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Invest in youth ministry in S Africa, suggests Fr Thomas

* Timely strategic action needed to nurture youth, children in S Africa
* Calls upon church leadership to invest in youth, parish ministry and mission ventures
* Follow US example of considering ordination after training for aged people
* Select 3 best youth deacons/seminarians/clergy) for cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town
* Calls to stop ‘milkman relationship’ by clergy/bishops
* Dream of LL Osthathios for mission work in S Africa must become reality’
* Africa brings before us a case of ‘the lost sheep,’ the context as true as ‘the lost son’

PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa: The report on youth ministries for outside Kerala prepared by a sub committee consisting of Metropolitans which submitted its report to the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Indian Orthodox Church has received few interesting feedbacks so far.

One of them is Fr Thomas Ninan, Diocese of Delhi, who paints a very dismal picture for the future of our church considering the enormous challenges it faces. Engaged with more people-to-people contacts in after he moved here, Fr Ninan says the scene is more of less the same in other countries like Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and others.

Fr Ninan presently pursues Master of Theology at the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He has also been representing Indian Orthodox Church at Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI) as the Programme Co-ordinator for the desks of Substance Abuse and HIV and Aids Policy since 2003.

Being based in S Africa since February 2010, Fr Ninan openly admits that the Indian Orthodox in S Africa is in shambles. The faithful live with no hope about their future in our church, particularly with regard to their children as most them believe they have already lost them and the church is no longer relevant to them. Most of these children and youth have grown up in the South African context, where some of them get to participate in a Holy Eucharist once or twice a year!

It is here that Fr Ninan calls for a proper ministry to address the various needs of our people in S Africa. He says that the future of our Church requires serious consideration towards investing in the youth and the children. Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town are three key places where the youth are placed for their job and studies. He suggests that while the seniors are around, and if our Church does not consider taking timely strategic action in terms of nurturing the youth and children, it will become all the more difficult in the coming years.

He points out that leaders of spiritual organisations like MGOCSM and the Sunday School need to seriously consider investing in South Africa, in terms of sending well qualified and dedicated manpower and established active offices here. Youngsters (deacons and clergy) who are willing to study further and think in terms of long term ministry in South Africa/Africa will help the cause of the future of our Church.

He explains that those with an ability to speak in English, driving skills and a good knowledge of our faith are basic requirements, added to which, a passion for the youth and Orthodoxy will help. They can be placed in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, specifically engaging with our youth and children while also studying there. Besides investing in the youth, we also need to consider alternative modes of ministry here, this Fr Ninan, says can be of our own people who have spent longer time to consider taking up ordination, after a short training. We have had examples from the US, where married people after their retirement or in their early 50’s have come forward for a full time ministry, underwent training in our seminaries for a period of 1 or 2 years and were ordained as clergy. In the context of the future of our Church in Africa, I believe that is the best option that our Church leadership needs to consider, particularly in the context of the availability of clergy who are only available for a small period and then go back to India, rather than continue in some other place in Africa.

It was the dream of Sabha Ratnam LL Geevarghese Mar Osthathios to start mission work in Africa. Fr Ninan says for any mission to begin it must first have an internal mission first within our congregations in SA and then an external mission of which our people will be part of. Mission in Africa brings before us immense challenges. Can we provide hope for our people here by nurturing their children, as prophet Isaiah promises, he asks?
In a context where the dominant have their way in our Church, in terms of investing in places where they can win publicity, votes, favours, fame, the minority status of Africa glares at us where there will be no earthly fame, no gain, but only sharing of His glory as His labourer. In a context where the dominant have control of the Church funds to be invested in causes which have only produced hatred, failures and ongoing legal cases, Africa brings before us a case of “the lost sheep,” the context of a promise as true as “the lost son,” where in many ways, we ourselves are responsible due to our inaction and misplaced priorities, for them to be lost, he laments.

Explaining the background of our presence, Fr Ninan says that visits by clergy of our Church began since the late 1990s, particularly during the Passion Week and slowly congregations were formed in different parts of South Africa by early 2000. Today, we have 15 congregations in different parts of S Africa, with a population of about 120 families. About 70 per cent of the populations are old-time residents in SA, whose children have grown up and are either working or studying in Universities.

He is concerned that in another 5 to 10 years, many of these families will return to their homeland in Kerala to start a new phase of their lives, leaving behind their children, as they can never think of coming and staying in Kerala or anywhere in India like their parents. A full time resident priest in South Africa came during late 2000 who would drive down each Sunday to these congregations for the Holy Eucharist. And since then each congregation will be lucky to have at least 3 Holy Eucharist in a year. It was only during last year that a property in the form of a parsonage was bought in Pretoria, which happens to be the only one belonging to the Church. As of now, we have had 2 resident priests in a period of 6 years, who have come and gone back to India.
With an approximation of about 100 youth in different parts of SA, and an equal or even more children of our people in SA, who would be settling here in SA and not coming back to India like their parents, the Church faces challenging situation for its future in South Africa, as the parents of these children have little hope of their children finding a reason to stay. South Africa falls under the newly formed diocese since 4 years, called Africa & Europe under the leadership of HG Dr Mathews Mar Themothios.

Fr Ninan points out that the present system of a single priest for the whole of South Africa which is one third of India, will hardly be helpful for the future of the church.

He has therefore suggested to HG Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim, Metropolitan, Bengaluru Diocese, to consider investing in youth ministry in S Africa, as it is not easy to motivate our people, particularly when all that has happened for so many years regarding the ‘Milkman’s relationship with the church.” The milkman in the form of a clergy/bishop visits S Africa for their own motives and intentions, milking them with no returns to give them any hope towards their future. Fr Ninan is confident, that if the church leadership invests here in a serious way, Orthodox people will come together and support the venture. He has requested Dr Mar Seraphim to seriously consider selecting at least three of the best youth (deacons/seminarians/young clergy) to be placed Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, where they can pursue further studies in the Universities and at the same time engage with the youth and children for an effective ministry that would be relevant.

Such youth leaders should be able to think in long terms to work in Africa, where they can also invest their parish ministry or mission ventures. The present system of coming over for three years is hardly suitable in these conditions. Only if they come and learn from the universities here can they be absorbed in working in some capacity in S Africa, Fr Ninan reasons.

“Africa brings before us a case of the ‘lost sheep,’ the context of a promise as true as ‘the lost son,’ where in many ways we ourselves are responsible due to our inaction and misplaced priorities, for them to be lost. The tearful hearts from Africa look up in hope… to the Lord of hope to bring His labourers to work in His vineyard and sow a seed of hope for a rich harvest tomorrow,” laments Fr Thomas Ninan.

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Features Gulf News

St Gregorios Chapel at Dibba is consecrated


FUJAIRAH, UAE: The consecration of the new site of St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Chapel was held on April 13, 2012 Friday, by Bengaluru Diocesan Metropolitan Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim. A long felt dream of Dibba Orthodox Christians has thus been fulfilled.

The public meeting started after the Holy Eucharist was celebrated by Dr Mar Seraphim. Inaugurating the meeting, the Metropolitan said: “The Church is the Body of Christ” denoting an organic relationship between each believer and the Lord.”

During the meeting, newly elected Sabha Managing Committee Members namely I Thomas – Brahmavar Diocese, Jacob Mathew – Chennai Diocese, P G Mathew, Wilson – Delhi Diocese, Dr K C Cheriyan – Bengaluru Diocese were were honoured. Saji Cheriyan of Fujairah Church was honoured for his exemplary contribution to the chapel with a plaque. Gifts were also handed over to the construction supervisors, who completed the construction in record time.

Earlier, Dibba Chapel accorded a grand reception to the Metropolitan in traditional style by rendering devotional hymns. Fr Jacob Thomas, Vicar, welcomed the Metropolitan by handing over a lighted candle after which the Metropolitan lit the traditional lamp. Dr Mar Seraphim then cut the ribbon, thereby declaring the chapel was open to the goodness and humanity at large.

The consecration began with evening prayer. P K Koshy Vaidyan, Secretary, handed over the keys of the chapel to Diocesan Metropolitan which was then handed over to Vicar and finally to Jomon, Trustee.

Earlier, Dr Mar Seraphim led the Holy Eucharist and was assisted by Fr V C Jose, Vicar, St George Orthodox Cathedral Abu Dhabi, Fr Cherian Jacob, Assistant Vicar, StGeorge Orthodox Cathedral Abu Dhabi, Fr Abraham John, Vicar, St Gregorios Orthodox Church, Sharjah, Fr T J Johnson, Vicar, St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Dubai, Fr Jacob Thomas, Vicar, St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church, Fujairah and Fr Philipose Daniel.

Melodious singing from Fujairah St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church choir added color to the proceedings. A large number of families of UAE’s Orthodox Churches and well wishers participated in the ceremony.

Dibba Chapel attached to Fujairah St Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church started in 1982 with seven families and has 25 families at present. Since 1982, Holy Qurbana was celebrated in Dibba in a residence once in a month. It was a long cherished dream of a number of Orthodox believers residing in Dibba to have a place of worship of their own to accommodate the growing generation of the church.

All the distinguished guests were thanked for their support and cooperation and felicitated by the chapel by presenting attractive mementos.
Felicitation address were delivered by Fr V C Jose, Fr Abraham John, Fr T J Johnson, Fr Philipose Daniel, Dr KC Cheriyan, I Thomas, Baby Thankachen, Alex Koshy, Thomas Paul, Binu Koshy, L Johny Kutty Fr Jacob Thomas, Vicar gave the welcome speech and Dr George Philip proposed the vote of thanks.

Babu Kurian Puliyeril and Paul George Poovatheril were the masters of ceremony.

Dibba Chapel attached to Fujairah St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church started in 1982 with seven families has almost 25 families at present. Since 1982, Holy Qurbana was celebrated in Dibba in a house once in a month. It was a long cherished dream of a number of Orthodox believers residing in Dibba to have a place of worship of their own to accommodate the growing generation of the church.

Faithful in and around Dibba are requested to contact Vicar Fr. Jacob Thomas – 050 1943040.

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News inputs and Photos by: Dr. K.C. Cheriyan – Sabha Managing Committee Member.

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Report on ‘Youth Ministries’ to Holy Synod calls for transformative relationship with Triune God

Report recognises role of youth for the future of Church
Calls on to serve diverse groups in a unique manner
To integrate these diverse groups into the daily life of parishes
Calls for inputs from MOSC members across the globe

KOTTAYAM : Abraham Mar Seraphim, Metropolitan, Bengaluru Diocese, has presented an important report to the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church which met on February 23, 2012 at Devalokam, Kottayam.

The report was submitted on behalf of a subcommittee formed in August 2011 to investigate the situation of the youth of our church in the outside Kerala region. This subcommittee also included the Metropolitans of the outside Kerala dioceses. The report is now being made public for due consideration and input of our people across the globe.

Metropolitans who were part of the Subcommittee included Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Joseph Mar Dionysius, Dr Yuhanon Mar Dioscoros, Dr Mathews Mar Themothios, Alexios Mar Eusebius, Dr Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, Dr Youhanon Mar Dimitriyos, Yacob Mar Elias, Pulikkottil Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios and Dr Mar Seraphim himself.

In the report, the subcommittee recognises the importance of the Youth to the future of the Church. It also acknowledges the difficulties being faced towards catering to their needs in today’s society. To help begin to address this situation, the report advocates the need for clear vision, clear organisation and clear support from the Holy Synod.

Specifically, the report brought forth the following for discussion:
Firstly, we emphasize that the purpose of our ministry is to bring all our members into a transformative relationship with the Triune God, which causes us to live differently and makes us stand out as lights in the world

Secondly, that we recognise the diversity within our community outside of Kerala, particularly differences based on background.

Thirdly, that we serve each of these diverse groups uniquely, with specific spiritual organisations and spiritual leaders which includes both clergy and the lay people. This should be focused on their spiritual development, rather than forcing everyone to conform to one way or another.

Lastly, that we actively endeavour to integrate all these diverse groups into the daily life of our parishes.

The goal of following such simple, but focused, principles is to develop strong parishes outside of Kerala that are unified in the Holy Orthodox faith for generations to come, independent of immigration/emigration.

After a healthy discussion, the suggestions made in the report were unanimously accepted and supported by the Holy Episcopal Synod to be implemented as opportunities to do so arise.

Although some ideas were presented in this report, it was intended to be a starting point for a far greater discussion and action plan within our church to meet the needs of all our members, whatever their background may be, and integrate them all into the life of the Holy Church.

The report also requests to keep these issues in your prayer and meditation and to work together to fulfill our role in the Body of Christ, without separations due to language, culture, heredity, geography or social class.

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Let’ stamp out hatred, jealously from our hearts: Mar Yulios at Feet washing ceremony


MUSCAT : Pulikkottil Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios, Metropolitan of Ahmedabad, enacted the foot washing or washing of feet ceremony at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka.

Dr Mar Yulios led the solemn hour-long ritual where he cleansed and kissed the foot of 12 senior Sunday School students at the St Thomas Church on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week, April 5.

Among those who assisted the Metropolitan were Fr Joji George, Vicar, Maha Edavaka, Fr Binu John Thomas, Associate Vicar, Maha Edavaka, Fr Varghese George and several altar boys.

Dr Mar Yulios in his sermon recalled Jesus performing this act from St John 13: 14-17. He instructs them, 14 “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” 15 “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
“Let us cast away all our hatred, jealously and get prepared to walk on the path of Golgotha on Good Friday. Now is the time to wash away all our sins and to get prepared for the way to salvation. There is no crown without the cross, His Grace stressed.”

Dr Mar Yulios recalled the tradition of teachers washing the feet of their disciples. His Grace mentioned philosopher saint Swami Vivekanand who before setting up the Ramakrishna Ashram had washed the feet of the disciples on a evening in December 24, a day before commemorating the birth of Christ.

After the foot washing ceremony, the Metropolitan led the students who had their feet washed in a procession to the parsonage where the Last Supper of Jesus was enacted. Later, Dr Mar Yulios also dined with the priests and the boys as an enactment of the Lords Last Supper. The Last Supper, according to Christian belief, is the final meal that Jesus shared with his 12 Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion.

The ritual washing of feet is now associated with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which celebrates in a special way the Last Supper of Jesus, before which he washed the feet of his apostles. A large number of faithful and parishioners had gathered at the Maha Edavaka to witness the event.

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Mar Yulios holds talks with Grand Mufti, Awqaf and Religious Minister in Oman


MUSCAT: Ahmedabad Diocese Metropolitan Pulikkottil Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios, has held detailed talks with His Eminence Shaikh Ahmed bin Hamed al Khalili, Grand Mufti, and HE Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed al Salmy, Sultanate of Oman’s Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, on March 31, Saturday.

In separate meetings with the Grand Mufti and the Awqaf and Religious Minister, cordial relations were exchanged in their office.

During his meeting with the Grand Mufti, talks centred around Islamic Theology, Christian Theology, incarnation and Trinity. Dr Mar Yulios who was able to build a close rapport with the Grand Mufti who he said was a deeply scholastic person. Recollects Dr Mar Yulios: “The Grand Mufti knows many of the theological controversies that occurred in Christianity during the first four centuries and clarified many of those things. Trinity was one of his interesting topics on which he has issues with the monotheistic belief of Islam. I think he was impressed with my answers and invited me more often to his office for dialogue in future.”

Dr Mar Yulios extended an invitation to the Grand Mufti to visit India and especially Kerala which he was not visited.

Others who were part of the delegation include Rev Fr Joji George, new Vicar, Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka (MGOME), Rev Fr Binu John Thomas, Associate Vicar, MGOME, Abraham Mathew, Honourble Trustee, MGOME, Mathew Ninan, Ahmedabad Diocesan Council and Trust Member, and Muneer, Office Secretary, Awqaf and Religious Ministry.

During his meeting with Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed al Salmy, Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs Minister, Dr Mar Yulios explained to the minister about the deep Oman-India bilateral relations which exist for over 350 years. The Minister expressed his deep interest about the differences in Christianity itself. Dr Mar Yulios thanked him for the permission and freedom for performing religious worship in Oman. The Metropolitan renewed the invitation of the church to His Excellency to visit India and the Malankara Orthodox Church.

Those who accompanied Dr Mar Yulios during his visit include Rev Fr Joji George, Vicar, MGOME, Rev Fr Binu John Thomas, Associate Vicar, MGOME, Abraham Mathew, Hon’ble Trustee, MGOME, and Mathew Ninan, Ahmedabad Diocesan Council and Trust Member.

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Catholicate Day celebrations at Muscat Maha Edavaka


MUSCAT: Ahmedabad Diocese Metropolitan Pulikkottil Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios led members of the Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka (MGOME), to celebrate Catholicate Day (‘Sabha Dinam’) or Church Day on March 31, Friday.

Dr Mar Yulios hoisted the Catholicate Flag before the Holy Eucharist and later in his message to the congregation recalled the re-establishment of the Catholicate in Malankara and thanked God for His immense blessings showered on us through the Church.

The Metropolitan traced the beginnings of the Malankara Church and gave a brief about the origin, contribution of its founder, St Thomas to the church and the present day role of the Catholicate.

Dr Mar Yulios also personally contributed his mite to the Catholicate Day collections. Last week, the Metropolitan who was at the St Gregorios Orthodox Church, Cherry Lane, New York, had also presided at the Catholicate Day celebrations and offered his contributions.

Dr Mar Yulios said members of the Malankara Orthodox should take pride being part of this ‘independent, universal church’ which is growing strongly by the grace of God.

“Today, we are a strong community with 31 dioceses and Metropolitans and headed by the Catholicate. This is the church which will live forever,” he added.

Felicitations were also offered by Fr Joji George (New Vicar, (MGOME), Fr Binu John Thomas, Associate Vicar, P K Koshy (Malankara Sabha managing committee member, Mathew Ninan, Ahmedabad Diocesan Council Member, and Biju Parumala, Secretary.

A resolution was passed by Cherian P Thomas, Co-Trustee. Fr Varghese George was also present.

Catholicate pledge was read out by former Maha Edavaka vicar Fr James Geevarghese and the Catholica Mangala Gaanem ‘Marthoma Simhasanathil’ sung by Sunday School students.

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Bengaluru Diocese Pay Rich Tributes To ‘Prophet Of Love’ LL Osthathios


BENGALURU: Bengaluru Diocese and the Mission Board Society of the Malankara Orthodox Church jointly observed the 40th day remembrance of LL Dr Geevarghese Mar Osthathios, senior Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church on March 25 at 4 pm.

The remembrance function was called ‘Smarananjali’ and held Nams Snehasadan at Voderahalli, Vidyaranyapura, on the outskirts of the city..

Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim, Metropolitan, Bengaluru Diocese presided over largely attended function.
Other speakers include Fr Dr Bijesh Philip, Principal, St Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary (STOTS), Nagpur, Justice Jacob Benjamin Koshy, Chairman of the Kerala Human Rights Commission, Cor-Episcopoi, Vicars and and others.

Large number of Orthodox believers from all the churches in Bengaluru attended and paid homage to the departed soul.

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Dr Mar Irenios Calls On Orthodox Church To Take Ecumenical Roles Seriously

Mission work among Orthodox churches is much more than ‘proselytisation’ and should equip ourselves for dialogue with other churches and other religions’

‘National ecumenical bodies must initiate dialogue with Malankara and Jacobite factions to avoid conflicts and abide by court directives’

“Missionary is a rare commodity with our Church and we must get away from extraneous preoccupations”

‘Church must prepare and groom apt persons for representing at ecumenical forums. Over enthusiasm for ‘church planting’ is doing more harm than good.

HG Dr Yakoob Mar Irenios, Metropolitan of Kochi Diocese and the present Chairperson of the Faith Unity Mission Commission of the NCCI, demits office by April end. It is for the first time that a Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Metropolitan gets to become the Chairperson of the Faith, Unity and Mission Commission, which is of great importance.

As Chairperson since 2009 and member of Executive Committee, Dr Mar Irenios, outlines the work he did and explains how the Orthodox Church can play an effective role in future with better planning strategies.

Mar Ireanios took charge as Metropolitan of Kochi diocese on April 1, 2009. Earlier, His Grace was the Metropolitan of Madras diocese from 1997. Earlier, in 1993 Mar Ireanios was elevated to the rank of Episcopos and became the Assistant Metropolitan of Malabar diocese.

Excerpts from an email interview. Exclusive to IOH.

Q: After you took over as chairman of faith unity mission commission, what were your plans and programmes? How much were you able to achieve during your tenure.

A: The NCCI, by the grace of God, is slowly recovering from a very difficult financial situation, which was caused by lack of proper financial management for a few years. Now things are back on the rails, thanks to the dedication and prudential financial management of the treasurer.

I shall try to answer your questions rather generally; since it is group work at all levels of NCCI activities. As you know the Orthodox Church is a small part in this institution, where the large majority is Protestant.

Unity, Mission and Evangelism is a wing of the NCCI among others. Every such unit has an Executive Secretary, who is on the staff of NCCI. With the concurrence and direction of the Chairperson, organises programmes. He or she is a kind of CEO, which means the Chairperson has precious little to perform! But the Chair gets involved in several ways. We had an exploratory session immediately after the new Chairpersons took over, and prepared a chart for the several programmes to be implemented during our tenure. For instance the Centenary of the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference in 2010 was an occasion for arranging several á “revisit” programmes at different centres.

The main focus of course, was on the aspect of unity at different levels. These were conducted in the North East, Central India and the south. In fact The Orthodox Church hosted a dialogue programme for Churches in the South at Kochi. Such occasions the different churches and confessions a lot to understand each other better. The Protestant members were very curious to learn about the Orthodox Church and its understanding on unity and mission. Of course, there are some differences in the way these concepts are understood and explained by the Orthodox Church and the Protestant block.

It was the consensus that the western missionary models were outdated and not of much use in modern India. The Orthodox members were trying to convince the rest that mission means much more than ‘proselytisation’.

I myself was a resource person at the consultation on ‘Tradition and Modernity’ at Chiang Mai, Thailand organised by the WCC, CCA and the NCCI. I presented a paper on this which was widely appreciated and acclaimed. They were told that ‘Tradition” has a very dynamic meaning than what they had actually thought about!

Q: As member of the executive committee, what was the role you performed.

A: As a member of the Executive Committee, we attended the meetings which mainly deal with administrative matters. Here programmes are reviewed and discussed in detail. I could contribute my mite and make the Orthodox presence felt in such assemblies.

Q: The recent consultation meeting prepared a report of a national study conference on grass roots ecumenism. What was the report like..

A: The recent Consultation on Grass root ecumenism held at Madurai in February was a useful one, though I could be present there only on the concluding day to deliver the valedictory address. I was trying to convince them that the Church is one entity and ‘Grass root’ has no existences separate from the main body of the church. Protestants are always ready to ‘share the Lord’s Table’ with any one at the local level, which we just cannot. It is good to cooperate at the local level, but full communion is something that has to take place no short cut in an undisciplined manner.

Q: How relevant is ecumenism among different faiths today. Do you feel they are moving in the right direction?

A: India presents a multi-religious situation. Now, almost all religions are ‘awake’, sometimes in an aggressive manner, and the mission endeavours have to be conscious of the ground realities. The western model has done its course, and is not of much use today. ‘Witnessing” has to be redefined especially in a country like India. Over enthusiasm for ‘church planting’ is doing more harm than good.

Q: Does the Malankara church have any policy on ecumenism? If yes, what have we achieved so far because what we see is all of them talking about it…

A: Malankara Church is associated with the ecumenical movement from its very inception. At the level of the WCC, the Orthodox Churches are trying how to make their voice and concerns heard. At different ecumenical levels and bodies, a new awareness about Church history, tradition and the like is being planted by the Orthodox Churches. The Orthodox Church has a very clear view on ecumenism.

Q: Do you feel ecumenism can play a role in bringing together the two warring groups (Malankara & Jacobites) together. What steps need to be taken in this regard.

A: The usage “warring groups” is not a healthy one, since it is a group creating disorder in the Malankara Church; and not two groups quarrelling!

However, this query is very relevant indeed. In the NCCI and the CCA, the Jacobite group has obtained membership, because the Malankara Orthodox Church did not oppose it. But this group is not a member of the WCC. There they are part of the Antiochene Syrian Church.

The NCCI General Secretary had issued an appeal when the Kolencherry issue was at its peak. Since the contents were not based on facts, I wrote to him about this; and he apologised to me for his statements.

But, as we know, the NCCI is not a Super Church with power of arbitration, unless both sections ask for it. So it can do precious little about it as things stand. May be this national ecumenical body can take the initiative to talk to both parties and impress upon them the need for avoiding conflicts and abiding by court directives and the rule of law.

It is also a fact that the vast majority of members of this National Ecumenical Body are the Protestant Churches, and the Orthodox Church forms only a tiny minority.

The Orthodox Church may try to make available its members to serve on the staff of this body in different capacities. For instance Fr Veneeth Koshy did a good job as the Youth Executive Secretary; as did Fr Abraham Oommen earlier. Fr Philp Kuruvila is also presently serving on an arm of NCCI.

I feel the Orthodox Church should take its ecumenical moves and role a bit more seriously, in terms of participation; and grooming a few of its members for taking up responsibilities in such bodies at the correct time. In this aspect we are way behind other churches!

Q: How can the Orthodox Church take ecumenical moves seriously or how can this be rectified to have our voice heard at major forums

A: The Church has to select/call/prepare and groom suitable persons for representing it at various ecumenical fora. Changing delegates every time will not only bring down our credibility, but will not help us to gain anything in the long run. We have the spectacle of sister churches planning for and grooming their representatives sufficiently early, that they have no dearth of candidates at any given time! This happens at positions of leadership in ecumenical bodies. This kind of homework rarely happens with us.

Q: What do you mean exactly by “witnessing” in a country like ours.. Can our church adopt to this?

A: The religious pluralistic situation in this country offers a challenge and an opportunity for this ancient and indigenous Church in its given task of witnessing Christ. The Orthodox need to remain faithful to their faith and indianness that there will be precious little of ‘imported-ness’ with it. Simultaneously we need to reach out to the villages and the poor; equip itself for dialogue with other churches and other religions as well on an intellectual level. We have dearth of church publications which are helpful in this. As matters stand today, our status leaves little to be proud of.

Actually we have very few mission endeavours and “missionary” is a rare commodity in this ancient church. Programmes like adoption of villages, mission outreach programmes among tribal’s and the like are still almost unknown in our psyche. Such projects are proceeding in full swing in the case of others. Sadly enough, we have other extraneous preoccupations which keep us too busy for such endeavours.

Q: Lastly, do you feel our church must retain executive posts with bodies like NCCI, CCA to have its presence felt…

A: In the situations today, our Church has to make its presence felt, though we are a ‘minority’, by coming to positions of responsibility, at least for not getting sidelined. The ecumenical world is wont to have its pushes and pulls and bits of ‘politics’. The realities should never be missed!

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Jaya Koshy Elected Committee Member of St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Ahmedabad


AHMEDABAD: In keeping with the initiative of Malankara Orthodox towards empowerment of women, the Ahmedabad Diocese has elected Jaya Koshy Mattackal as one of the Church Managing Committee Members of St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Ahmedabad.

Credit goes to Ahmedabad Diocese Metropolitan Pulikkottil HG Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios, for initiating the move towards women’s empowerment and their active participation.

Mrs Jaya Koshy Mattackal thus becomes the first woman managing committee member of St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Ahmedabad.

She has been serving the Marth Mariam Vanitha Samajam (MMVS) in various positions since over 25 years.

Jaya Koshy is presently serving as the General Secretary of Marth Mariam Vanitha Samajam of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Ahmedabad Diocese.

As Diocesan Coordinator, Jaya Koshy is an active member participating in all its activities. She hails from Mavelikara in Kerala.

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Mar Yulios Arrives in Muscat for Holy Week


MUSCAT : Ahmedabad Diocese Metropolitan Pulikkottil Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios has arrived in Muscat from Kerala after attending the maiden meeting of the new Malankara Sabha Managing Committee at Pazhaya Seminary, Kottayam.

The Metropolitan was received at the Muscat International Airport on Wednesday night by Fr James Geevarghese, the outgoing Vicar of Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka, Fr Binu Thomas John, Asst. Vicar, trustee, co-trustee, secretary managing committee members among others.

New incoming Vicar Fr Joji George also arrived from Ahmedabad to take his charge as the new Vicar of Muscat Maha Edavaka from April 1, 2012.

Both Dr Mar Yulios and Fr Joji George were extended a warm welcome upon their arrival.

Dr Mar Yulios will the chief celebrant for the Holy Week programme at the Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka for 2012. The Metropolitan will also lead the Catholicate Day Celebrations and preside over the function for the farewell of outgoing Vicar Fr James Geevarghese and reception to incoming Vicar Fr Joji George.

Dr Mar Yulios will also visit Sohar St George Orthodox Church, Nizwa congregation, and Salalah’s St Stephen’s Orthodox Church.