Is The Catholicate Of The Romo-Syrians In India Canonically Genuine Or Bogus?

Written By: on Jun 21st, 2009 and filed under Editorial.

On the contrary, the so-called Chaldean (now Malabarese) Roman Catholics were proud of calling themselves Roman Catholics (I have seen school documents of many students verifying this fact). However, Vatican II influenced them also to a new direction seeking an ethnic or national identity like any other eastern churches. In this process of seeking self-identity scholars of both the so-called Chaldean Roman Catholics and the Malankarese Syrian Catholics following Roman agenda, coined two innovative phrases to signify their groups. Although Malankara and Malabar were former names of the southwest part of India, and they both meant the same, each of these groups began to be recognized based on these names. In the mid-1960’s the ecclesiastical and liturgical status of the Roman Catholic Syrians (belonging to the Nestorian rite) was restored (?). (This is a joke, readers. Some of the ancient Nestorian-based liturgical books were brought on surface, and were translated into Malayalam. Vernacularization was the only reform that took place there. Other than that they act like Roman Catholics, their bishops and priests vest like the Romans except for the cope, they have an unbearded clergy, their wedding has no crowning, and the church life is totally western and Roma. The Rosary, the Way of the Cross and the Eucharistic Procession and Benediction are their most important exercises of piety. Their Major Archbishop Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil was totally vested like Roman Catholic Cardinal during the recent conclave to elect the pope unlike three other two other uniate cardinal who looked basically eastern in their vestments! We have to dedicate another editorial for them).

With the so-called restoration came a new name for them, probably as suggested by the scholars of liturgy and history of their Church. Thus the so-called Roman Catholic Chaldean Syrians were renamed the Syro-Malabar Catholic Rite, and the group started by Bishop Ivanios, who defected from Orthodoxy, was rechristened with the name “Syro-Malankara Catholic Rite”, because its close affinity with the name, Malankara. These names went through changes again. There was another movement demanding the status of a Church for them. Thus the word, Rite, was dropped, and it was replaced with the word, Church. Thus we had two Roman Eastern Churches in India, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. The confusion did not end there! Was the Church of Galatia, or the Church of Corinth called the Catholic Church of Corinth or the Catholic Church of Galatia? No! “Let us change the names again”, Rome must have mandated, or these groups must have demanded. Now these churches are without a “Catholic” character. They are now simply Syro-Malabar Church and Syro-Malankara Church! God! When a church goes through such a crisis of identity, what kind of character does it possess? Is it independent, self-governed, or genuine at all? This is what happens when you submit yourself as a slave before a foreign lord. He calls you with different names according his pleasure and mood. Yes, Rome has the ultimate authority to give you a name, and you accept it with deep devotion.

How could these groups deny that they are “Roman” Catholics? Let me ask the following:

  • Do they not believe in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit also from the Son (the filioque clause) as taught by the Roman Church?
  • Do they not believe that the epiklesis is not important for the elemental change in the Eucharist? Why do the unites still deeply bow before the elements immediately after the words of institution?
  • Do they not believe in the immaculate conception of Mary, the Mother of God?
  • Do they not believe in purgatory and indulgences?
  • Do they not follow the Roman Catholic practice of Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, which are antithetical to the theology of the Eucharist according to Eastern theology?
  • Is not their spirituality fundamentally Roman, which is anchored on rosaries, the way of cross, Marian devotions outside the liturgy, etc.?
  • Do not they keep and encourage the Roman discipline of a celibate (?) clergy which is totally antithetical to the life of the Church according to Eastern theology?
  • Do not they give assent to the Roman heresies of papal primacy and infallibility?

If these groups follow and accept the above mentioned Roman doctrines, how could they be anything but Roman Catholic? Yes, they are Roman Catholic Syrians.

Just before the new Pope, Benedict XVI, was presented to the faithful waiting in the St. Peter’s Square, the Proto-Deacon of the College of Cardinals, Jorge Arturo Cardinal Medina Estevez , came onto the Loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica and announced in Latin:

“Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam, Eminentissimum ac Reverentissimum Dominum, Dominum Iosephum, Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger, qui sibi nomen impisuit BENEDICTUM XVI”

Do not you belong to the Holy Roman Catholic Church that Cardinal Medina Estevez is referring to? Why are you ashamed of using the word, Roman with your name? Or is there a hidden agendum for not using the word, Roman, with your name? There are many churches other than the Roman Catholic Church that constantly use the adjective “Catholic” with their names, including the Anglican Church which is a Protestant Church. Some orthodox churches also use “Catholic” with their names. When all these churches are claiming to be Catholic, it is ludicrous to claim that catholicity is the sole property of the Roman Church. Let us be honest: the only character the Church of Rome can claim for itself is its Romanness, which no other Church tries to claim for itself. When we call the follower of the Roman Church a Roman Catholic, we are indeed more charitable to our brother who follows the faith of the Roman Church!

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