Organize & realize our new dioceses before it gets too late.
- Dear All,
Recently there were some posting in the forum regarding our churches in Nilambur, Malappuram. Every one can feel the grief, depression and disappointment of our members that we don't have many churches in these areas even though a lot of our faithful resides in these areas. Mr. Bejoy Chacko has raised the question 'why our people are not interested to make congregations there?'
In my opinion even if our people have interest in forming new parishes, there should be some one to coordinate their efforts because in establishing a parish one has to overcome many hurdles both governmental and religious. Alongside, we cannot compare the situation in Malabar, Malappuram or Outside Kerala dioceses with any other part of Kerala, because these areas are not ancestral natives of Syrian Christians and those residing there are migrants from various parts of Kerala. They may not have close knowledge or relationship with each other and because of that if some among them wish to form new parishes there should be some authority to coordinate their efforts. This is where we lag behind IOC lack of well organized dioceses. As written by Mr. Alex John from Banglore, I am also interested to know about what happened with our earlier selection of a bishop-elect for the Kozhikode diocese under which the above mentioned Nilambur and Malappuram will come. Earlier Malankara Voice had reported that one V.Rev. Geevargheese Corepiscopa Puthenkudilil is elected as the bishop designate of Kozhikode diocese and it is more than one year after that election and we haven't ordained this bishop-elect yet. Recently I have read in Viswasasamrakshakan that there is going to be another election for the role of Kozhikode diocesan bishop. So any body close to our leadership, please update about this. What I feel is that, by the time we come out with a bishop, completing all the processes elections, re-elections and final recognition, the remaining faithful in this area also may join various IOC parishes.
During the last few months I was in Chennai where I was attending Sunday services in our Chennai Anna Nagar St.Thomas Church. I was greatly disappointed to know that this is the only Jacobite Syrian Church in a metro like Chennai. Towards my knowledge we have a small Knanaya church and one small chapel in Perambur area. But Anna Nagar Church is the only one major Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church there. Even the Independent Church of Malabar (Thozhiyur Swathanthra Suriyani Sabha) and the Evangelical Church two of the smallest Episcopal Churches in Kerala have churches equal to ours, in Chennai. Later, I came to know that the IOC has about 7 or 8 well organized churches in Chennai and their Broadway Cathedral itself is many times bigger than our AnnaNagar Church both in size and number. The Marthomites who only have half of our membership all over the world, also have 5 to 6 churches in Chennai with a good number of families. What reason I feel for this, is the establishment of a diocese in Chennai (in fact Chennai-Banglore for the Marthomites) by both these churches well in time and there is always a full time metropolitan for their dioceses. Lack of a well organized setup is the prime reason, I think, behind why our church is getting only the least preference in Ecumenical platforms in Chennai. One more thing I noticed about our Chennai church with surprise that it comes under Angamaly diocese instead of Outside Kerala diocese where it is expected to come on geographical basis. Even if we now come out with new dioceses we should also avoid these types of overlapping (in a sense encroaching) boundaries between dioceses, if our people residing in nearby areas have to really unite together under the tag of a diocese.
We have to rise to the occasion at least now. Earlier during 80s and 90s there was our people's migration to Industrial pockets outside Kerala due to employment in big factories and we lost almost two thirds of our faithful among the first and second generation migrants. Now the third phase of migration is to the IT cities especially in South India. Lot of Syrian Orthodox youths are getting employed in the IT faces of India like Chennai, Hyderabad and Banglore. And most of them are now attending services in IO churches due to proximity factors. We have to organize them and form our own parishes before they are brainwashed and adapted to the IOC. I don't want to argue that we could have ordained Metropolitans for all these cities as with four or five churches under each diocese it may not be affordable for the parishes but we could have come out with a diocese and a fulltime Metropolitan, for our parishes in the three southern states other than Kerala, at least in 2002.
So it is getting late to realize our new dioceses, if the real intention of these dioceses and new Metropolitans are serving the faithful. We are getting late means there may not remain much faithful to serve. Many of our metropolitans are overburdened with responsibilities. We have only one Metropolitan for Kottayam and Outside Kerala, while the same area is administered by 7 Metropolitans in IOC. It is only about a year that we ordained a metropolitan for Delhi region under Outside Kerala diocese but that too is auxiliary not independent. The IOC have Kottayam, Kottayam Central and Idukki dioceses corresponding to the area of our Kottayam diocese and Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi dioceses and Metropolitans corresponding to our Outside Kerala diocese. IOC is planning to realize their Banglore diocese soon. I am not suggesting a competition with IOC in terms of Dioceses and Metropolitans. But everybody will have to admit that the establishment of organized dioceses well in advance is the major reason of prosperity that the IOC achieved in Outside Kerala.
No body will argue that we are scarce with Metropolitans. I really wonder what is the need of four metropolitans for Simhasana Churches in Kerala, that also excepting Malabar region where Simhasana Churches are administered by the diocesan Metropolitan. We have Metropolitans as Abbot and Auxiliary Abbot of Manjanikkara Dayara (where pilgrims turn into crowd only in the month of February) and as Abbot of Malekurishu Dayara also, while we really want service of Metropolitans for some other areas. So it is not the number of Metropolitans we ordain, but how they are distributed over responsibilities, really matters in the growth and prosperity of the church.
All these suggest (even though we all pray that it won't happen) the existence of some sort of disagreements, either temporal on power or personal, between our High Priests. Only when they can come out of these issues and alignments, then only our church can really grow and prosper. We the loyalists to the Holy Petrine Throne can only wait patiently, painfully and of course prayerfully.