Indian Bishop calls for peace and humanity in the Syro-Malabar Church
Mgr Thomas Menamparampil issues a message of peace in connection with the dispute that involves Card George Alencherry. The priests in the diocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly have gone on a hunger strike, then stopped it. For Archbishop Emeritus of Guwahati, “There need not be ‘winners and losers’.”
Guwahati (AsiaNews) – Mgr Thomas Menamparampil, archbishop emeritus of Guwahati (Assam), has issued a strong plea for peace and humanity to settle a dispute within India’s Syro-Malabar Church.
For weeks some priests in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly (Kerala) have been protesting against Card. George Alencherry for weeks. “I see no other way than to approach the entire problem in the most ‘human’ way,” said the prelate.
What counts is that “There need not be ‘winners and losers’ necessarily in a dispute. There can be genuine respect for each other even when we differ seriously in opinion. A legal approach may not be as helpful as a ‘humane’ approach.”
Mgr Menamparampil belongs to the Syro-Malabar Church and lives in the north-east of India. For over 30 years he has been working to promote peace in his community, marked by a conflict between armed Maoist guerrillas and government forces.
"One of the lessons I learnt while working for peace in difficult circumstances is that we must be ready to fail, but in the meantime I pray."
With respect to dispute settlements, he calls for conciliation. "You don’t harm your side if you admit that the other side is right." If you are wrong, "it is right to show respect to the adversary. Assuming irreconcilable positions does not increase the stature of the interested parties. Understanding the weakness of one's statements can help. "
Speaking about the conflict within his Church, he explains that while “it is important to scrutinise the past; [. . .] it is even more important to ensure the future. Once emotions are down, a firm gaze on the future will bring us back together; for we certainly need each other.”
Allegations against Mgr Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, has caused a deep rift within the Indian Church. The Church itself has more than 30 dioceses.
The Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly has been blamed for a "reckless" real estate investment that led to losses to the Church of about US$ 10 million dollars. However, last April, Kerala police found that the bank accounts presented as evidence against Card Alencherry were fake and dropped the charges.
For his part, the cardinal has always maintained that the evidence was fabricated to discredit him before the Synod of his Church, held last January. Since then, the story has taken on darker overtones, with the involvement of numerous priests close and hostile to the cardinal.
Last month, Pope Francis reinstated the cardinal to his office after placing the diocese under the interim apostolic administration of Mgr Jacob Manathodath. Since then, many priests began to protest against his return and above all the decision to remove two auxiliary bishops.
The latest incident took place last Friday, when a local priest, Fr Joseph Parekattil, launched a new form of protest. He decided to go on an unlimited fast unless the clergy’s demands were not taken into consideration by the Synod convened for the beginning of August. He was joined by 200 of 461 priests.
Yesterday protesters interrupted their hunger strike after the Synod Standing Committee – which includes the cardinal – decided to heed their concerns: assess the fate of the cardinal, withdraw the suspension of auxiliary bishops and drop the charges against some priests for fabricating evidence.
Given what is happening in Kerala, Mgr Menamparampil also promoted an initiative by the Syro-Malabar missionaries in north-eastern India.
On behalf of bishops and priests, he issued an appeal to everyone in the “Syro-Malabar Church – leaders, clergy, religious and ordinary believers – to forget all the differences, whatever they may be, and work sincerely for peace and unity among the children of Saint Thomas”, the Apostle patron saint of the Church.
The goal is for the Church to provide ‘spiritual nourishment and missionary motivation,” said the archbishop emeritus, so that it “lose none of its glory, nor miss any opportunity for making further contribution to the common future of the Universal Church.” (A.C.F.)