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Catholicos leads Hosanna service, recreates triumphal entry into Jerusalem

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MUSCAT: HH Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Indian Orthodox (Malankara) Metropolitan, led the Palm Sunday Service on March 28, at St Thomas Church, Ruwi.

The Catholicos based his sermon on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and into the temple (Mark 11: 1-11).

Fr Davis Chiramel, a priest from Indian Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, who delivered the Hosanna message, urged the faithful to do good deeds since it was the hand that raised the palm fronds and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”. Large number of faithful attended the service.

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Later, the Catholicos presented the first Thanal Charity Award instituted in the name of LL His Grace Dr Stephanos Mar Theodosius (1924-2007) to Fr Davis Chiramel, Chairman, of the Thrissur-based Kidney Federation of India.

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Mar Eusebius the Chief Celebrant for Passion week Service at Dadar Cathedral

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MUMBAI: Alexios Mar Eusebius, the Diocesan Metropolitan of South West America will lead the Passion week and Easter service at St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Dadar, Mumbai.

The Metropolitan had arrived at Dadar cathedral on March 28 and was welcomed by the Vicar Fr P C Thomas, Asst. Vicar Fr Kurian Baby, committee members and members of the Youth Movement.

After the evening prayer, the Metropolitan spend some time with church senior members while preparing the cross by the palm leaves for hosanna service.

On March 29 Sunday the morning prayer will start by 6:30 am followed by Holy Qurbana and Hosanna Service.

News sent by Sinju Thomas

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Cancer treatment without outsourcing at Parumala cancer centre from Nov: Catholicos

The supreme head of the Malankara Orthodox Church, the Catholicos HH Baselios Marthoma Paulose II addressing the press in Muscat
The supreme head of the Malankara Orthodox Church, the Catholicos HH Baselios Marthoma Paulose II addressing the press in Muscat

MUSCAT : His Holiness Baselious Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East has said that the first phase of the Parumala St Gregorios International Cancer Care Centre (SGICCC) will be thrown open to the public from November 2015.

Revealing this at a press conference at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Maha Edavaka, the Catholicos revealed that though the project has gone much beyond schedule, the first phase will, however, be opened to the public from November to coincide with the annual Parumala Festival. “An agreement worth Rs 20 crore of machinery was signed last month and we require a total outlay of Rs 120 crore to run the project properly, of which Rs 75 crore has been spent so far.

The Primate of the Indian Orthodox added that plans on to provide treatment for the patients without outsourcing which otherwise can put them to severe hardships, though there are facilities in Ernakulam, Thiruvananthapuram in this regard.

“Without outsourcing, we want to give the best treatment, and we are not looking at the project solely as a ‘money generating department’, His Holiness pointed out.

The Catholicos also answered questions relating to the present political situation in Kerala, liquor policy and observance of ‘Cyber Fast Day’ on April 3 (Good Friday) as part of the ‘Nervazhy’ project from the Ministry of Human Empowerment of Malankara Orthodox Church.

From the photo session: The Catholicos with the journalists of Oman
From the photo session: The Catholicos with the journalists of Oman
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Catholicos says Thanal Charity project showcases Gospel in Action

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MUSCAT: HH Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Indian Orthodox (Malankara) Metropolitan, presented the first Thanal Charity Award instituted in the name of HG Dr Stephanos Mar Theodosius (1924-2007) to Fr Davis Chiramel, Chairman, of the Kerala-based Kidney Federation of India.

The award was supposed to be presented at the valedictory of Thanal Charity Project on March 27, Friday, at St Thomas parish, Ruwi, had to be put off for the next day.

Fr Davis is an Indian Syro-Malabar Catholic Church priest and founder of Accident Care and Transport Service (ACTS) and Kidney Federation of India. Well-known as ‘Kidney Priest’, he set an example for universal brotherhood and compassion by donating his kidney to a Hindu man. Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka had launched the Thanal charity project for 2014-15 in aid of kidney patients called ‘Rays of Hope’ to help the needy kidney patients.

The Primate in his inaugural address at the valedictory function said the Thanal project showcases ‘Gospel in Action’ with an apt title meaning to provide ‘shade’ to trees. “Charity projects are compared as the Liturgy after the liturgy for the Orthodox community,” he added.

On behalf of the Indian Orthodox, the Catholicos prayed for the long health of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos who has won the hearts of many and is an inspiration and model for many world leaders.

In his address as chief guest, Indian Ambassador to the Sultanate HE J S Mukul, hailed the contribution of the 42-year-old church towards various charitable works and called upon the community and the church to march ahead with such innovative schemes for the poor. The Ambassador was presented with a memento by the Catholicos.

Felicitations were also delivered by Rt Rev Gregorios Mar Stephanos, Episcopa of Kunnamkulam-Malabar Diocese, from Marthoma Syrian Church, Dr K S Manoj, Ex-MP from Alappuzha and P K Koshy, Sabha Managing Committee member.

Boban M Thomas read the exhaustive report of Thanal 2014-15 with the outlay and the number of beneficiaries from the project. Programme comparing was by Biju Parumala and Jessy Koshy.

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Catholicos calls upon Orthodox faithful to be proud members of the community

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MUSCAT: HH Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East, has called upon the faithful of Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka to instill in them the true spirit of Orthodox.

HH the catholicos was exhorting this while attending the Catholicate day celebrations at the church on March 27 after the Holy Eucharist.

Addressing the congregation, the Catholicos said the faithful should be proud of being an Orthodox member and instil the spirit among themselves. “Just like the spirit of Indian independence gained through the hard earned efforts of Mahatma Gandhi on August 15, we must also remember the great sacrifices made by late lamented fathers. We must cultivate this spirit and make it known for the next generation. Let us respect and stand towards it forever,” His Holiness added.

The Supreme Head will be the chief celebrant for the Palm Sunday Service on March 28 evening, Maundy Thursday in April 1, feet washing service on April 2, Good Friday Service on April 3 from 8 am to 4.30 pm. The programmes will conclude with Holy Easter Service on April 4 from 6 pm after which the Catholicos will emplane for Kerala.

The Catholicos was given a warm reception at the airport by the parish officials and a large number of faithful on March 26.

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Stigmata – Human Obsession for Signs and Wonders

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Many of you might have heard the news of a baby in Philippines, born with the stigmata of Jesus that became viral in the social media. While we want to know whether this is a hoax or not, we have seen a similar phenomenon earlier. St. Francis of Assisi was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history. Later, Christian history records many numbers of comparable occurrences. Mother Susan, a nun of the Malankara Orthodox Church, residing in Kerala is also experiencing this.

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Stigmata refer to the wounds of Jesus that are miraculously reproduced in the body. On very rare occasions, the Catholic Church has accepted an occurrence of the stigmata as authentic but has never defined their origin or nature, thus allowing physical, psychological, and preternatural explanations for these phenomena. Ian Wilson, in Stigmata (Harper & Row, San Francisco), declares, “They [stigmata] are one of the most baffling and intriguing of medical and scientific mysteries.”

It is possible that people had unusual wounds or blood blisters in places on their body that could be related to certain wounds of Christ. But each of these cases would need to be rationally explained. Are the wounds real or forged? Do they match the wounds of Christ or is this a product of imagination or self-inflicted? Are they natural or divine? Could they be the product of satanic activity? (We sometimes forget that Satan uses religion to draw people away from what is important). The question to ask is, how blood spots mysteriously appearing on someone’s hands is an evidence of ‘sharing in the suffering of Christ’. Does the appearance of marks signify that the bearer is taking part in the suffering? If anything, these oddities minimize suffering. Obviously, there are few answers we can give or find about the stigmata.

We can only speculate and not be certain how the ‘stigmata’-wounds of the Passion looked on Christ’s body. But we do know that stigmata appear the same in all who are believed to have had them. Joe Nickell, a former detective and magician, investigates claims of the supernatural and paranormal for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, based in Amherst wrote a book on this topic in 1993. “Jesus most likely was nailed to the cross through his wrists. Once the notion that Jesus was nailed through the wrists became accepted, some stigmatics began to display wrist wounds. Here is my logic: Stigmata are supposed to be a reflection of the wounds of Christ, whatever those were like. If these were true manifestations, they ought to tell us where the wounds were,” Nickell said. Instead, stigmata appear “all over the place. There’s every kind of variant, and they keep changing.”

The evidence available is scanty with much of it supplied by supporters of stigmata. We do not see Stigmata mentioned in the bible. However, most of the occurrences started around 1200 years after the death of Christ, and there is a strong argument that it is a product of the superstitions in the darkness of the middle Ages. The Church is cautious about reported instances of the stigmata for two reasons: the possibility of a hoax (and thus all faith in God might seem questionable) and the possibility that some people could distort the meaning of the stigmata. For example, these marks might appear more central to a person’s faith than the passion-death-resurrection of Jesus, the Scriptures, the sacraments or many other things that are more central to the faith than the stigmata are.

Researchers of stigmata, even Catholic believers like the late Herbert Thurston, S.J., almost unanimously agree that such phenomena are best explained as bodily reactions to intense ecstatic and psychological experiences. The film- ‘Stigmata’, one of the most controversial religious movies, released in the year 1999 was highly controversial due to the manner in which it dealt with issues close to Catholic’s hearts. A Jesuit priest, one of the main characters in this film, discovers a connection between the stigmata and one of the Gnostic Gospels (4th-century religious writings condemned by the Catholic Church). The priest uncovers a plot to keep the gospels “truth” concealed.

Some modern “researches” has showed stigmata are of hysterical origin, or linked to dissociative identity disorders, especially the link between dietary constriction by self-starvation, dissociative mental states and self-mutilation, in a religious belief. Anorexia nervosa cases often display self-mutilation like stigmata as part of a ritualistic, obsessive-compulsive disorder. A relationship between starvation and self-mutilation has been reported amongst prisoners of war and during famines. A psychoanalytic study of stigmatic Therese Neumann has suggested that her stigmata resulted from post-traumatic stress symptoms expressed in unconscious self-mutilation through abnormal autosuggestibility.

BIBLICAL VERSES FOR CONSIDERATION:

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28. It could be said that stigmata are cuttings in the flesh, which seems to contradict God’s command.

One verse sometimes referred to by people who want to defend stigmata, is found in Galatians 6:17 Paul wrote: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” The word “mark” comes from the Greek word “stigma” which means a tattooed mark or mark burned in by a brand. Now we know that it was against God’s law to mark one’s own body with cuttings, so Paul would not have inflicted them on himself, so what did he mean?

It was common in Paul’s day for slaves and sometimes soldiers to be branded, and followers of the cult of Mithra were also branded. In later times, the followers of Hinduism marked themselves with the trident of Vishnu. The mark or brand signified ownership, a scar of service and the initiate usually bore it proudly. But in the context in which Paul is writing, he is making a defense to the Judaizer, who practiced circumcision, and he refers to his own physical sufferings which he had had to endure for the sake of the Lord Jesus. These, he says, are his stigma or branding. The scars, scratches, and bruises in his body are proof of His ownership.

The Amplified Bible says: “From now on let no person trouble me (by making it necessary to vindicate my apostolic authority and the divine truth of my Gospel), for I bear on my body the (brand) marks of the Lord Jesus (the wounds, scars, and other outward evidence of persecutions – these testify to His ownership of me)!”

MY PERSONAL VIEWS AND THOUGHTS:

I am sure that stigmata exist as real wounds in some people’s bodies. I also believe visions, apparitions, signs and wonders have been seen and experienced by many people down through the ages and that stigmata are just one of hundreds of other similar marvels. However, it is not the authenticity of stigmata that should be our main interest; it is what these wonders are pointing to. The devil is able to perform signs and wonders too, for example, the wizards of Egypt were able to turn water into blood, as well as Moses, but the wizards were pointing away from God, and were fighting against Moses.

The Bible depicts that Jesus came to the world and gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice. Nothing can be added to or taken from the one great sacrifice. On the other hand, Stigmata is challenging the finality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because it seem to be extending it, and repeating it at least in some measure. It would therefore seem that, despite their absolute sincerity, those who manifest stigmata are not being worked on by the power of God. They are manifesting lying wonders with their force being either demonic or psychosomatic, or a combination of both. We would do far better if we put our trust in the finished work of Jesus than seek after people who seem to be in a state of crucifixion all over again. No one could bear the sins of the world except Jesus. It is futile to even imagine bearing those sins in our own body, and a great insult to God to think that we could HELP Him with the redemption of the world.

The media are always looking for ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And it is no surprise how the news about Jejomar Castillo, baby with stigmata of Jesus born on March 15 in Philippines went viral. We have entered the second half of the Great Lent; we meditate and reflect on the sufferings of Jesus Christ. This is a time when we are doing an unusually amazing job, staying focused but newsflash like this are too tempting. It is imperative we should keep our focus on the Cross. Can we compare anything with the sufferings and wounds inflicted on Christ? Can any human being share the pain Christ suffered for us? That is why our father in Christ, St. Thomas who proclaimed the faith in the resurrected Christ demanded to “see in his hands the print of the nails, and put his finger into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into Jesus’ side (John 20:25)”. For a believer, these are personal marks of the identification of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross. I, as a believer, cannot find the same wounds in anyone or anywhere.

I pray for baby Jejomar’s speedy recovery but am greatly saddened by the so called believers’s responses: “Welcome to the Saviour”, “biblical return of Jesus Christ”. Holy Scripture reminds “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? “(Gal 3:1). This verse compels us to ponder if we wish to be foolish like the Galatians and be infatuated by events such as stigmata or we rekindle our faith in Christ, Our Saviour.

Christians must not waste time or devotion dwelling on miracles and wonders. These ‘stigmata wounds’ does not move me or ‘strengthen’ my faith in Christ, but I am stirred by martyrdom of the 21 Coptic Orthodox young men and the sufferings of the 72 year old sister who was ganged raped in Bengal, examples of true believers taking part in the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let signs and wonders spark valuable conversation rather than being the manifestations of spiritual realities. Let us be filled with the Holy Spirit leading us into a life of holy living, not be in a state of awe and reverence for the occurrences of body marks corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.

*Fr. Jaise K. George has completed the theological education from STOTS Nagpur and is serving as the Vicar of various parishes in the Diocese of Delhi. He is the Co-ordinator for the Pre-Marital Guidance Programme, Diocese of Delhi. He is a research scholar in Psychology

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Digital Library of Orthodox Seminary Opened

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KOTTAYAM: The Orthodox Seminary Digital Library (OSDL), an ambitious project of Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam, to offer digital versions of centuries-old documents, manuscripts and books, opened its doors for thre public on Tuesday.

The library has been formed as part of the bicentenary year celebrations of the Seminary. More than 1,500 manuscripts and 75,000 printed books and documents have been scanned to form the digital archive. The database, labelled as ‘Malankara Document’, can be accessed by students and researchers under the copyright laws and Seminary regulations.

The epigraphic database on the history and milestones of churches in Kerala have been under the threat of being lost, neglected and destroyed. The project aims to conserve the Indian St Thomas Christian heritage by protecting primary and secondary source materials like ancient documents, manuscripts and books, both published and unpublished, kept in various libraries, churches, institutions and individual collections across the state.

The first phase of the digitisation process started in 1990 in microfilm format as part of the 175th anniversary of the Seminary. The collected materials were digitised, catalogued and stored in a server to form the library. Those with the access codes can avail themselves of materials set up at the digital library room within the Seminary library.

The Seminary library also possess a large number of text materials inherited from the Malankara Church. After the Udayamperoor Synod in 1599, a large collection of books were burnt and destroyed. Following this, the Marthoma Metropolitans of the Malankara Church collected the remaining books. A section of these collections is also made available in the digital library.

Source: The New Indian Express

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HH Catholicos is chief celebrant for Holy Week at Muscat Maha Edavaka

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MUSCAT: HH Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East will be the chief celebrant for this year’s Holy Week services at the Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka (MGOME). His Holiness will arrive from Kochi at the Muscat International Airport on March 26, Thursday at 9.30 am.

In the evening, the Catholicos is scheduled to address a press conference with the print and electronic media followed by evening prayers and committee meeting with MGOME.

On Friday March 27, there will be meeting with spiritual organisations, CSI Church and photo sessions.

The Holy Week begins on March 27 with a Holy Eucharist followed by Catholicate Day Celebrations and release of the parish directory. In the evening, the primate will inaugurate the valedictory of Thanal Charity project during which Indian Ambassador to the Sultanate Shri J S Mukul or Deputy Chief of Mission Gloria Gangte will preside.

On March 28, the Catholicos will lead the Holy Eucharist at the St Thomas Church at 8.30 am, followed by ecumenical clergy meeting at 11 am and St Thomas Committee meeting at 12 pm.

The Supreme Head will be the chief celebrant for the Palm Sunday Service on March 28 evening, Maundy Thursday on April 1, feet washing service on April 2, Good Friday Service on April 3 from 8 am to 4.30 pm. The programmes will conclude with Holy Easter Service on April 4 from 6 pm after which the Catholicos will emplane for Kerala.

Elaborate arrangements have been made for the Holy Week services.

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HH Catholicos to present Thanal Award to Fr Davis Chiramel on March 27

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MUSCAT: HH Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, will present the first Thanal Charity Award instituted in the name of LL His Grace Dr Stephanos Mar Theodosius (1924-2007) to Fr Davis Chiramel, Chairman, of the Thrissur-based Kidney Federation of India.

The award will be presented at the valedictory of Thanal Project on March 27, Friday, at St Thomas Church, Ruwi.

The function will be attended by Indian Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman HE J S Mukul or Deputy Chief of Mission Smt Gloria Gangte, Rt Rev Gregorios Mar Stephanos, Episcopa of Kunnamkulam-Malabar Diocese, from Marthoma Syrian Church and others.

Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka had launched the Thanal charity project for 2014-15 in aid of kidney patients called ‘Rays of Hope’ to help the needy kidney patients.

Fr Davis is an Indian Syro-Malabar Catholic Church priest and the founder of Accident Care and Transport Service (ACTS) and Kidney Federation of India. Well-known as ‘Kidney Priest’, he has set an example for universal brotherhood and compassion by donating his kidney to a Hindu man.

The Supreme Head of the Indian Orthodox Church will also be the chief celebrant at the Holy Week programme of the Muscat Mar Gregorios Maha Edavaka from March 27 till April 4, Holy Easter Service.

This will be the third visit of the Catholicos to the Muscat parish having earlier visited during 2011 and 2012 after his elevation to the throne as Catholicos of The East in 2010.
The Primate will arrive at the Muscat International Airport from Kerala on March 26 morning. On March 27, the Catholicos will take part in the Catholicate Day Celebrations and release of the parish directory of Maha Edavaka.

During the Holy Week, the Catholicos will lead the Palm Sunday Service on March 28, Maundy Thursday on April 1, feet washing service on April 2, Good Friday Service on April 3 from 8 am to 4.30 pm and the Holy Easter Service on April 4 from 6 pm.

Elaborate arrangements have been made for the Holy Week services. Vicar/President and Associate Vicar have requested the faithful to attend the programmes in larger numbers.

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New Zealand’s new Orthodox Church is consecrated and named Saint Dionysius

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand: St Dionysius Indian Orthodox Church (SDIOC), the first Indian Orthodox Church, for the faithful of Auckland was consecrated on February 13, 14, 2015. Named after Saint Dionysius of Vattasseril (1858-1934), who was the Malankara Metropolitan (primate) of the Indian Orthodox Church, Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius was also popularly known as ‘The Great Luminary’ a title which the Church bestowed on him in recognition of his contribution to Malankara Church. The new church brings together people with common interest for the community’s benefit and for the New Zealand society.

A large number of faithful attended the two-day consecration services and the public function that followed with attendance from Fr Bishoy Mekhaiel of St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church and Assyrian Fr Aprem Pithyou of the Ancient Church of the East in Strathmore, Wellington. Faithful from the Oriental Orthodox churches of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Syria also attended.

St Dionysius Indian Orthodox Church under Madras Diocese was consecrated from the blessed hands of three Bishops led by Metropolitans Dr.Yakoob Mar Irenios from Kochi Diocese, Dr. Yuhanon Mar Dioscoros from Chennai Diocese and Yuhanon Mar Polycarpos from Angamaly Diocese.

For Vicar Fr Biju Mathai Pulickal the consecration was a dream come true for the church who requested the prayerful presence of the faithful in large numbers during the occasion.
The ceremony also saw participation of a large number of clergy who were involved with the church during its earlier days.

They included Philip Thomas Cor Episcpa, Vicar, St Mary’s Cathedral, Kuala Lumpur, former Vicar Fr Shinu K Thomas, Vicar, St Mary’s Cathedral, Melbourne, Fr Thomas Varghese, Vicar, St Thomas Cathedral, Sydney, former Vicar of Auckland Church and present Vicar of St Gregorios Church, Mathikere, Bengaluru, Fr Varghese P Idichandy.

The consecration service was done in two parts on February 13 and 14. On the first day a reception was held for the three visiting Metropolitans followed by morning prayers and Holy Eucharist on the second day which culminated in a public meeting to mark the occasion.

Fr Biju Mathai, Vicar, says the “building stands as an ever-present image of the Church, where the Holy Trinity is worshiped in spirit and truth. It is a holy space to gather and hear the word of God, to offer intercession, praise, happiness and pains of their daily lives, and to celebrate the sacraments through which we are nourished and strengthened as God’s people.”

The Vicar notes that the events mark a lifetime achievement moment for the faithful which will be cherished through generations.

For the history, the office bearers and various committees who worked for building the new church include Fr Biju Mathew, Vicar, E M Jacob, Trustee, Oommen Philip, Secretary, John Varghese, Building Committee General Convener and Philip Ayyamplackal, Consecration Committee General Convener.

Mementoes were presented to Fr Bishoy Mekhaiel, Assyrian Fr Aprem Pithyou, Bishop Randerson, New Zealand member of Labour Party, Philip Stoner Twyford, Mother Wendy, representative of Eritrean Orthodox Church, Philip Kuruvilla from Marthoma Church, Baby Kuriakose from St Peter’s SJOCC and to the builder, Thomas Philip by the Metropolitans’ Mar Irenios, Mar Dioscoros and Mar Polycarpos.

Orthodox clergymen Philip Thomas Cor Episcopa, Fr Biju Mathai Fr V P Indichandy, were also presented mementoes and also to K N Varghese, Saji Pappen. The church committee also brought out a colourful souvenir to mark the occasion.

The address of the new church is: 55 Keeling Road, Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand. Email: vicar@sdioc.org, Tel +09-9485215 Mobile: +027 5814215, 021-0535882

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