leprosy patients. Over the years, the agency built 60 houses for leprosy and AIDS patients, as well as a factory, a job training center, and a dispensary. Upon implementation, the government decision will leave 360 homeless.

• On July 6, the Supreme Court of India reversed an earlier court ruling and decided to consider a lawsuit by a Muslim student at a Catholic school in Madhya Pradesh. The Muslim student argued that the school was infringing on his religious rights by requiring male students to be clean shaven. Bishop Antony Chirayath of Sagar said he was prepared to undergo a lengthy legal battle to uphold the right of the Church to set disciplinary policies in its schools.

• On July 30, Father James Mukalel was brutally murdered in Karnataka as he was returning from the funeral of another priest. No arrests were made in the case.

• On September 5, Father Varghese Thekkekut, a priest who heads a mission school in Chhattisgarh, was kicked and almost strangled by two young men. No arrests were made in the case.

• On September 29, Maoists in the eastern state of Jharkand kidnapped and beheaded a Catholic police officer.

• In October, thousands of Catholics in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh faced the prospect of the destruction of their homes as the government developed plans to confiscate largely Catholic villages and agricultural land in order to build industrial parks.

• On October 13, a BJP government official in Madhya Pradesh gave the Diocese of Jhabua three days to provide the government with details about Church property and cemeteries. A Church spokesman feared that the order portended a government attempt to control Church institutions.

• On the night of November 7, vandals broke into a parish in Karnataka, desecrated the tabernacle, stole a chalice and two ciboria, and scattered the hosts around the church. Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore— India’s fifth-largest city— denounced government and police apathy.

• On November 20, the bishops of February2010_Complete1.indd 17 1/22/2010 1:03:04 PM 1188 THEE CATHOLLIIC WORLLD REEPPORT,, FFeebbrruuaarryy 22001100 the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka issued a statement against the rise of “moral policing,” in which Hindu fundamentalist groups attack youths from different religions when they socialize together.

• On December 19, a politician and his bodyguards used their rifles to beat Father Lawrence Chittuparambil, director of a Catholic school in the northwestern state of Punjab. Police did not arrest the politician; after the Church closed 150 Catholic schools and the local diocese organized a protest in which 1,500 people blocked all entries to the town where the school was located, the politician turned himself in to police.

• On December 20, a group of militants, invoking the names of Hindu deities, attacked a Christmas fair in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and set fire to biblical representations. The local archbishop lamented that authorities rarely respond to attacks on Christians. Despite these and similar incidents of violence and discrimination, Father Hector D’Souza, provincial of the South Asian Jesuits, told UCA News upon leaving office in 2009: What we need now is real persecution. Persecution can purify us of our lethargy, inactiveness, and failure to live the Gospel. If purification does not come within the Church, God will use other means to purify us. Wherever the Church faced persecution, it has become very strong. For example, the Church in Gujarat…has become alive and vibrant after Hindu radicals targeted it a decade ago. The Church in India was very vibrant when the Bharatiya Janata Party ruled India. People were out on the streets for their rights. Similar things happened after the attacks on Christians in 2008. However, the violence we have experienced is only pinpricks. Real persecution will come only when our structures are affected.

MISS IONAR IES AND REL IGIOUS Although the Church in India is known for its education and charitable institutions, “Indian Catholicism will be mainly associated with missionary activity” in the decades ahead, Father Madathiparampil believes. The statistics support his claim: Catholic missionary vocations are flourishing in India. In 1968, Syro-Malabar Bishop Sebastian Vayalil founded the Missionary Society of St. Thomas the Apostle to preach the Gospel in non- Christian regions, principally in India. Today, the order has more than 300 priests. In 1984, the late Father Jose Kailett, a Latin rite priest, founded the Heralds of the Good News, an Indian missionary order whose priests serve in areas where local vocations are lacking, including Guatemala, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States. The order now has 211 priests and 745 seminarians. These male religious congregations, while growing, are not among the world’s largest. Four of the nine largest women’s religious communities, however, are now Indian. Each has more members than the Benedictines, Dominicans, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, School Sisters of Notre Dame, and other well-known women’s communities. The Franciscan Clarist Congregation, founded in 1888, is based in Kerala and combines the spirituality of St. Francis with that of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Assisting the elderly, orphans, lepers, AIDS patients, and others in need, it has 7,078 members, a gain of 156 between 2006 and 2009. The Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, founded in 1866 by Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, was the Syro- Malabar Catholic Church’s first women’s institute. Working in 500 schools and running 18 hospitals, these active Carmelite sisters gained 109 members between 2006 and 2009 and now number 6,508.

The Missionaries of Charity, renowned the world over for of the sanctity of their founder, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (1910-97), serve the poorest of the poor in 133 countries. The Missionaries of Charity have grown to 5,128 members, an increase of 236 between 2006 and 2009.

The Syro-Malabar Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, founded by Bishop Thomas Kurialacherry in 1908, have spread to 100 dioceses. Centered upon Eucharistic adoration, the sisters also serve in the areas of education, health care, missionary work, and publishing. In the past decade, they have begun to staff missions in Kenya and Tanzania. Their membership now stands at 4,654, an increase of 135 between 2006 and 2009.

THREATS TO GROW TH In a November National Catholic Reporter column, John Allen discussed the influence of “adventurous” Indian theologians, including Father Felix Wilfred and Jesuit Fathers Michael Amaladoss and Aloysius Pieris, who “have been controversial because of the various ways in which they try to give positive theological value to non-Christian religions.”

The greatest threats to the dynamism of the Church in India, however, according to those interviewed by CWR, are Western-style secularism and smaller families. “Things are changing even here with all the modern media giving a secular picture and a culture of consumerism,” says Father Parippil.

“Many of the congregations in India struggle hard to find sufficient vocations,” adds Professor Thomaskutty. “Ever increasing secularizing forces, leftist thinking, antagonism on the part of the governments, and a host of similar factors contribute to this phenomenon.” “A weakening in this strong and active Catholic life is happening nowadays as the children move out of this strong Catholic ambience to join professional colleges in big cities,” says Father Madathiparampil. “In those situations, parents [still] take a lot of pains to insist that the children go to church for Sunday Masses.”

The temptations to secularism become greater with emigration. “One of the major challenges is the emigration of the young looking for jobs in Europe and America. It is then they lose the support of a culture that is permeated with religion. They become easily susceptible to the secularism of the countries in which they live and fall from the practice of their faith.” “Indian Catholics always had large families,” Father Madathiparampil adds. “Now things are changing. Families are becoming smaller. Smaller families pose a great danger to the flourishing of the faith, as then the number joining the missionary ranks of the Church will be fewer.”

Father Parippil agrees. “Now the families are becoming smaller and smaller. Within a few years we too will have to face a sharp fall in vocations to religious and priestly life.” n Jeff Ziegler writes from North Carolina. February2010_Complete1.indd 18 1/22/2010 1:03:05 PM


The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India
OLLUR Thrissur City India
680306 , , +914872352468, +919846033713 

Cardinal Gracias and Cardinal Toppo Dedicate the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India to the Nation


The publication of the three volumes of the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India is a worthy model for the world Churches and an incomparable achievement and contribution of the Church in India, stated Oswald Cardinal Gracias in Guwahati, dedicating the work to the nation. The publication of the third and final volume is something of which the Encyclopaedia team can be justly proud, but they should not rest on their oars but must continue their much needed work of service to the Church in India today, His Eminence went on to say. Telespore P. Cardinal Toppo dedicated the volumes to the world Christian community. The two Cardinals officially released the Encyclopaedia by exchanging copies of the work, in the presence of Archbishops and Bishops from all over India and members of the CBCI Commissions. Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, Prof. George Menachery the Editor of the Encyclopaedia, and Dr. George Plathottam the secretary of the CBCI Commission for Media also spoke on the occasion.


The Encyclopaedia comprises the contributions of hundreds of well-known scholars from all over India and abroad. There are articles on almost every aspect of Christianity in india, dealing with all chronological, denominational, and geographical divisions. The more than thousand illustrations on art plates, half of them on full colour art plates, in addition to the dozens of maps including a whole Christian and Linguistic atlas of India, and the graphs, tables, figures, and sketches go to make the work an exhaustive reference tool. Each major article is supported by bibliographies and inclusive end-notes, making the encyclopaedia an indispensible reference work for seminaries and teheological colleges. universities and colleges, and libraries of ecclesiastical establishments and headquarters and formation houses of religious congregations.


Church in India
C. B. C. I.


Origin and Aims

C.B.C.I. is permanent association of the Catholic Hierarchy of India. It was formally constituted in September 1944 at the Conference of Metropolitans held in Madras. Its objectives are to facilitate co-ordinated study and discussion of questions affecting the Church, and adoption of a common policy and effective action in all matters concerning the interests of the Church in India.

General Body

The C.B.C.I. has now 201 members of whom 38 are honorary members. The 163 members with voting right consist of 27 Archbishop-Metropolitans (including one Archbishop-Patriarch), 122 Diocesan Bishops, 1 Co-adjutor Archbishop, 1 Co-adjutor Bishop, 13 Auxiliary Bishops. The members meet for Ordinary General Meetings once in every two years, while Extra-ordinary Meetings are held according to need. At the General Meetings the C.B.C.I. reviews the situation of the Church in India and takes appropriate decision on future plans and actions that are called for. These meetings also consider the annual reports presented by the Secretary General and by the various Commissions.

The C.B.C.I. Centre

The C.B.C.I. Centre is the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. It is headed by the Deputy Secretary General who is assisted by various Secretaries of the C.B.C.I.. The Centre started functioning in 1962. Besides the C.B.C.I. Secretariat the Centre houses the Offices of some of the C.B.C.I. Commissions. Caritas India the Social and Developmental wing of the C.B.C.I. has its headquarters at the centre.

The C.B.C.I. Secretariat

Right from the establishment of the C.B.C.I. in 1944 the Secretariat was functioning in Bangalore until 1962 when it was shifted to Delhi. The functions are to watch over the various movements, to study legislative measures in the States and the Centre; to link together the various sections of the C.B.C.I. and to give information and guidance whenever required.

Statistics at a Glance

1. Ecclesiastical Units





2. Rite
    a) Latin
    b) Syro-Malabar
    c) Syro-Malankara




3. Bishops
    a) Diocesan
    b) Coadjutors
    c) Auxiliaries
    d) Apostolic Visitator
    e) Retired




4. Cardinals

3 (3)


3 (6)

Statistics (2003)

Total number of diocesan priests
Religious Priests
Religious Brothers
Religious Sisters
Total no. of Religious Congregations
For men
For women

14, 000
13, 500
 4, 300
90, 000

Educational Institutions



K. G. & Nursery Schools
Primary Schools
Secondary Schools
Engineering College

3, 785
7, 319
3, 765




Social Welfare Activities

Technical Training Schools & Polytechnics
Hostels & Boarding Houses
Dispensaries & Health Centres
Rehabilitation Centres
Homes for Aged, Destitutes & Physically

Caldwell’s language laboratory was a small shack
CHENNAI: Conversion of the house of Bishop Robert Caldwell at Idayankudi in Tirunelveli district into a memorial will be the second honour bestowed on the scholar, who came to India as a Protestant missionary, by the Tamil Nadu government.

The house was originally a small shack measuring just 17X11 feet when Caldwell occupied it in 1841 after walking down to Idayankudi from Chennai, covering about 800 km. He started the journey in July 1941 and reached the poverty-stricken backward village towards the end of that year, says H Vincent Kumaradoss, a former office bearer of the Church History AAssociation of India (CHAI) , who has written a biography of the Christian missionary from United Kingdom.

After reaching Madras in 1838 as a 24 year-old evangelist, Caldwell spend three years before setting out on the odyssey down south and choosing Idayankudi for his missionary work.

It was at that point that he lived in the small house, even as he was struggling to build the Holy Trinity Church in Idayankudi. It took Caldwell 33 years to build the church, which was consecrated in 1880.

Besides pre a ch i n g , Caldwell, who had graduated from the University of Glasgow, spend enormous time on linguistic research. In 1849 he published an ethnographic treatise on Shanars, the local community of people, and then in 1856 came out with a book on Dravidian grammar.

Besides coining the term ‘Dravidian’, he was the one who first who pointed out that the south Indian languages - Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada - had their origins outside the Indo-Aryan family and that they were distinctly different from Sanskrit.

Honouring the seminal work on Dravidian grammar, the DMK government headed by C N Annadurai installed a statue of Caldwell on the Marina during the second World Tamil Conference that was held in Madras in 1968.

The statue still stand hidden from public glare in a corner.

The shack became a proper house much later when the Idayankudi church congregation felt the need for a bigger accommodation for their pastor.

Caldwell vacated it only in 1882 to move into a Bishop bungalow in Thoothukudi.

The shack, whose both walls you could touch by stretching both hands, was subsequently converted into a parish hall, says Kumaradoss, whose book, Robert Caldwell - A Scholar- Missionary in Colonial South India, is perhaps the only biography of the man who devoted his entire life for the uplift of the backward region in Tamil Nadu, besides setting the tone for the later day Dravidian movement.

Caldwell died in 1891 and his body was interred beneath the chancelled floor of the Holy Trinity Church.

Indian President Pratibha Patil, Vice Prez, Other Dignitaries 
attend Christmas celebration at Rashtrapati Bhavan

The President of India recieives a present at the Christmas function in New Delhi.

The official residence of the President of India witnessed moments of Christmas cheer. There was a Christmas tree and Carols.

The Ashoka Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan saw important dignitaries enjoying the Carols presented by troupes from the North East and Delhi itself.

In addtion to the President Pratibha Patil herself the Vice President Ahmed Ansari, the wife of Prime Minister Manhoman Singh Gursharan Kaur, Lok Sabha Speaker Meera Kumar and some cabinet Ministers were present.

The Programme featured carol singing by the Shillong Chamber Choir, Meghalaya; the Centenary Methodist Church, Delhi; Zowe Madrigal, Nagaland; St. Thomas Mar Thoma Syrian Church Choir, Delhi; Golden Jubilee Choir, Delhi; Mizo Minstrels Choir, Mizoram; Jesus and Mary College Choir, Delhi and Paranjoti Academy Chorus, Mumbai.

The Christmas Message was delivered by Archbishop of Delhi, Rev. Vincent Concessao.

Last year, the annual traditional programme was not held at Rashtrapati Bhavan in view of the terrorists’ attacks in Mumbai. The festivities were cancelled as a mark of respect for the victims of the attacks.

However, Rashtrapati Bhavan had sent grocery items such as Rice, Sugar, Dal and Ghee to orphanages in Delhi on behalf of the President.

The Christmas celebrations, last year, were also toned down in the wake of violence against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka.

Churches that anticipated huge turnout of pilgrims apparently were discouraged as less people turned up.

In Orissa, although there were no reports of violence, it was a gloomy Christmas for many. Still thousands are said to be living as refugees with lack of food and shelter.

Few of these victims on Dec. 25 will be joining a carol-singing programme at India Gate organised by the Delhi Archdiocese.

"Christmas carols will be sung by the victims of Kandhamal riots who would like to let the world know that Jesus' birthday is a good occasion to be reconciled with all and to share his message of love," said a note from the Archdiocese.

[Courtesy Christian Today India]

India Leads World In Women Religious

India led the world in the number of vocations to women’s Religious life in the Catholic Church, statistics show.


Asia and Africa made considerable gains in the number of female Religious since 2000, while Europe, Americas and Oceania showed a downward trend, according to Jeff Mirus of Catholic Culture, who analyzed the statistics for the website.

In Asia, India recorded an increase of 9,398 women religious during 2002-2007 while Vietnam added 2,545 more nuns. South Korea and the Philippines increased by about 500.

Three Kerala-based congregations and Blessed Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity were among those showing an upward trend in world-wide scenario.


The Franciscan Clarist Congregation, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel and the Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament continue to attract more members. Another rapidly growing congregation was the Claretian Missionary Sisters.


Major losers worldwide are the Salesian Sisters, the Order of Discalced Carmelites, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the Sisters of Charity of Saints Bartholomea Capitanio and Vincenzia Gerosa and Benedictine Nuns.


Upward trend was noticed all across Africa: Tanzania and the Congo increased by around 1,500 while Nigeria, Madagascar, Kenya andAngola added 500 to 800 more nuns.


The Middle East and the Caribbean also have added more nuns. Women Religious increased in 99 nations since 2000, according to the analysis.


Unfortunately, their gains are not yet quite enough to offset the 4.6 percent decline among women Religious worldwide during 2002-2007.


Most losers are the Western nations. For example, Italy had 11,156 less nuns during 2002-2007. The United States came second, losing 10,454 nuns during the period.


Germany and France lost around 6,000 nuns each, followed by Canada and Spain each had 4,000 less women Religious. Ireland,Belgium and the Netherlands in Europe, Argentina, Brazil and Columbia have also lost nuns in hundreds.


Between 1965 and 1995, the United States had lost 49 percent of its female Religious, while the number dropped by 46 percent in Canada, 44 percent in France, 48 percent in German, 43 percent in Great Britain, 51 percent in the Netherlands.


All together, there are about 750,000 women religious serving around the world, or approximately one nun for every 9,000 humans.

Fabulous 50s Christmas Carols

A Holly Jolly Christmas
Burl Ives

Away In A Manger
Loretta Lynn

Christmas Alphabet
The McGuire Sisters

Christmas Country Christmas
The Statler Brothers

Christmas In My Hometown
Sonny James

Christmas Song
Alvin & The Chipmunks

Christmas Times A Coming
Bill Monroe
And The Bluegrass Boys

Christmas Waltz
Frank Sinatra

Christmas Without You
Kenny Rogers
Dolly Parton

Frosty The Snowman
Gene Autry

Grandma Got Run Over
By A Reindeer

Elmo & Patsy

Hard Rock Candy Christmas
Dolly Parton

Hark The Herald Angels Sing
Nat King Cole

Have Yourself A Very
Merry Christmas

Rosemary Clooney

Home For The Holidays
Perry Como

Its Beginning To Look
A Lot Like Christmas

Bing Crosby &
The Andrew Sisters

I Saw Mommy Kissing
Santa Claus

Jimmy Boyd

Its a Most Wonderful
Time Of The Year

Johnny Mathis

Jingle Bell Rock
Bobby Helms

Jingle Bells
Roy Rogers
Most Interesting Middle!

Jingle Bells
Perry Como

Jingle Bells
The Jingle Bell Piggie

Joy To The World
Nat King Cole

Leroy, the Redneck Reindeer
Joe Diffie

Let It Snow
Andy Williams

Lets Put Christ
Back Into Christmas

Tammy Wynette

Little Drummer Boy
Neil Diamond

O Christmas Tree
Nat King Cole

Please Come Home
The Platters

Pretty Paper
Roy Orbison

Rocking Around The
Christmas Tree

Brenda Lee

Rudolph The Red
Nose Reindeer

Gene Autry

Rudolph The Red
Nose Reindeer

Unknown Group

Santa Baby
Cynthia Basinet

Santa Claus Is
Coming To Town

Bing Crosby

Santa Claus Is
Watching You

Ray Stevens

Silver Bells
Bing Crosby/Peggy Lee

Silent Night
Dean Martin

Sleigh Ride
Johnny Mathis

The First Noel
Andy Williams

Up On The Housetop
Gene Autry

White Christmas
Bing Crosby

White Christmas
The Drifters (1954)

Winter Wonderland
Brenda Lee

With Elvis

Jesuit Father Joseph Neuner, dead at 101, eulogized
by Thomas C. Fox on Dec. 07, 2009
Courtesey NCR Today

Jesuit Father Jesuit Father Joseph Neuner, spiritual advisor to Mother Teresa and probably the world’s oldest Jesuit, died Dec. 3 at 101 in Pune, India. Neuner, born in 1908 at Feldkirch in Austria, had been a Puneite since 1938. For many years, he taught theology at the city-based Jnana Deep Vidyapeeth. In the 1960s, Neuner served as an expert at the Second Vatican Council.

Janina Gomes, an NCR contributor and author of the recently published "Prayers from the Heart," (Pauline Publications @ Sister Bombay Society), wrote the following tribute.


By Janina Gomes

If ever there was an ideal priest, I knew one. Father Joseph Neuner, who died at the ripe age of 101 years, sowed many seeds in his life and also reaped a spiritual harvest that is only possible for the faithful, humble and true servants of God.

I knew him for well over 30 years. As a friend, he saw me through the best and the worst, through moments of failure and moments of success. He wrote letters faithfully, even to those others had given up on, and I was one of them. I remember Fr. Richard De Smet, another Jesuit giant telling me that Neuner had an apostolate of letters. He wrote faithfully to those who needed spiritual direction and help in their lives.

A great theologian, who worked on documents for the Second Vatican no doubt, but his spirituality was practical and down to earth. I remember once writing to him about a bathroom leakage I had in my flat. When he visited next, he walked in and immediately asked to see the leakage. That must be what great theology is like, irretrievably linked to the daily and mundane details of life.

How did such a prolific priest who wrote regularly for, the Indian theological journal, Vidya Jyoti, in a series called ‘Listening to the Spirit’ get his originality and wisdom? When he was teaching theology at De Nobili College, he would everyday take a walk to the graveyard and meditate, most in touch with life by reflecting on death.

I remember the long walk he once took me on, the open maidan outside De Nobili. He was able to understand and resonate with the young as well as the old. I also remember the times I would meet him at Shradhha Vihar (He was founder of the Daughters of the Helpers of Mary and wrote their constitution.). He would share with me the special meals made for him by the nuns and be the generous host that he was.

Neuner was a walking marvel. He could walk from Bandra Station to my house and back, taking everything in his stride. When he had a fall and injured himself, once again it was the hardy, determined side of him that won over and gave him a longer lease of life. He was still exercising through most of the latter years.

He did present me with his memoirs which he wrote at the age of 90. But, his personality and person were much richer than a book could capture. He had a capacity to reason and analyze that would be the envy of many a scholar, but it was balanced by an earthy humaneness, compassion and quite strength.

I have a vivid memory of him in a bright yellow cotton checked shirt showing me the original rosary presented to him at his ordination, which he had tucked below his pillow.
The last I saw him was about a year ago still concelebrating mass from a wheelchair. Though he did not recognize people, he was still lucid in mind in many respects.

I once wanted to write a profile of him, but did not do it to his satisfaction and he was a little bit of a perfectionist in his work. What I could not do when he was alive, I am now attempting to do after his death- to pay tribute to a great soul and an ideal priest.


Josef Neuner S.J. passed away last night (Dec. 3);
Funeral today (Dec. 4)at Papal Seminary, Pune

CHAI Southern India Branch 14th Triennial Conference
Thrissur Deepavali 2009

The CHAI SIB 14th Triennial commenced with a welcome procession in which the delegates and dignitaries assembled at the Archbishop's House Junction were ceremonially received and led to the venue of the Conference by the Caparisoned Elephant Unnikrishnan of the Thiruvambady Devaswom, one of the two Devaswoms most closely associated with the Thrissur Pooram Festival.

Invocation : Thamasorma Jyothir....
The CHAI SIB 14th Triennial Thrissur
DBCLC Hall 17th October, 2009.



Welcome Speech : Chev. Prof. George Menachery, General Conveneor of the Conference and CHAI Nat'l General Secretary. Dr. Thonippara and Dr. Thomas Edmunds are also in the picture.


Seated on the dais are (l to r) : Dr. Francis Thonippara (SIB Secretary cum Treasurer), Dr. "Cardinal " Thomas Edmunds (CHAI Nat'l Vice-President), Metropolitan Dr. Mar Aprem, Catholicos Elect Paulose Mar Milithios who inaugurated the Conference, Therambil Ramakrishnan MLA and former Speaker of the Kerala Legislative Assembly, Dr. Oberland Snaitang (CHAI Nat'l President), Dr. P. Manesseh (SIB President), and Charls Dias MP (CHAI SIB Executive Committee Member).
Catholicos Elect Paulose Mar Milithios inaugurates the 14th SIB Triennial by lighting the bronze Nilavilakku. Second in the picture from the left is P. C. Chacko MP who presided over the function.
Delegate Gudrun Lowner with Unnikrishnan the caparisoned elephant.

Adv. Therambil releases the CHAI Thrissur Conference Souvenir


Dr. Thonippara toasts Charls Dias MP, our Exe. Com. member, newly nominated to the Lok Sabha by the President of India

New Delhi
Pre-View Function of Volume III of the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of इंडिया








And the Study Tour and Panel Discussion

Dr. Jose Kalapura:

Christianity and Marginalised Communites in India

Academic Session I

Moderator: Dr. Kranti K. Farias

Dr. Samuel Jayakumar:

Christianity as a Change Agent in Indian Society: Ministry of the Poor and Oppressed Chridren of India

Dr. Varghese Perayil:

Christianity and Dalit Liberation

Dr. Thomas Edmunds:

The Impact of Christian Charismatic Songs of Rev. Fr. S. J. Berchmans on the marginalised communities in Tamil Nadu, India : A Critical Study

Dr. P. C. Laltani:

Women as Marginalised Community within the Mizoram Presbyterian Church

Academic Session II

Moderator: Prof. George Menachery

Dr. Jeanette Pinto:

The Siddis of Karnataka: From Slaves to Scheduled Tribe

Dr. S. Santha Prabhuraj:

Missed Dei Marginalis : The Nilgaria: A Case Study

Dr. Charles Dias:

European Descendants in Kerala: A Discriminated Sect

Dr. John Alexander:

Christianity as a Factor in Stamping out of Head Hunting Practice in Nagaland

[Study Tour of Don Bosco Musem Guided by

Dr. George Maliekkal]

Academic Session III

Moderator: Prof. Dr. Thomas Edmunds

Dr. Gladson Jathanna:

Representation of Bhoota Worshippers of South Kanara in the Annual reports of Basel Missionaries (1834 - 1860)

Dr. D. Christin Das:

V. V. Thomas -Understanding Subaltern History

Dr. V. L. Hruaia Khiangte:

Analysis of Sources in the History of Christianity in Mizoram: A Critique from a Mizo Christian Perspective

Academic Session IV

Moderator: Dr. Vanlalchhuanawma

Dr. Joan Dias:

Folklore and Oral Tradition as an Expession of Progress and Development in South Gujarat

Dr. Alex Mathew:

The Role of Pratyaksha Reksha Daiva Sabha: Emancipation of Dalits w.s.r.t. Sri Kumaragurudevan

Prof. George Menachery:

Impact of the Christian Presence on the Situation of Women in 19th Century Kerala

Dr. Pratap Digal:

Khonds in Khondamal: Problems and Prospects

Academic Session V

Moderator: Dr. Francis Thonippara

Dr. N. Benjamin:

Up from Agricultural Backwardness - Life and Times of San Higginbuttom (1874 - 1958)

Dr. Kranti Farias:

Within Bounds No More: Christian Work with the Marginalised Communities of Maharashtra

Dr. Anto Florence:

Contribution of Christianity to Education

Dr. Cosme Jose Costa:

Apostolic Christianity in Goa

Panel Discussion:

Christianity in North East India : A Vision for the Future

Academic Session VI

Moderator: Dr. Jeanette Pinto


Dr. George Oommen:

Gandhi’s Early Christian Encounter

Sandeep Gaikwad:

Sale of Church Property in Mumbai &c. : Issues and Remedial Actions

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Dr. John Alexander:

Christianity as a Factor in Stamping out of Head Hunting Practice in Nagaland

[Study Tour of Don Bosco Musem Guided  by Dr. George Maliekkal]

Academic Session III

Moderator: Prof. Dr. Thomas Edmunds

Dr. Gladson Jathanna:

Representation of Bhoota Worshippers of South Kanara in the Annual reports of Basel Missionaries (1834 - 1860)

Dr. D. Christin Das:

V. V. Thomas -Understanding Subaltern History

Dr. V. L. Hruaia Khiangte:

Analysis of Sources in the History of Christianity in Mizoram: A Critique from a Mizo Christian Perspective

Academic Session IV

Moderator: Dr. Vanlalchhuanawma

Dr. Joan Dias:

Folklore and Oral Tradition as an Expession of Progress and Development in South Gujarat

Dr. Alex Mathew:

The Role of Pratyaksha Reksha Daiva Sabha: Emancipation of Dalits w.s.r.t. Sri Kumaragurudevan

Prof. George Menachery:

Impact of the Christian Presence on the Situation of Women in 19th Century Kerala

Dr. Pratap Digal:

Khonds in Khondamal: Problems and Prospects

Academic Session V

Moderator: Dr. Francis Thonippara

Dr. N. Benjamin:

Up from Agricultural Backwardness  - Life and Times of San Higginbuttom (1874 - 1958)

Dr. Kranti Farias:

Within Bounds No More: Christian Work with the Marginalised Communities of Maharashtra

Dr. Anto Florence:

Contribution of Christianity to Education

Dr. Cosme Jose Costa:

Apostolic Christianity in Goa

Panel Discussion:

Christianity in North East India : A Vision for the Future

Academic Session VI

Moderator: Dr. Jeanette Pinto


Dr. George Oommen:

Gandhi’s Early Christian Encounter

Sandeep Gaikwad:

Sale of Church Property in Mumbai &c. :  Issues and Remedial Actions

Communication for Proclamation

CICS - General Information - Director F. Jacob Srampickal, SJ

a. Introduction

The Centre for Interdisciplinary Communication Studies (CICS) was established at the Pontifical Gregorian University, with the purpose of "examining the problems and opportunities which mass communication offers for proclaiming the Gospel message and in general for theological and philosophical language," and thus being "of service to all Christian communities in their dialogue with the contemporary world." (Carlo Maria Martini, S.J., Opening Address for the Academic Year 1978-79, and repeated on February 28, 1981, when the CICS was instituted.)

b. A Vision of Communication Studies within the Church

The Gregorian is an ecclesiastical university, and so the primary aim of the CICS is to develop a vision for communication and media involvement in the Catholic Church as envisaged by the documents Inter Mirifica, Communio et Progressio, Aetatis Novae and others. The primary mission of the CICS is to train church leaders in communication through academic research in areas relevant to the church’s mandate in communication. The focus of the programme is three-fold: theological, philosophical and socio-cultural. The CICS promotes a research-oriented approach rather than a technical-equipment-related approach in all its training. Hence areas of study such as communication as communion, the philosophy of and theories of communication, theology and communication, the psychology and spirituality of communication, semiotics, ethics of the media, communication and development, cultural and group media, media aesthetics, media and religion, sociology of the media, etc are important. Besides giving the students basic technical know-how through hands-on training in all aspects of media production, the courses in pastoral communication, theology of communication, homiletics, training of the diocesan directors of communicators, are all aimed at directly aimed at serving the church’s mission.

The CICS plays an important role in preparing persons for leadership in communication in the church, including the training of professors of Communications in Catholic universities and seminaries, of directors of communication and of media offices on the diocesan level and for Episcopal conferences, and of educated and capable Catholic men and women who can play a crucial role in formulating communications and media policies in their own countries.

Many of our former students are now providing valuable services in these areas in various parts of the world.

Staffed by a group of international professors, CICS invites students from all over the world, who are trained to work meaningfully in various areas of communication in their country.

c. The Philosophy of the CICS programme

The Centre for Interdisciplinary Communications Studies envisages the development of clear perspectives on the complex reality of communication; with a mix of theory and research, it intends to adapt to the changing situations in and needs of the Church.

In fact, reaching beyond the confines of any specific local church or nation, communication studies in the CICS stresses the following three areas:

  • The importance of a cultural studies approach and a design and development of media to promote local cultures;

  • The importance of a participatory, community media approach;

  • The importance of developing media products which favour justice and democratization.

With these general goals as background, the CICS aims to help those preparing for administrative, planning and teaching positions in the communication work of the Church worldwide. It focuses on preparing future Church leaders, who understand the world and the Church and who think critically with the Church, enabling it to face the complex challenges generated by the explosion of media messages in the modern world.

The CICS programme of study concentrates on the impact of mass media on culture and on the consequences such impact has for proclaiming the Gospel in the contemporary world.

The programme therefore is articulated into four areas or dimensions:

  • The «theological-philosophical dimension»,

  • the «semiotic-cultural dimension»,

  • the «socio-cultural dimension»,

  • the «practical, pastoral dimension».

Taking its cue from the Church document, “Redemptoris Missio”, people trained in media in ecclesiastic universities must be “evangelisers of the media”.

The media products they create or develop must, along with a high level of professional expertise, demonstrate the following qualities:

  • be able to discern and promote the issue of human rights and of Christian values;

  • be able to move their viewers to influence communication policies for the welfare of society, they must be a “leaven, that spreads the hope of the gospel”;

  • give voice to the voice-suppressed, empower the weak, the marginalized, women, minorities, etc.

  • create awareness among people regarding the real issues in their society, without getting lost in the inevitable glamour and manipulation of the media world;

  • educate people to become watchdogs of democracy, contributing to the development of an egalitarian society;

  • be respectful of indigenous cultures, demonstrating a clear understanding of their uniqueness and richness.

As the Puebla document of the Church in Latin America emphasizes , "Media training must equip professionals to adopt a critical attitude toward the bombardments launched by the mass media and to counteract the impact of media’s alienating messages, whether ideological, cultural, or promotional."

Syro Malabar Processions / Pradakhinams in NRK NRI Cities / Communities 

May I humbly request your Grace to immediately issue a special circular to the NRKs/NRIs exhorting them to hold such a procession and celebration beginning with this July 3rd itself.


Prof. George Menachery

Ollur Thrissur City 680306

0091 487 235 2468, 0091 487 235 4398, 0091 98460 33713,

Your Esteemed and Respected Grace,

May I humbly request your Grace to go through the following and take appropriate action if thought fit.

In the circumstances obtaining among the NRK/NRI Syro-Malabar communities in many Indian and foreign cities the Nazranies hardly get any chance to get together or to maintain their identity. Hence one possibility is for them to celebrate the Ormapperunnal of our father St. Thomas the Apostle with at least a public procession inside the church campus or if possible outside it, with all the cultural elements of our Pradakhinams or church processions.

It could be any one of the four types of processions we have - 1.intra-church procession, 2.procession rounding the open-air cross (this won’t be possible in most cases outside Kerala), 3.procession around the church building or campus, or 4. procession along the streets or Angadies.

I have found how happy our people are to congregate on such occasions - whether in the Americas or Europe or the Middle East, especially in the US and the Gulf, and how proud our people are of our cultural traditions and individuality.. A Syro- Malabar Mass may be said where ( and only where) the local hierarch permits it. Otherwise it can be a well attended religio-cultural event to which there could be no objection from any quarter. Such a programme, I feel - and am convinced from experience in different parts of the world - could and will go a long way to unite our people and to hold them together in the memory of our heritage and roots. AND it could be a first step in many ways.

These Pradakhinams or processions must have as many of the following elements as possible: 1. A gold(en) processional cross with the red (or other) sheath. 2.Two silver(y) crosses with sheaths. 3.Many colourful parasols or umbrellas viz. Muthukkudas. 4. At least one processional Roopakkoodu to carry the image of St. Thomas &c. typically decorated. 5.Band sets and typical Kerala Vadyams and Melams including drummers. 6. Fancy fire-works where permissible. 7. Public and common preparation and distribution of Kozhalappam, Achappam, Unni Appam, Neyyappam, and other Syro-Malabar confectionaries.

May I humbly request your Grace to immediately issue a special circular to the NRKs/NRIs exhorting them to hold such a procession and celebration beginning with this July 3rd itself.

Thanking Your Grace,

Your Graces’ obedient servant,

Prof. George Menachery.

p.s.Establishing a Bahya Kerala - Bahya Bharata Diocese for agreeable areas at least must be another priority.

p.p.s. Could we think of a reserve team of priests willing to serve these communities from time to time on special occasions and to give them cultural experiences and guidance in the form of seminars, video fests, power-point talks &c. occasionally?

Prof. George Menachery elected General Secretary of CHAI (Church History Association of India)


At the Church History Association of India (CHAI) Triennial General Body Meeting held at the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) , Shillong, Prof. George Menachery was elected General Secretary of the Association for the next three years. He was working as national vice-president for the last three years.

Dr. O.L. Snaitang, Meghalaya (President), Rev. "Cardinal" Thomas Edmunds, Tamil Nadu (Vice- President), Dr. Agnes de’Sa, Maharashtra (Joint Secretary), S. Edathikavil, DVK, Karnataka (Treasurer), were also elected. Dr. Verghese  Perayil (Aroor), Dr. George Oommen (Deradun) were the other members elected to the Board of Trustees, . Dr. A. M. Mundadan will continue as the Editor-in-Charge of the ongoing History of Christianity in India project while Dr. Joe Kalappura (Patna) was appointed editor of the CHAI Journal, Indian Church History Review (ICHR).

The 14th Triennial of the Southern India region will be held in Thrissur in October, 2009 while the 15th Triennial of the National Association and the Platinum Jubilee will be hosted by the Southern India Branch.

The Vice-Chancellor of the NEHU, Dr. Pramod Tandon inaugurated the meet, presided over by the President of CHAI, Dr. Kranthi Farias. The Key Note address was delivered by Dr. J. Kalappura, Secretary.

The NE regional president Dr. O. L. Snaitang, secretary and Registrar cum Controller of the NEHU Dr. David Syiemlieh were the main organisers of the meet at which more than 20 papers on the Theme of the Conference "Christianity and the Marginalised in India" were presented by scholars from every region of india.


The new office-bearers and members of the Board of Trustees of CHAI, the Church History Association of India elected at the Shillong Triennial. (From left to right):Dr. Varghese Perayil (Member of the BOT), Dr. Agnes de'Sa (Joint Secretary), Prof. George Menachery (General Secretary), Dr. "Cardinal" Thomas Edmonds (Vice - president),  Dr. O. L. Snaitang (President), Fr. Sebastian Edathikkavil (Treasurer), Dr. George Oommen (Member BOT), and Dr. Jose Kalappura ( Editor, ICHR).

Some of the distinguished participants and delegates at the 14th Triennial of CHAI at Shillong.



14th CHAI Southern Branch Conference

My Dear CHAI SIB Members,
A General Gathering of the CHAI Southern Branch was held on May 5, 2009 at Shillong. It was decided to have the next CHAI Southern Branch Conference held at Trichur from the Afternoon of Saturday October 17th to the Afternoon of Monday October 19th, 2009 in the premises of the Archbishop’s House, Trichur. SIB members please note down the dates and make sure of your participation. Prof. Chev. George Menachery (Ollur, 680306. 09846033713, has already begun the local level planning of the Conference. Rev. Dr. Samuel Jayakumar will co-ordinate the scholarly papers to be presented at the Conference.
The main theme of the Conference will be: " Challenges and Prospects of Christianity in India Today". Those who are interested in presenting papers may contact: Rev. Dr. Samuel Jayakumar. 19/C (new No. 26), Appadurai Main Street, Ayanavaram, Chennai 600023, Tel.: 044- 26602134, 09445107984,
Registration fee for the Conference (Rs. 300) may be sent to me by M.O. Early confirmation of your participation would be appreciated.
With warm regards,
Francis Thonippara
CMI, CHAI Southern Branch Secretary.080 41116230, 09480582973,
Prof. Dr. Francis Thonippara, CMI, President / Principal, Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Pontifical Athenaeum of Philosophy, Theology, and Canon Law, Dharmaram College, Bangalore, 560029.

Archbishop Cyril Vasil New Secretary of Oriental Congregation 

Congratulations of Indian Christianity to
Archbishop Cyril Vasil New Secretary of Oriental Congregation


Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Jesuit Fr Cyril Vasil as the new Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. Until now he has been Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. The Holy Father has also appointed him titular Archbishop of Ptolemais in Libya.

Fr Cyril Vasil, S.J., was born on 10 April 1965 in Košice, Slovakia. He attended the University of Bratislava's School of Theology from 1982 to 1987. He was ordained priest in 1987.

He entered the Society of Jesus on 15 October 1990 and was solemnly professed in 2001.

He earned a license in canon law (JCL) in 1989 and a doctorate (JCD) in 1994, both from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.

In 2002 he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Oriental Canon Law and Pro-Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute. In May 2007 he was appointed Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

He is a consulter to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. He attended the Synod of Bishops in 2005 as an expert. He is a visiting professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the Universities of Bratislava and Trnava. In 2003 he was named spiritual counsellor to the International Union of the Guides and Scouts of Europe.

In addition to Slovak, he knows Latin, Italian, English, Russian, Ukrainian, French, German, Spanish, Greek and Old Church Slavonic.

He is the author of a number of books and articles and is a collaborator of the Vatican Radio.

Cordial and Personal THANKS of the the Editor and Christian Encyclopaedia Staff to Dear Fr. Matthew Elapanickal 

On Monday, 20th April 2009 the inmates of Mount St. Thomas including the Major Archbishop Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil together with Their Graces Mar Mathew Moolakkatt, Mar Andrews Thazhath and Their Excellencies Mar Mathew Arackal, Mar Thomas Chakiath, and Mar Sebastian Adayanthrath and the Rev. Sisters belonging to the FCC, CMC and SABS Congregations who had rendered service at Mount St. Thomas and the distinguished guests and Rev. Fathers from the CMI Generalate, MST Media Centre, representative from CNEWA and others somehow connected with the ministry of Fr. Mathew Elappanickal at Mount St. Thomas gathered to bid him farewell during a lunch organized in his honour. Fr. Mathew Elappanickal having completed two terms of as the Finance Officer of the Major Archiepiscopal Curia handed over the reins of administration of the Curia to his successor Fr. Mathew Pulimoottil, from the eparchy of Thamarassery who was serving as the Director of the Pastoral Missionary Orientation Centre and the Procurator of START in the eparchy of Thamarassery. Fr. Antony Kollannur, the Chancellor and the newly appointed Superior of the Major Archiepiscopal Curia welcomed the guests. His Beatitude Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil in his address summed up the sentiments of everyone present and said that Fr. Mathew Elappanickal has transformed Mount St. Thomas to a beautiful garden, to a family of love for the inmates and a home for anyone who visited it by his amazing hospitable nature. He presented Fr. Mathew with a bronze plaque as a memento of his meritorious service at the curia for the past ten years and wished him further success in his future ministry. Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, Bishop Mathew Arackal and Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath and Sr. Teresitta, the mother superior of the SH Convent at Mount St. Thomas acknowledged the great service of Fr. Elappanickal and gave expression to the deep gratitude each one of them and the entire Syro-Malabar Church owed to Fr. Mathew Elappanickal. Fr. Mathew Pulimoottil, the newly appointed finance officer introduced himself and assured the gathering that he would be at the service of the Church in this new office with total dedication and commitment. In his reply, Fr. Mathew Elappanickal thanked the gathering for the fine words and expressed his satisfaction that he could serve the Church effectively for the last 10 years as the Finance Officer of the Curia. Fr. Pauly Kannookadan, the Executive Director of LRC, was the Master of Ceremonies and gave the vote of thanks. Fr. Mathew Elappanickal will assume his new office (which is yet to be disclosed) by the middle of May. We wish him continued success in his future ministry in the Archeparchy of Kottayam.

JAMSHEDPUR, JHARKHAND, FEB. 19, 2008, 16.20 Hrs (CBCI News)

Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly has been elected new president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) today at Jamshedpur.

Also, Archbishop of Bombay and President of CCBI (Latin Rite) Cardinal Oswald Gracias has been elected as the First Vice President, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum Moran Mor Baselios Mar Cleemis Catholicos as the Second Vice President and Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes re-elected as Secretary General.

80-year cardinal Vithayathil is presently head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

Cardinal Vithayathil was born on 29th May 1927 of Thresiamma and Justice Joseph Vithayathil at North Parur, had his school education at North Parur and Thiruvanathapuram, and his college education at University College Thiruvanathapuram, and St. Joseph College, Trichy.

Joining Redemptorist Order, Varkey Vithayathil professed as its member on 2nd August 1947, and after completing his studies in Philosophy and Theology he was ordained Priest on 12 the June 1954.

In 1955 he went to Rome for his studies in common law at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) from where he took doctorate in 1959 on “The Origin and Progress of the Syro-Malabar Hierarchy”.

After coming back from Rome, Dr. Varkey Vithayathil served as professor of Canon Law for about 25 years at the Redemptorist Major Seminary, Bangalore.

In 1972 he took his Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Karnataka University. He also taught different subjects in several other Seminaries in Bangalore. He served as the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorist Order from 1978 to ’84, and as president of the CRI from 1984 to ’85.

Rev. Dr. Varkey Vithayathil was nominated Titular Bishop of “Antinoe” and the Apostolic Administrator of the Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church and of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. He was consecrated bishop in Rome by Pope John Paul II on 6th January 1997.

He assumed charge of the Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church and of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly on 18th January 1997.

On 23rd December 1999 Pope John Paul II appointed Mar Varkey Vithayathil as the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church and as the Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

His installation as the Major Archbishop took place at St. Mary’s Basilica, Ernakulam on 26th January 2000.

His Holiness Pope John Paul II nominated Mar Varkey Vithayathil a member of the College of Cardinals on 21st January 2001. In the consistory on 21st February he was raised to the dignity of a Cardinal.

He is a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of unity of Christians.

Palayur pilgrimage held
(Indian Expess)

THRISSUR: Thousands of faithful, priests and nuns took part in the pilgrimage to St Thomas Forane Church at Palayur near Guruvayur, on Sunday. The faithful from Thrissur town and nearby areas covered the 31-km distance from the town by walking. The annual pilgrimage to Palayur, considered as the cradle of Christianity in the state, is being organised for the past 12 years by the Thrissur Archdiocese as part of sacrifice during the Lent season. Delhi Archbishop Vincent Concessao inaugurated the pilgrimage at St Thomas Forane church, Palayur, in the afternoon. Archbishop (Emeritus) Mar Jacob Thoomkuzhi presided over the function. Thrissur Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath welcomed the gathering

A scholarly tome onChristianity in India

Staff Reporter

THRISSUR: The third volume of Saint Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India (STCEI) which is scheduled to be published shortly, throw light on various subjects including Christianity in India, Hinduism, Christianity and Sankaracharya, Shaiva Siddhantha and Islam, says George Menachery, the editor of the encyclopaedia. 

STCEI is considered an authoritative workfor reference on India in general and Christianity in particular, says Mr. Menachery. 

It contains articles contributed by renowned archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, educational experts, lexicographers and biographers. The first volume of the encyclopaedia was published in April 1973 in connection with the 1900th death anniversary of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of India. 

The first volume was about the origin, growth and development of Christianity in India. 

The second volume was brought out in 1982. The Thomapedia, an enlarged millennium edition of the early volume, was also published in 2000. STCEI had been described by noted reviewers as monumental work containing significant information on India, Mr. Menachery says. 

Thousands of its copies have been sold the world over and leading libraries have subscribed to it. 

[The HINDU, 3 March 2009]

KCBC Awards 2008:
Prof. George Menachery awarded the Darshanika Vyjnanika Award

Kochi: A. K. Puthussery has won the literary award instituted by the K.C. B. C. Media Commission. Prof. George Menachery has won the Mar Mankuzhikkari philosophical award. Fr. Geo Payyappilly and Elizabeth Raju  won the media and young talent awards, respectively. [The Hindu].
Malayala Manorama and Deepika add: The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council's Media Awards 2008 have been announced.A. K. Pudussery bagged the Media Award for his contributions in the fields of the Novel and the Drama.Prof. Chev. George Menachery was selected for the Mar Mankuzhikkary
Darshanika Vyjnanika Award. Fr. Geo Payyappilly obtained the Media Award while singer Elizabeth Raju was chosen for the Young Talent Award.
Rev. Dr. Jacob Kattakkal, O. V. Raphael, Prof. Thomas Kaniyanplavan, Varghese Kanjirathingal, and Abraham Pattani were selected for the Guru Pooja Awards.
A judging committee consisting of the Chairman of the KCBC Media Commission Dr.Mar Thomas Chakiath, Dr. George Irumpayam, Dr. Cherian Kuniyanthodath, Dr. Primus Perincherry, and K.C.B.C. Media Commission Secretary Fr. Joseph Nicholas decided the awards.
The awards will be bestowed at a function to be held at the POC auditorium, Ernakulam on the 25th of January, 2009.

Prof. George Menachery is the Chief Editor of a number of reference works including the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Indian Church History Classics (The Nazranies), the Thomapedia, and the works in progress Ayurveda Encyclopaedia of India, and the Encylopaedia of the Arabian Sea.

Noted historian, archaeologist, numismatist, and geographer Prof. Menachery was in the UAE and Oman for the past several months researching on his latest publications.

Prof. George Menachery Sapthathy Sangeetha Seminar and Conference

Prof. G. Menachery Sapthathi Sangeetha (Musical) Seminar being inaugurated by Prof. George S. Paul the well known art critic and writer at the Kerala Sahitya Academy Campus. Seated from left to right are: M. D. Madhavan Namboodiri (Ch. Editor, Sangeetham, Kozhikode) [who gave a Chitra-Swara presentation of Kumaran Asan'n Veena Poovu in which Sri Namboodiri accompanied forty Veena Poovu paintings of Francis Kodankandath with his musical recital of the entire classicaql poem]: reputed educationist and cultural leader Sri Chitran Nampoodiripad (who presided); Dr. Mar Aprem Metropolitan of the Church of the East (who delivered the Key Note Address); Dr. Paul Poovathingal (who gave a classical concert and spoke on Voco-System in Classical Music); Prof. Balakrishnan (former principal of the Sree Kerala varma College and reputed vocalist who gave the Invocation Song; Prof. A. M. Francis the Principal of the St. Thomas' College (who welcomed the audience); and Prof. V.P.Jones the working Chairman of the Prof. Menachery Sapthathi Samithi who was also the M. C. on this occasion. Picture TWO: Artist Punachitaya gives a demonstration in connection with the Sapthathi Historico-Cultural EXPO on another day. months back he had inaugurated the Menachery Sapthathy Painters' Workshop attended by 40 odd artists from all over South India at the St. Thomas' College and the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate Complex presided over by Sri Madanan, Ch. artist at the Mathrubhoomi, Calicut.. Pic. THREE: Live Sapthathy demonstration by Artist Francis Kodenkandath in the Academy Complex: He painted a Jubilee Commemoration Montage in 55 minutes in which he represented M. T. Vasudevan Nair's Naalukettu, Vykkom Muhammed Basheer's Bhargavee Nilayam, and Kumaran Asan's Veena Poovu to commemorate the Jubilee Celebrations connected with these great sons of Kerala and pioneers in Malayalam Literature. The demo was followed by a two-hour discussion in which some of the leading artists and literary critics of Kerala participated.

Prof. G. Menachery Sapthati Historico-Cultural EXPO 2008

Bestowing "Ponnada" on Prof. George Menachery by Sri Therambil Ramakrishnan M.L.A. and former Speaker of the Kerala Assembly during the inauguration of the Sapthathi  Historico-Cultural Expo 2008 at the Kerala Sahitya Academy Complex. Sri M. V. Devan inaugurated the Expo at a function presided over by Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala Kala Mandalam Dr. K. G. Paulose. Dr. Raphael Thattil, V. G., Archdiocese of Trichur felicitated. Two Professors from the Krakov University of Poland are also seen discussing aspects of Kerala Culture with Prof. Menachery.

Vatican City, Oct 12: India got its first woman saint when Pope Benedict XVI canonised Kerala nun Sister Alphonsa at a special ceremony at St Peter's Square in the Vatican City on Sunday. Watched by over 5,000 Indian Christians who came here for the historic ceremony from India and other parts of the world, the Pope declared Sister Alphonsa a saint, after reading excerpts from the Holy Bible.
The Pope himself read out the biography of Alphonsa after the ceremony.

Sister Alphonsa had been "an exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonised (woman) saint," the Pope said.

She had lived in "extreme physical and spiritual suffering," the Pope said. She "was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father."

The Pope also used the occasion to express his concern over the violence against Christians in states like Orissa and Karnataka.

"I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilisation of love," the Pope said in his concluding speech after canonising Sister Alphonsa and three others -- Maria Bernarda Butler from Switzerland, Narcisa de Jesus Marlillo Moran from Ecuador and Father Gaetano Errico from Italy.

"As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time," he said in his speech which was televised internationally.

Sister Alphonsa's "heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial", the Pope said.

"I invite prayers for reconciliation and peace in situations which provoke alarm and great suffering," he said. Many priests and guests who attended the ceremony at the St Peters Square said it was a great day for them particularly when Christians have been targeted in certain states in the country.

After her canonisation, sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception has become the first woman from India to be conferred sainthood and the second Roman Catholic from country after Gonsalo Garcia, who was conferred the honour in 1862.

A 15-member official Indian delegation, led by Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes, attended the ceremony. A Catholic delegation comprising a number of Cardinals and Bishops from the country, including members from the Syro-Malabar, Latin and Malankara churches of Kerala were also present on the occasion.

Other members included Kerala Public Works Department minister Mons Joseph, P C Thomas MP, former Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani, MLAs P C George and K V Thomas, former Meghalaya Governor M M Jacob and Mahatma Gandhi University Vice-Chancellor Jancy James.

Church sources say that elevation of Sister Alphonsa as a saint is of special significance to Indian Christians as she is a 'home-grown' person born and brought up in the 2000-year old Syrian Christian traditions of Kerala.

Sister Alphonsa, who lived a quiet religious life helping people around her place in Kerala, was hailed for a number of miracles, including two which were officially put up to the Pope.

One of the miracles attributed to her related to the healing of a young boy's twisted feet after his family prayed at her tomb at the Alphonsa Chapel at Bharananganam near Kottayam.

The beatification process, the last formal step before sainthood, of Sister Alphonsa began in 1996 by Pope John Paul II, who had declared her a 'Blessed Servant of God', when he visited India.

According to Indian church history, the first Indian person to become a Catholic saint was Gonzalo Garcia, a Jesuit born in Vasai near Mumbai. He died a martyr at Nagasaki in Japan in 1597 and was raised to the status of a saint in 1862.

Sister Alphonsa was third in the number of four saints canonised on Sunday. Gaetano Errico, born October 19, 1791, in Italy was canonised first. The second was Mary Bernard, born in Switzerland on May 28, 1848. The third was Sister Alphonsa.

Narcisa De Jesus Martillo Moran, born in 1832 in Ecuador, was the fourth to be canonised.


Bells rang and firecrackers burst across Kerala and in other parts of India as soon as the Pope declared the Roman Catholic nun a saint. The nun can now be worshipped by the followers of Christianity.

The canonisation ceremony was telecast live from the Vatican.

Special masses were held in all Catholic churches in the state, where Saint Thomas, one of the 12 apostles, is believed to have arrived in 52 AD, bringing Christianity to India.

"It is a very important event and a big recognition for a woman born in a simple, ordinary Indian family," Orissa Archbishop Raphael Cheenath said.

"It's a matter of immense pride for us since one of our believers is being bestowed with the sainthood. It will strengthen the church in the country," Father Dominic Vechoor, chancellor of Palai diocese, where she was a nun from 1927 till her death in 1946, said prior to the canonisation.

The Central government announced yesterday that it will issue a commemorative coin in honour of Sister Alphonsa.

Christians make up 2.3 percent of India's billion-plus population, with Roman Catholics accounting for 70 percent of the minority that is largely concentrated in the country's South and Northeast.

Take Action Now: points to include in your email (see below – You Can Help)

  • Express your horror at the atrocities committed against the Christian community in Orissa and neighbouring states and the failure of the Indian authorities to take timely and effective action end these gross human rights abuses.

  • Ask for assurance that immediate and effective measures will be taken to end the attacks and to bring to justice those responsible for the reported murders, rapes and arson of homes, shops, schools, orphanages and churches.

  • Express deep concern at reports that local police have ignored some of the crimes being committed and have failed to carry out investigations into the crimes when the victims are Christians.

  • Ask specifically about what steps have been taken to investigate the murders of Pastor Akbar Digal, Pastor Samuel Nayak of Bakingia, Kandhamal, Pastor Matthew Naik from Kanbagiri, seven month pregnant Kamalini Naik and her one year old son from Kandhamal district and Pastor Gopana Naik from Badimunda and to bring those responsible to justice.

  • Ask what investigation has been conducted into the attack on four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity who were travelling on a train from Raipur to Indore on 5 September that resulted in the nuns being severe injuried.

  • Ask what investigation is being conducted into the murder of a young woman, Rajni Majh, who was burned to death by a mob on 25 August at the orphanage where she worked.

  • Ask that the Indian authorities take immediate and effective action to provide all necessary support to people who have been forced to flee their homes to ensure their health and well-being and to provide them with adequate compensation to rebuild their homes.

  • Ask that relief agencies and Indian churches be allowed free access to provide humanitarian relief to those who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the persecution they have been subjected to  



THRISSUR [Palayur] –  Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI  knighted Prof. George Menachery and the playwright C. L. Jose with The Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great on Sunday March 9, at the ancient Palayur church during the Palayur Maha Theerthadanam in honour of St. Thomas the Apostle of Christ attended by more than 55000 faithful followed by the Eucharistic Celebration. While Mar Thazhath decorated Prof. Menachery with the official insignia of the Pontifical Order, the inscription of the Secretary of State was presented by Mar Jacob Thoomkuzhy and a laudatory speech was made by Catholicos Mar Cleemis, Archbishop of Trivandrum. The investiture comes at the end of a yearlong celebration honoring the 70th birth anniversary or Sapthathi of Prof. George Menachery. Prof. Menachery made a suitable response.



Through the past, clearly

For George Menachery, exploring the history of Christians in India, particularly in Kerala, is a passion that
has grown with him. In a chat with K. A. Martin, he discusses some of the issues and instruments in his research.

THAT PEOPLE in India lack a sense of history is received wisdom. We are still not too sure of the age of Kalidasan or Ezhuthacchan. Neither do we know much of Alexander's India invasion from Indian sources.

Is this reason enough to believe that our predecessors missed the significance of their life and times? No, says George Menachery, a path-breaking researcher whose amateur interest in the history of
Christians in India, particularly in Kerala, grew into a passion and set new standards of scholarship in the discipline.

He feels that it is because of a keen sense of history that our ancestors indulged in selective amnesia. They remembered and left to posterity only what they wanted to be remembered. The rest is (not) history. They now come in a baggage we call the `dark areas'.

Menachery had more interesting things to say and more cogent arguments to put forward on history as we sat across a table at St. Thomas Mount, Kakkanad, where he was instrumental in setting up a Christian museum.

Museums like the one at Kakkanad has been his prime weapon in an attempt to recreate the past as well as to keep alive the new generation's interest in its traditions.
So far, Menachery has had a free run setting up several museums across the State. The first was the Christian Cultural Museum in Thrissur in 1980. Later, he also set up a museum at Palayoor which has recently been expanded.

He had firmed up the idea of the museum as the carrier of a sense of history at the first World Malayalam Congress in 1977 in which he was in charge of the Christian stall at the Kanakakunnu palace premises. A. L. Basham was among the visitors who spent several hours at the stall, he recalls. Menachery is now busy giving the final touches to the third volume of `St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia', the first volume of which came out in 1973.

`Thomapaedia', as it has come to be called, was intended as a single volume on the history and culture of Christians in Kerala. As the work progressed, its scope was expanded as the materials available swelled. It would now be completed in four volumes with over 300 photographs.
He says that several doctoral theses have been written by students in various parts of the world relying mostly on Thomapaedia.
`The Nazranies', edited by him and the first volume of which is out is expected to run into three volumes. It will be a ready reckoner for any researcher.

More than three decades of research has brought him recognition and respect. It was none other than M. G. S. Narayanan who heaped praises on `Thomapaedia' when it was first published. Kerala History Congress has recently honoured Menachery with the Joseph Nedumkandam Award.
The scope of Menachery's historical research makes it impossible for us to cast him in any other role. That he retired as the head of the department of English at St. Thomas College, Thrissur, may be a quirk of a chance.

And, it is a measure of his success that even the church hierarchy which often seems a little too preoccupied with the present, fell to his ceaseless energy and keen mind as he endeavoured to provided a new perspective to research in church history. In the process, Menachery has carried the day and assured himself of a place in history.

Picture / Photo Gallery
Here are some Early Christian pictures and photos from Kerala India





Kerala's forest wealth has been praised by local poets of the Sangham era (first centuries BCE / CE) and by foreign travellers from time immemorial. Perhaps the workmanship of Kerals's wood craftsmen excels wood carving found in almost every State of India and every country in the world, including African and Scandinavian countries. The teakwood of Kerala as well as such timbers as Rosewood, Irumul, Royal wood of Kerala forests have enjoyed world fame for many millennia.

The wood carvings of Malabar Churches are more abundant, more varied, and even often more artistic than similar works in other edifices…especially because even when the Hindu temples began to be influenced by the rock culture of mainland India the Churches mostly continued with their tradition of wood carving. The altars and altarpieces (reredos), Pushpakkoodus (rostra or pulpits), the ceilings and balconies, railings, statues, and Roopakkoodus … all display the highest achievements of the wood carver and the carpenter.

Here are some examples of woodcarving photographed by H.C.Q. Brownrigg of London- of the BACSA). These are from the Church at Kottarakkara.Mr. Brownrigg has taken a large number of photographs and slides dealing with the Kerala churches and has given a number of talks on the same. Read about the Kottarakkara church pictures in his own words:


Dear Professor Menachery,

It was a great pleasure for me to visit you in Ollur and see the Menachery family `mana'. Thank you also for showing me round St. Anthony's, which is one of my favourite Kerala churches. Lastly, thank you for `Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage', which I read on the journey home and found enjoyable and extremely informative on a number of subjects. I also read the book edited by Bosco Puthur, in which MGSN expands on his points about Nambudiri migration.


Enclosed are copies of the photographs which I took at the Mar Thoma church in Kottarakkara. ( I am rather proud to have found a church which you have not already visited ! ) What put me into it was a passage in the travel book written almost a hundred years ago by Mrs. E. Hatch in which she describes the church as being in a ruined condition but with fine carvings and beams. Since then it has twice been rebuilt, but one long beam is preserved in the porch. It has eight protruding blocks, of which four have figurative panels. I am not sure what the subjects are.


One looks as if it might be the Annunciation, while another looks like the Weighing of Souls on the Day of Judgment. Incidentally, is the motif underneath these carvings what, in Glimpses, you call an ` Indian Cross ' ? Have you any idea where it originates? It seems half way between being a cross and a more decorative motif like the lotus.


I did not see any sign of an inscription, but one would need to go up on a ladder to look properly. Perhaps it might be worth writing to the priest.

Lastly, in the churchyard there is a deepastambha but without any deepas! Is it just a cenotaph?


I hope to find an excuse to return to Kerala later this year or early next, when I hope we can meet again. Incidentally, a paper based on my talk at Changanasseri is supposed to be being published in the Journal of South Indian History. Since it was written as a talk illustrated with numerous slides I fear that it will be rather hard to understand when only illustrated with a small number of photographs. Have you heard anything about (the persons who organized that Seminar) They all seemed to disappear without trace!

With Best Wishes
H. C. Q. Brownrigg



This is the pedestal of the stone cross in granite [rock] in front of the Ollur Church which is the oldest church in the Thrissur Corporation area. But the Ollur Church is less than 300 years old whereas there are more than a hundred churches which are 400 years or more old in Kerala. And there are dozens of exquisitely carved open air rock crosses or Nazraney Sthambams in front of many of these ancient Kerala Christian places of worship, e.g. at Kottekkad, Enammavu [now in the Trichur Archieparcal Residence, where it was shifted from the Lourdes Cathedral Christian Cultural Museum that was estd. in 1980 - discovered by this writer in 1980 at Enammavu from a mud deposit] Mapranam, Puthenchira, Parappukkara, Veliyanad, Kalpparambu [the last discovered by this writer in the mud deposits] Koratty, Angamaly [one each in front of the three churches - the Western church cross, 27ft. tall- has been exactly reproduced in front of the Kakkanad Mount St. Thomas St. Thomas Christian Museum], Kanjoor, Malayattoor, Udayanperur, Kuravilangad,Uzhavoor,Chungam,Kaduthuruthy [2 Nos.], Muttuchira, Kudamaloor, Niranam, Kothamangalam, Chengannur, Thumpamon, Chathannur, Changanacherry [the base of the second cross was discovered by this writer in the Changanacherry cemetery], and many other places.

These crosses have four members: the base with a socket often fixed on a huge pedestal (see pic), the huge monolithic shaft with cylinder-like projections at both ends, the arm with sockets above and below, and the capital which forms the fourth arm of the cross with a cylinder arrangement at the bottom. All these crosses rise from the lotus carved at the top of the base member termed the Pookkallu. Many of these crosses have exquisite carvings and sculptures esp. on the four sides of the pedestal, and in rare cases on the shaft as the Adam, Eve, and the Serpent on the Chengannur Obelisk Cross. Like the Egyptian Obelisks the cross is a ray of the sun - Horus or Christ.





[For YOUR EYES ONLY is a recently started LOL Series which would carry interesting pictures and illustrations which throw some useful light on St. Thomas Christian history, culture, customs, manners representing every church and denominations of Syrian Christians. Prof. George Menachery who is a renowned scholar with vast research experience in Thomas Christian traditions and history organizes this Series.]




The very costumes and ornaments of the Thomas Christians indicate - at least used to indicate until very recent times - their deep Spirituality and commitment to the Gospel message. What the Bible speaks of the deportment of women is fully satisfied in the dress of Syrian Christian women of Kerala; it is a costume where beauty meets modesty. Allow me to quote (the late) Mrs. K. M. Matthew from the 1973 St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia: "The costumes they wear are worthy of special note which in many ways resemble those of the high caste Hindu women. A white cloth-length 51/2 yards by 12/2 yards [Mundu} is folded into a Pudava which is again folded into fan like pleats. This fan like arrangement, which is highly artistic completely, covers the back portion of the woman when she wears the cloth. ... The upper portion of the body including the belly and the arm is completely covered with the loose blouse-like Kuppayam or Chatta. Going to the church they cover themselves from head to foot with a nice white cloth, when only the face will be visible. This dress is fully in keeping with the modesty and nobility of the Syrian Christian women. Naturally this dress is not meant to kill, the whiteness representing purity and chastity."

Again this is what Dr. J. Kolengadan has to say in the same Encyclopedia: "...the fan like appendage behind render their dress highly modest as well as artistically elegant...As they went out to church they had a veil like outer garment, with gold brocade, reaching to the ground showing nothing but the face..." The costume of the Syrian Christian women of Kerala does what the Purdah does but without its ugliness, unhealthy anonymity and abuses. Unfortunately today one has to watch the obituary columns of Malayalam newspapers to come across this unique costume - cry, the beloved country. D. Ferroli has this on the costumes of the Syrian Christians: " The mundu [of men] is fastened round the waist and reaches down to the heels. A towel is thrown over the shoulders...". "Except those who kept celibacy and those who had gone on a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Thomas at Mylapore, all kept long hairs tied up in a bundle..."(Placid, Thomapedia, p.107>f,g.)




 WCC News
Upcoming events

08.08.07 - 14.08.07

Intra-Christian consultations on conversion and Christian self-understanding

Toulouse, France

Photo : Jenny Bolliger, EAPPI, janvier 2007.

from various denominations and theological traditions - the WCC constituency, the Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches - will be meeting in Toulouse from 8-12 August to discuss ways “Towards an ethical approach to conversion – Christian witness in a multi-religious world”. This includes a self-critical appraisal of Christian missionary activities to date. The consultation on conversion is directly followed by three days of reflection on “Religious plurality and Christian self-understanding”.

The first consultation is part of the 2006 to 2009 process towards a code of conduct on conversion, for which the WCC and the Vatican are jointly responsible. The process is both enriched by and contributing to the parallel efforts of a WCC-initiated multifaith expert group “Thinking Together”.

The second meeting is dedicated to the fundamental challenge of how to articulate the appropriate theological questions in relating to other religions. In so doing, it follows up on a document on Christian self-understanding prepared for a 2005 Conference on World Mission and Evangelism.

Previous News
22.06.07 - 01.07.07

Bangalore, India

Young adults from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka will be meeting at the Fireflies Ashram in Bangalore to reflect on the role of religion and religious identity in a context of tension and communalism.

Introduction to the M.E.C.C.:Middle East Council of Churches

[The Third International Conference Seminar on Early Christianity in India and the Middle East is being held in Amman, Jordan in September 2008, 13th to 20th. The Middle East Council of Churches is actively collaborating in this effort with  The International Centre for the Study of Christianity in India ( ICSCI ) along with the Ecuminical Studies Centre at Jordan Our readers and scholars may be interested in knowing something about the MECCwe hope.]

The Middle East Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches relating itself to the main stream of the modern ecumenical movement, the same which gave birth to the World Council and other regional ecumenical councils throughout the world.

The first and most remarkable feature of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is its setting. It was through the Middle East that Abraham, his children and grandchildren migrated. Here the ancient Hebrew tribes wandered; the judges, prophets, priests, kings, singers and sages who gave voice to scripture were nurtured here. And it was here that the Incarnation took place, and the redeeming ministry of Christ fulfilled. The Church was born in the Middle East, and here the early controversies played themselves out and the first divisions in the Church occurred. The people and churches which form the council are the direct heirs of all of that. And the vibrant ecumenical movement to which the council gives expression in this region is a profound healing process. A glimpse of the Tree of Life whose leaves are "for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:2) is somehow not so distant here.

The second feature is geo-political. Powerful forces swirl and eddy in this region. They break out from time to time in violence. Death, misery and exploitation are no strangers. Economic forces, ethnic movements, big power pressures, religious passions … they make for a heady mix of variables drawing in influences and interests from around the world, and predators abound. In the midst of this, for the past quarter century there has been the MECC, commited to witness and serve in Christ's name. The circumstances of human dysfunction place upon it an overwhelming burden. People in the Middle East have reason to be suspicious of those who say they want to do them good. Wolves in sheep's clothing have been plentiful. In a region overwhelmingly Muslim in complexion, it is remarkable that the council, an indigenous Christian agency, should retain the credibility rating it does. It has worked quietly and effectively as an agent of mercy and reconciliation in war-torn Lebanon; it has interceded in the delicate dialogue between the Palestinians and the world, preparing some of the more important pathways that led to the peace process; it was early on the scene in post-war Iraq; it initiated discussions within Arab society to engage both Muslims and Christians in the examination of what should go into building a just and peaceful civil society; and it has participated in some momentous initiatives of Christian reconciliation. There is a pivotal quality to the MECC, and that pivot has integrity. Having a legacy directly tied into the early days of the ecumenical movement, the Council has served in another remarkable way. Because of its long-standing partnerships with churches and Christian agencies both in the West and in the East, it depicts as no other body in this region that the love of Christ transcends barriers and makes of humanity one people. By the sheer fact of its existence it is a testimony to the fact that healing can happen.

Finally, there is the intimacy of the Council. The twelve to fourteen million souls who claim Christ's name in the Middle East are few in number when compared to the constituents of similar ecumenical associations elsewhere. But being small means that people know each other, and there is a bond of kinship that is rather special. It is no accident, therefore, that the Council chose to organize itself as a family of families—the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the Catholic and Protestant families. Each makes its contribution to the witness of all. This, then, is the Middle East Council of Churches. We invite you to become better acquainted with it. More>> -Prof. G. M. from the above site .

Pope Benedict XVI
gave the go-ahead Saturday for greater use of the old Latin mass,
signalling a bid to heal a decades-old split in the Roman Catholic Church.

But the move, which also applies to other religious rituals, is controversial and leading figures have already expressed misgivings.

A papal decree said priests should now meet requests by the faithful to hold mass in the traditional Church language, which had widely been dropped after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

"In parishes where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their request to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962...," said the decree.

"The pastor, having attentively examined all aspects, may also grant permission to use the earlier ritual for the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, if the good of souls would seem to require it," it added.

The virtual abandonment of the Tridentine mass after the Second Vatican Council in 1965 was one of the causes of a breakaway led by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970.

The move was to encourage the greater use of the mass in local languages, one of a series of reforms made by the council in a bid to modernise the Church.

Traditionalists say the Tridentine mass, named after the town of Trento, now in northern Italy, is more spiritual and historically authentic than the modern version.

French bishops secretly approached the pope late last year to voice their concerns about his then apparent readiness to revive the Tridentine mass.

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, chairman of the French bishops' conference, said in November that differences with followers of Lefebvre were not only liturgical, but also theological, dealing with religious freedom, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and politics.

He warned Saturday that the pope's "real motivations may not be well understood" by the public and the priests, but he did not expect many requests for traditional mass.

"I don't see a tsunami coming," he said.

Lefebvre's followers hailed the pope's decision, adding however that other difficulties remained.

The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, in a statement from Lefebvre's successor Bernard Fellay, said it "rejoices to see the Church ... regain her liturgical Tradition, and give the possibility of a free access to the treasure of the Traditional Mass for the glory of God, the good of the Church and the salvation of souls, to the priests and faithful who had so far been deprived of it."

The favorable climate established by the decree should make it "possible -- after the decree of excommunication which still affects (the society's) bishops has been withdrawn -- to consider more serenely the disputed doctrinal issues," the association added in the statement posted on its website.

The pope opened a dialogue with Lefebvre's followers in August 2005, four months after he was elected as head of the Roman Catholic Church , by receiving Fellay.

Prior to his death in April 2005, Benedict's predecessor John Paul II sought to bring traditionalists back into the Roman Catholic fold, allowing the celebration of the Tridentine mass so long as it was conducted only by bishops.

In a separate letter to the bishops, Benedict said he was motivated by a need to reconcile worshippers as it had become "apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite which had been familiar to them from childhood.

"This was especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep personal familiarity with the earlier form of the liturgical celebration.

"We all know that, in the movement led by archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level."

The pope asked bishops to report back to the Vatican three years after the new decree takes effect on September 14.

"If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought," he said.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi insisted Saturday that the choice given to priests did not mean that the Church was taking a step back.

"Benedict XVI does not mean to revolutionise today's liturgy which was updated by the Second Vatican Council, as it will continue to be followed by a large majority of worshippers," he said.

"He does not impose a step back, he wants no weakening of the Council authority or of the authority and responsibility of bishops."

And Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, head of the Vatican commission which speaks to the dissidents, said they should recognise the validity of the more modern mass.

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre meanwhile criticised Benedict's decision, as the old Latin mass included a prayer for the conversion of Jews.

The centre asked Benedict "to declare this text contrary to the current teaching of the Church, in accordance with the Second Vatican Council".

Third International Conference on the
            History of Early Christianity in India


The Third International Conference on the History of Early Christianity in India and the Middle East will be held at the  premises of the Century Park Hotel, Amman, Jordan from 13 th to 20th of September 2008. This includes the four days' visit to the Biblical places in Jordan and Israel for four days from 17-20th  of September 2008

The International Centre for the Study of Christianity in India ( ICSCI ) will host this unique Conference in Collaboration with the Middle East Council of Churches ( MECC) and Ecuminical Studies Centre at Jordan.

We invite scholars all over the world to participate and present research papers/topics pertaining to the history of early Christianity in India and the Middle East . The hosting committee has decided to include fifty papers on early Indian Churches and another fifty papers on early Christianity in all the countries of the Middle East .  

In addition to the delegates who present research papers, it has been decided to accommodate good number of observers who can actively participate in the deliberations of the Conference. 

For further information contact: Dr. John Samuel, IAS, Chemmanchery, Chennai.

Your queries may also be routed through this site: 00919846033713

Ollur Church photo taken in 1904 -  presented to Prof. G. Menachery by Henry C. Q. Brownrigg of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia in October 2004. Note the three-tier roofing style and the gabled original copper roof of the bell-tower

Malabar Christians of Ancient Days (from an old painting). Photo published in the Cochin Government  Royal War Efforts Souvenir in 1938.

Ollur Church, inside view. Note the altat, altarpiece, hanging lamps, globes, railings, floor tiles etc.  Photo published in the Cochin Government  Royal War Efforts Souvenir in 1938.

Ollur Church photo published in the Cochin Government  Royal War Efforts Souvenir in 1938 -  it is almost identical with the previous picture with slight changes in the coconut leaves - may be this was taken at the same time as the 1904 picture.

View from the left side of the
Ollur Church. Photo taken in 1904 - 
presented to Prof. G. Menachery by Henry C. Q. Brownrigg of the
British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia
in October 2004

For more info cf. Article.htm



[For YOUR EYES ONLY is a new LOL Series which would carry interesting pictures and illustrations which throw some useful light on St. Thomas Christian history, culture, customs, manners representing every church and denominations of Syrian Christians. Prof. George Menachery who is a renowned scholar with vast research experience in Thomas Christian traditions and history organizes this Series.]

This is the pedestal of the stone cross in granite [rock] in front of the Ollur Church which is the oldest church in the Thrissur Corporation area. But the Ollur Church is less than 300 years old whereas there are more than a hundred churches which are 400 years or more old in Kerala. And there are dozens of exquisitely carved open air rock crosses or Nazraney Sthambams in front of many of these ancient Kerala Christian places of worship, e.g. at Kottekkad, Enammavu [now in the Trichur Archieparcal Residence, where it was shifted from the Lourdes Cathedral Christian Cultural Museum that was estd. in 1980 - discovered by this writer in 1980 at Enammavu from a mud deposit] Mapranam, Puthenchira, Parappukkara, Veliyanad, Kalpparambu [the last discovered by this writer in the mud deposits] Koratty, Angamaly

[one each in front of the three churches - the Western church cross, 27ft. tall- has been exactly reproduced in front of the Kakkanad Mount St. Thomas St. Thomas Christian Museum], Kanjoor, Malayattoor, Udayanperur, Kuravilangad,Uzhavoor,Chungam,Kaduthuruthy [2 Nos.], Muttuchira, Kudamaloor, Niranam, Kothamangalam, Chengannur, Thumpamon, Chathannur, Changanacherry [the base of the second cross was discovered by this writer in the Changanacherry cemetery], and many other places.

These crosses have four members: the base with a socket often fixed on a huge pedestal (see pic), the huge monolithic shaft with cylinder-like projections at both ends, the arm with sockets above and below, and the capital which forms the fourth arm of the cross with a cylinder arrangement at the bottom. All these crosses rise from the lotus carved at the top of the base member termed the Pookkallu. Many of these crosses have exquisite carvings and sculptures esp. on the four sides of the pedestal, and in rare cases on the shaft as the Adam, Eve, and the Serpent on the Chengannur Obelisk Cross. Like the Egyptian Obelisks the cross is a ray of the sun - Horus or Christ.

[Author Prof. George Menachery is a freelance Indian Journalist and Editor of the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India and the Indian Church History Classics. After teaching university classes for thirty years, he gave up the job as Head of the Department of Post-Graduate Teaching in order to concentrate on research and publication. SARAS (South Asia Research Assistance Services) provides information and research assistance for topics dealing with India in particular and South Asia in general. He has to his credit a large number of publications, research papers, articles, radio talks and TV programmes. His research activities and lectures have taken him to more than 20 countries in 4 continents.]

Catholic Educational Institutions in India : Some Revealing Facts and Figures

The percentage of Catholic students in India's Catholic educational institutions is only 22.7%, other Christians 5.6%, while the vast majority of students are Hindus - a whopping 53%, Muslims 8.6% and others 10.1%.

Caste wise 25% are from SC/ST origin, 31% from BC origin, 11% from OBC origin and others are 33%.

Only 6.9% of the students are from the higher income group, 19% from the middle income group, 32.4% belong to the lower income group and the large majority of students - 41.4% - belong to the Below Poverty Line group BPL.

A German Youth Jumps on to Popemobile in St. Peter'e Square, the Vatican

 A German man jumped a security barrier and grabbed the back of Pope Benedict XVI's open popemobile before being swarmed by security guards Wednesday 6th June 2007. — reviving a debate over whether the pontiff needs stronger protection during his public audiences.

Benedict was not harmed and appeared not to even notice, never looking back as he waved to the crowd in St. Peter's Square. But security analysts said he exposes himself to undue risk by appearing at the same place and time each week in an open jeep.

"If he cannot change the route or the hour, he must use at least a protected car," said Claude Moniquet, head of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, a Brussels-based think tank on security issues.

The man vaulted onto a wooden barrier and then over in an apparent attempt to get into the white popemobile. One guard grabbed him as he leaped, but the man managed to grab hold of the vehicle before security men trailing the car pinned him to the ground.

Benedict didn't flinch. The 80-year-old, German-born pope continued waving and blessing the cheering crowd of some 35,000 people as his jeep kept moving slowly forward and the audience proceeded as if nothing had happened.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the man was a 27-year-old German who showed signs of "mental imbalance." He declined to identify him.

"His aim was not an attempt on the pope's life but to attract attention to himself," Lombardi told reporters.

The man was interrogated by Vatican police and then taken to a hospital for psychiatric treatment, he said.

The incident rekindled memories of the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in 1981. John Paul suffered a severe abdominal wound as he rode in an open jeep at the start of his weekly audience in the Vatican piazza — the same event as Wednesday's.

Moniquet, a security expert who has written about protecting heads of state, said leaders like the pope have to balance proximity to the public with their own need for security in today's violent world.

But unlike other leaders who make occasional forays into the public domain, the pope has a regular appointment with the faithful each Wednesday morning — precisely the type of routine that security guards try to avoid.

"The fact is you cannot ensure 100 percent protection," Moniquet said. "It's around the Vatican. It's a ritual. I'm afraid there are not a lot of options" other than an armored car.

Nevertheless, Vatican officials said there were no plans to change the long-standing use of open vehicles for the weekly audience at the Vatican. When the pope travels abroad, he does use a popemobile outfitted with bulletproof glass.

Moniquet noted that people go to the audiences to see the pope, saying that would still be possible with bulletproof glass. But such protection would prevent the pontiff from blessing babies that are occasionally passed to him by his guards, as he did Wednesday.

Since the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S., the Vatican has tightened security in St. Peter's Square when the pope is present. All visitors must pass by police to get into the square, with some going through metal detectors or being scanned by metal-detecting wands.

Nevertheless, virtually anyone can attend. Tickets can often be obtained at the last minute — particularly in good weather, when the audience is held outside in the piazza.

St. Peter's Square is cordoned off with wooden barricades to create lanes for the popemobile to cruise through the crowd and make the pope more visible to the throngs.

The pope is protected by a combination of Swiss Guards, Vatican police and Italian police.

On Wednesday, the head of the Swiss Guards, Col. Elmar Maeder, walked along one side of the popemobile while Benedict's personal bodyguard, Domenico Giani, took the other. Several plainclothes security officers trailed them.

Benedict stood up behind the driver, holding onto a bar to steady himself, with his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, seated behind him.

Asked why the pontiff didn't react to the disturbance, Vatican officials noted that the incident occurred quickly, that there was a lot of noise in the piazza and that the popemobile kept moving.

The officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said no extra security measures were being considered for Thursday, when the pope planned to take part in an annual religious procession outside the Vatican walls in central Rome. (Yahoo News)

Pope clears way for Canonization of Syro-Malabar Indian Nun Blessed Alphonsa Muttathupandathu and an Ecuadorean Laywoman

VATICAN CITY June 1--  Pope Benedict XVI cleared the way for the canonization of a Syro-Malabar nun from India and a laywoman from Ecuador. By approving a series of decrees, and  publishing those martyrdom decrees, the beatification ceremonies can be scheduled. However, the Vatican did not announce the dates for the ceremonies. Pope Benedict XVI recognized miracles attributed to the intercession of the two women, who now can be declared saints. The Malabar Church 'sister' is  Blessed Alphonsa Muttathupandathu, a member of the Poor Clares (Franciscan Clarist Congregation) who died at Bharananganam in the Diocese of Palai in 1946 just before her 36th birthday, well known for her spirit of sacrifice, deep prayer-life, and self-mortification. A miracle that took place in the case of a Kuruppanthura boy as the result of the Bl. Alphonsa's intercession has been recognised by the Vatican and the Pope after the examination of the case by a series of panels of doctors from India and abroad.

She will be the first person from the Indian Catholic Church to be raised to sainthood. Today there are four others from Kerala who are Blessed : Bl. Chavara Kuriakose Elias CMI, Bl.Mariam Thresia CHF, Bl. Kunjachan a secular priest from Ramapuram, and Bl. Euphrasia CMC of Ollur. Also from India there is Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, West Bengal and Bl. Joseph Vaz a missionary in Canara and Sri Lanka.

St. Francis Xavier and St. John de Britto though they spent most of their lives in India were born in Spain (Pamplona) and Portugal (Lisbon) respectively. The Vasai-Fort born Lucitanian martyr St. Gonsalo Garcia is technically the first Indian Saint - having been born in "India" and his mother being a Kannadiga-; but he left India for Japan and the Philippines as a missionary and died a martyr in Japan, one of the 26 missionaries crucified at Nagasaki Hills in 1597. He was canonized on 8 June 1862 by Pope Pius IX.

There are a number of books available both in Malayalam and English on Sr. Alphonsa (one by Chev. K.C . Chacko); a documentary scripted by Prof. George Menachery and produced by ICS (2001) depicts the life of Alphonsamma at Kudamaloor, Muttuchira, Vazhapally etc. with special emphasis on the places and persons, institutions and edifices in her life.

Beatification took place on 03 December at the Square of the Forane Parish Church of Saint Antony, Ollur (Kerala, India), presided by Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil , Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church.

Bd. Euphrasia Eluvathingal


Beatification took place on 30 April at the Square of the Parish Church of Saint Augustine in Ramapuram  (Kerala, India), presided by Mar Varkey Cardinal  Vithayathil Syro Malabar Major Archbishop.

Bd. Augustine Thevarparampil


Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Trustees Elected

Father Johns Abraham Konatt (Kandanad Diocese) and M.G. George Muthoot (Delhi Diocese) were elected by the Fifty-First Malankara Syrian Christian Association meet as Clergy and Lay Trustees of the Church on 21st inst. At the same time the MSCA meeting also ratified the nomination of 43 clergy representatives and 86 lay members from 25 different parishes.

Catholicos of the East Baselius Mar Thoma Didymos I presided.

Baselius Mar Thoma Didymos the First
addresses the Assembled Delegates
at Parumala

Meanwhile, the Catholicos also nominated 30 members, including 10 priests, to the MSCA managing committee on Wednesday.

The Priests nominated are: Fr. K.M.George, Fr. V.M.Abraham, Fr. Spenser Koshy, Fr. T.C.John Mavelikkara, Fr. John Paul Chengannur, Fr. O.Thomas, Fr. K.A. Abraham, P.C. Yohanan Ramban, Fr. P.K. Geevarghese Niranom, Fr. Shaji Mathews, Delhi.

Lay members: Philip Mathew (Malayala Manorama), P.C. Abraham (Kottayam Central), P.G. Jacob (Kottayam), Shaji Abraham (Calcutta), Jacob Mathew (Malaysia), Dr. George Poovathoor (the United States), George Paul (Ernakulam), Thomas John Mambara (Mahatma Gandhi University), A.K. Thomas (Kollam), Jacob John (Thiruvananthapuram), K.T.Idiculla (the United States), K.V. Jacob (Ernakulam), T.A.George (Thumpamon), I.C. Thampan (Kottayam), P.C.John Painummoottil (Thumpamon), Thomas Varghese (Aluva Thrikkunnathu), P.K.Pathrose (Servant of the Cross), P.K. Kuriakose (Idukki), E.J.John (Kottayam) and George Mathai Nooranal (Malabar).

Catholicos designate Paulose Mar Milithios and other Metropolitans of the Church addressed the delegates.

State Land Revenue Commissioner, Tamil Nadu, O.P. Sosamma was the returning officer.

Of the total 3,244 votes polled Fr. Konatthu got a total of 2,059 votes while George Muthoot received 2,097 votes.

Catholicos Designate Poulose Mar Milithius to Make Efforts to Solve Dispute

Catholicos designate Metropolitan Poulose Mar Milithius has said his main endeavour would be to end the century-old faction feud in the Malankara church. Milithius was unanimously elected by the 4051-member Parliament of the MOSC as Catholicose designate.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (MOSC) and the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church (MJSC) are the two warring factions of the Malankara Syrian Christian Church.

He would be succeeding the incumbent Baselius Mar Thoma Didimos I as Catholicos of the East and head of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

MOSC has about 20 lakh faithful spread over the different parts of the world mainly the US, the EU, Canada and the Gulf besides India, said a spokesman.

The legal battle between the Orthodox and Jacobite factions was going on since 1905 and at least Rs 1000 crore has been totally spent by both the factions for waging legal battles, Milithius told reporters at Kunnamkulam recently.

There are several cases still pending in the Supreme Court and various courts of Kerala, he said.

About 10 churches under the Malankara Syrian Christian church were still lying closed in the state following court orders.

Hence, the Metropolitan felt that it was time to make best efforts to solve the disputes between the two factions, he said.

Pattanam in the MUZIRIS - Kodungallur Area Attracting Archaeologists and Historians

Pattanam, a sleepy town in Ernakulam district, separated from the Thrissur District and Cranganore by a section of River Periyar will see a flurry of activities in the coming days as renowned archaeologists and experts will visit the place to examine the findings of the ongoing excavation there.

Pattanam, near North Paravur, on the opposite side of Kodungallur across the river came once again to the limelight a couple of years ago when pieces of pottery, beads, coins and bottles were unearthed, giving the first indication that the place could really be the ancient trading port of Muziris, which was the link between Rome and India 2000 years ago.

This week, experts from the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) dug up a stone platform beneath a floor of baked bricks.

And now a wooden piece that formed part of an ancient boat and a quey have been unearthed, recalling to one's mind the descriptions in the first century (ca.) Sangham works and Roman writers how the western ships anchored at a distance from the Muziris emporium (Primum Empoium Indiae-Pliny) and boats dug out of a single piece of timber carried huge quantities of Roman Coins to Muziris, along with other commodities.

This platform is as hard as concrete. Wooden pieces and logs, believed to be of a historical age, were also found there during excavation this month.

M V Nair from Lucknow, an expert in this field, will visit Pattanam in the next couple of days to examine the findings.

Scientists from the Kerala Forest Research Institute at Peechi will also inspect the area. A team from the Southern Naval Command visited the place on Tuesday to study the artifacts found there. It is believed that they will cooperate with the KCHR team to investigate the bottom of the Sea nearby for archaeological vestiges like remains and cargo of ships, and also to examine the theory that around the 10th Century CE something happened to demolish and obliterate the Muziris of Pliny and other first century writers from Greece and Rome.

Kerala Council for Historical Research director P J Cherian is leading the Muziris Heritage Project which is again bringing national and international attention to this remote place.

It was archaeologists K P Shajan and V Selvakumar who traced the presence of ancient history there first and identified Muziris with Pattanam, two years back.

Trial excavations held in the past couple of years had earlier unearthed imported Roman amphora, Yemenese and West Asian pottery, bricks, tiles and beads. Potsherds with Tamil Brahmi inscription and 'Vattezhuthu' script were also excavated from the area earlier.

''On preliminary reading, the new findings are very relevant. We can say for sure only after an official confirmation. We expect more experts to come here in the next few days,'' says Cherian.

Based on the findings there, the Archaeological Survey of India issued an archaeological licence to KCHR for conducting excavations at the site.

The State Archaeology Department is also associating with the programme. KCHR is also looking for support from other agencies and organisations involved in the field.

The findings were found to be the first evidence in recent years of Roman presence on the Malabar coast.

The theory about the port of Muziris being on the belt of the Kodungallur-Chettuva belt has also been strengthened by this excavation [Based on a report in the New Indian Express, March 24 2007.]

"Praying Mother" Venerable Euphrasia Beatified

Ollur, Kerala, Dec. 03, 2006  

Venerable Euphrasia was beatified today during a ceremony at the Ollur Saint Anthony's Forane Church grounds seven kilometers from Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala..

Major Archbishop Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil of the Syro-Malabar Church with the Apostolic Nuncio for India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana,  and Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Thrissur, presided over the ceremonial high Mass along with 31 archbishops and bishops and over 150 priests. The ceremony was attended by over 1000 priests and 3000 nuns in addition to more than 30000 faithful from all over the undivided Vicariate of trichur and from all parts of Kerala and India.  

Cardinal Vithayathil reading out the decree of Pope Benedict XVI declared Euphrasia Blessed and raised her to the status of beatified. Major Archbishop Vithayathil, Archbishops Quintana and Thoomkuzhy later unveiled the portrait of Blessed Eurphrasia.

With Euphrasia's beatification, seven religious persons from India have been elevated to the status of Blessed. In addition to Kuriakose Elias  Chavara CMI, Sister Alphonsa Muttathupadath FCC, Mariam Theresa Chiramal CHF and Father Augustine Thevarparambil of Ramapuram (all from Kerala) Joseph Vaz of Goa and Mother Teresa of Calcutta have been  beatified. (For details vide article on the Saints and Sages of India, in the Indian Christian Directory, Rashtra Deepiks, 2006 (or 2000) by Prof. George Menachery.The work has photographs and details on all these and others, and details of beatification, canonisation etc.) Euphrasia, popularly known as 'Praying Mother', was born in 1877 at Kattur Village near Irinjalakuda in the former Trichur Vicariate, in the parish of Edathurhty, as Rosa to Eluvathingal Cherpukaran Anthony and Kunjethy.

At age 12, she joined the boarding house of the Carmelite Sisters at Koonammavu under patronage of Chavara Achan and Leopold missionary. Later, she was brought to Ambazhakkad and received her headdress and the religious name Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, January 10, 1898, and donned the habit of Carmel.

Euphrasia received her veil as a full-fledged nun in 1900 at the Saint Mary's Convent at Ollur, the day on which it started its mission work.

Out of her over 52-year-old life of nunhood, Euphrasia lived 48 years in the Ollur convent itself,.

She died at the Ollur convent in August 1952 where she has been buried.

She prayed the rosary hours on end day in and day out throughout her convent life, earning he