I would like to call your attention to an article that appeared in the official website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).
I quote from the relevant parts from the article.
"Long beards, black veils and saffron cassocks set Syro-Malankara
prelates apart at Church gatherings. The prelates' attire upholds "our tradition and identity," says Father Samuel Thykootathil, a historian of the Catholic Church's youngest rite.
Father Thykootathil says the dress would help his Church win over more followers from the Orthodox Church. "We are the fast growing Church in India," he claimed. Many Jacobites come to "our Church as our liturgy and traditions are similar to their traditions," he added."
Now we have to ask why is the Syro-Malankara church a fast growing
church in India. It is not because they are taking the message of
Christ to non-believers and bringing them to Christ. In their own words it is by winning over the faithful of the TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH by displaying familiarity on the surface, like dress of the prelates. In the words of RC priest Fr. Samuel Thykootathil ""Familiarity brings acceptance. "
We the TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH meanwhile is spit down the middle as
Patriarch and Catholicose factions and is fighting in the steets be it in Aluva or in Trivandrum. I just wanted all of us to know the true intentions of the Syro-Malankara Church in their own words. If our faithful joins them, we cant find fault with them, all the blame is with us.
Mathew G M.
Member ID # 0929
Full Text of the Article
Prelates' Dress Code Helps Syro-Malankara Church Assert Culture,
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India (UCAN) -- Long beards, black veils and
saffron cassocks set Syro-Malankara prelates apart at Church
The prelates' attire upholds "our tradition and identity," says Father Samuel Thykootathil, a historian of the Catholic Church's youngest rite.
The Syro-Malankara Church was formerly a faction of the Jacobite
Church, an Orthodox group in India. The faction joined the Catholic
fold in 1930 after the Holy See agreed that it could retain its
practices and customs.
The Orthodox factions and the Catholic Oriental rites share the same
roots and are generally called St. Thomas Christians, as they trace
their origins to Saint Thomas the Apostle.
The Catholic Church comprises 22 rites, the largest being the Rome-
based Latin rite. In India, the Catholic Church is made up of the Latin rite and the Oriental-rite Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches.
The Latin rite, established by European missioners in the 15th century, follows the Roman liturgy, while the two Oriental rites, both based in the southern Indian state of Kerala, follow Syrian Church traditions.
Father Thykootathil told UCA News Feb. 8 that his rite reunited with
the Catholic Church "with one condition" -- that it be allowed to
preserve its "ancient and venerable tradition." The dress code, the 74-year-old priest says, shows his Church's roots and "rich heritage," and distinguishes it from other Catholic rites.
Edison Joseph, a Syro-Malankara Catholic, says bishops of his rite wear a headdress and do not shave to mark them as spiritual leaders. The black headdress, called masnapsa, has 13 crosses on it, symbolizing the 12 apostles and Christ. The prelates also wear a black miter. Like Hindu priests, the Malankara prelates wear saffron cassocks to denote their Indian roots, Joseph explained.
The layman said the dress code highlights the Oriental Church's
struggle against the Portuguese missioners, who insisted they follow
the Latin liturgical customs and practices.
The Portuguese stance divided the St. Thomas Christians in 1653. One
group stayed with the Portuguese missioners while others broke away and placed themselves under the Jacobite prelate of Antioch.
Father Thykootathil, a specialist in Oriental liturgy and canon law,
says his Church follows the Antiochian rite and has its own separate
liturgy. Rome also allowed it to exercise administrative autonomy.
At the time of the reunion, Rome also allowed the Syro-Malankara Church to retain its married priests. However, those joining priesthood after the reunion had to opt for priestly celibacy.
"When we reunited with Catholic Church, we were following Orthodox
Jacobite traditions and many of our priests were married. They remained with our Church with special permission from the Vatican," said Father Thykootathil, who teaches Syriac in St. Mary's Malankara Seminary, the Church's major seminary in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala, 2,815 kilometers south of New Delhi.
The priest pointed out that two Orthodox factions continue to allow
their priests to marry. But married clergy "can never become bishops or catholicos," Father Thykootathil explained. In keeping with its
Orthodox tradition, the Syro-Malankara Church bestows on its leader the title of Catholicos.
The Syro-Malankara Church now has 450,000 members, 632 priests and 643 seminarians. In addition, there are 17 orders of Religious women with a total of 2,030 members. Pope John Paul II elevated Trivandrum
archdiocese to a major archbishopric and Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios to Major Archbishop on Feb. 10, 2005. The prelate died on Jan. 18 following a heart attack. Trivandrum is the former name of
Father Thykootathil says his Church maintains its Antiochian
links. "Familiarity brings acceptance. Today our laity want us to
preserve our tradition and dress code. When other rites opt for
informal dress code for clergy, our people object to changes in the
dress code," he added.
But not all agree. Roby Varghese, a Syro-Malabar Catholic, says the
Malankara prelates' attire is in keeping with modern times. "They look like people from other planets. I don't feel comfortable with these bishops with ornamental dress and long beard. I like bishops who have a human face," the 24-year-old information-technology engineer told UCA News.
According to him, the Church should not reduce their prelates to
showpieces of tradition. "They are our spiritual leaders who guide us to become better Christians," he added.
Father Thykootathil says the dress would help his Church win over more followers from the Orthodox Church. "We are the fast growing Church in India," he claimed. Many Jacobites come to "our Church as our liturgy and traditions are similar to their traditions," he added.