05/13/2024, 13.47
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Pope grants Syro-Malabars jurisdiction over Indian migrants in the Middle East

Receiving in audience a delegation led by the new Major Archbishop Raphael Thattil, the pontiff publicly expressed his assent to a request made for years by the Churches of the East, especially for their faithful in the Persian Gulf. A new harsh warning on the divisions around the liturgy in Kerala: "Discussing celebratory details while disrespecting unity is incompatible with the Christian faith.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis has decided to grant the Syro-Malabar Church jurisdiction over Indian migrants belonging to this rite who live in the Middle East. He announced it himself this morning, in an audience granted in the Vatican to the new major archbishop, Mar Raphael Thattil, elected last January by the Synod of this ancient Eastern Church which has its headquarters in Kerala, accompanied by a group of faithful. “

The pontiff said in his speech "I also told His Beatitude to ask for jurisdiction with regard to all your migrants in so many parts of the Middle East. I said that they have to ask for jurisdiction in writing, but I have given it today and they can already exercise it.This has to be put in writing, but again, as of today, you can exercise it. ."

The request for jurisdiction over their faithful is a theme that the Eastern Catholic Churches have been raising for years for the hundreds of thousands of migrants living in the Persian Gulf, the face of a mosaic Church of languages and rites until now led by the two apostolic vicariates of Arabia, who are of the Latin rite.

Already at the Synod for the Middle East in 2010 the theme emerged forcefully, but clashed with the need to maintain unity between the different communities which in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait or Bahrain form a unique and unprecedented face of the Church migrant.

Now, however, Pope Francis - who personally visited these communities in 2019 and 2022 - has decided to grant jurisdiction to the Syro-Malabar Church, which is one of the communities with the largest number of faithful in the Gulf.

Recalling that "eastern traditions are essential treasures in the Church" and retracing the history of "witness to the point of martyrdom" by Christian heirs of the apostle Thomas in India, the pontiff added, explaining his choice: "I wish to help you, not supersede you, because the nature of your Church sui iuris empowers you not only to examine carefully the situations and challenges that you face, but also to take appropriate steps to address them, with responsibility and evangelical courage, remaining faithful to the guidance of the Major Archbishop and the Synod. This is what the Church wants, for apart from Peter, apart from the Major Archbishop, there is no Church."

These are words that must also be read in light of the other great theme that Pope Francis wanted to return to in this morning's meeting: the clash over the liturgy that has long painfully divided the Syro-Malabar Church, with the clergy and a large part of the faithful of the archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly who refuse to celebrate the Eucharist with the "unified rite" adopted almost three years ago by the local Synod.

To this end, I have recently sent letters and a video message to the faithful, warning them of the dangerous temptation to focus on one detail, and an unwillingness to let it go, even to the detriment of the good of the Church. It stems from a self-referentiality, which leads to listening to no other way of thinking but one’s own. In Spanish we call this self-referentiality “yo, me, mi, conmigo, para mí”: “I, me, with me, for me, everything for me”. It is here that the devil, the divider, who truly exists, creeps in and thwarts the most heartfelt desire that the Lord expressed before dying for us: that we, his disciples, be “one” (Jn 17:21), without division and without breaking communion. For this reason, guarding unity is not a pious exhortation but a duty, and it is especially so when it concerns priests who have promised obedience and from whom the faithful expect the example of charity and meekness".

"Let us work with determination to protect communion and pray tirelessly that our brothers and sisters, - continued the Pope, addressing the major archbishop directly - tempted by a worldliness that leads to rigidity and division, may realize that they are part of a larger family that loves them and waits for them. Like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, let us leave the doors open and our hearts open so that, once they have repented, they will not find it difficult to re-enter: we are waiting for them. Let us meet and discuss without fear, this is fine, but above all, let us pray, so that the light of the Spirit, which reconciles differences and brings tensions back into unity, may resolve disputes. There is one certainty: pride, recriminations and envy do not come from the Lord and never lead to concord and peace. Showing a grave lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament – the Sacrament of charity and unity – by arguing about the details of how to celebrate the Eucharist, the pinnacle of his presence among us, is incompatible with the Christian faith. The guiding criterion, the truly spiritual one that derives from the Holy Spirit, is communion: this requires us to do a self-examination of our dedication to unity and our faithful, humble, respectful and obedient care for the gifts we have received.".

In particular, Pope Francis invited the Syro-Malabarians not to let themselves be "do not be overcome by discouragement or a sense of helplessness in the face of problems.  Brothers and sisters, let us not extinguish hope, grow weary of patience, or close ourselves off to prejudices that fuel animosities. Rather, let us think about the vast horizon of the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us, the mission to be a sign of his loving presence in the world, and not a scandal to those who do not believe! When making decisions, let us think of the poor and the estranged, those on the peripheries, in India and the diaspora, and those in an existential crisis. Let us also be mindful of those who are suffering and waiting for signs of hope and consolation."

“I know that the life of many Christians in many places is difficult – he continued – but the Christian difference consists in responding to evil with good, in working tirelessly with all believers for the good of all men. Like the apostle Thomas, we look at the wounds of Jesus: they are still visible today in the bodies of many hungry, thirsty and rejected people, in prisons, in hospitals and along the streets; by touching these brothers with tenderness, we welcome the living God among us. Like Saint Thomas, we look at the wounds of Jesus and see how from those wounds, which had stunned the disciples and could throw them into an irreparable sense of guilt, the Lord made channels of forgiveness and mercy flow."

Finally, Pope Francis addressed a special word to the faithful of the Syro-Malabar community of Rome, present at the meeting: "From this Church, which presides over the universal communion of charity, you are called to pray and cooperate in a special way for unity within your Church, not only in Kerala but throughout India and throughout the world. Kerala, which is a mine of vocations! We pray that it will continue to be so."

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