Catholicos calls for educating Orthodox community on church’s role in politics

Written By: on May 23rd, 2011 and filed under Columns, Features, Opinions.

Supreme head favours retirement age for bishops; deemed varsity status for old seminary soon

MOSC to extend helping hand to Egyptian Orthodox Christians if needed

Sees tiff with Patriarch faction as confrontation between justice and injustice, cannot accept foreign leadership in an Indian set up.

MUSCAT: The Catholicos and Malankara Metropolitan HH Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, paid a 3-day visit to the Sultanate of Oman in March. During a 96-hour hectic visit the supreme head led the Holy Eucharist, attended receptions, family prayer meetings, addressed media conferences and held photo sessions.

The Holy Father also travelled to Salalah on a day’s visit. Despite his schedules, the Catholicos found time for a one-to-one exclusive interview with the IOH Muscat during which he answered a wide range of questions at the Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka. These ranged from why the MOSC has been neglected by various political groups, reconciliation efforts with the Patriarch faction and women’s emancipation through the proposed voting rights. Later, the day also saw the Catholicos keeping his official appointments with the Awqaf and Religious Affairs Minister and the Grand Mufti. His Holiness switched over to Malayalam after initially beginning the over a hour-long interview in English.

Excerpts

Q: What is your vision for the Gulf Orthodox churches and your opinion on expatriates here…

A: I am happy that the expatriates are always loyal to the government because we know that all the Malayalis when they are in Kerala or in India they are not able to express their potential and capability. There are so many reasons, politically, local or social but whenever they go outside of their homeland, personally speaking, they are highly potential and are highly loyal to the government. I can say they are very, far, far better in work and character. They are Indians and none will disagree with what I said. Every Malayali, when they come here they work hard, they try to prove their capability and are highly honoured, that is what I feel…

You know very well that Kerala is a consumer state, because we are not able to invest there and unable to work there nor able to express our potentiality and capability. The same holds good for the Orthodox churches here and the community here are hard working and goal-centred.

Q: Egyptian Orthodox Christians are suffering in their homeland and subjected to sectarian conflicts. Will MOSC interfere if our help is sought?

A: This is a local political issue. We can pray to God that there will be peace in the end. We are not at all troubling the government or the local people or the citizens of any country. Peace is the solution for all countries towards all its problems. If the locals disagree with the administration and their rulers, it can also be stabilized by way of dialogue and all that because the problem does not only stop there. It is a like a contagious disease and some social problem may arise in neighbouring countries too. I don’t think any expatriates in Egypt create any problem to the locals or to the government. They go in search for a livelihood there.

Whatever it is, if they need any kind of help, we are ready to help them out. We do not know the actual political situation existing there, if we go there and offer some kind of help to them, it may either flare up the whole situation or it might come to peace. But if they inform us what their requirement is, we shall be ready to provide them all help either at the government, social or at our own community level. We will definitely act if such a request comes. But we cannot act upon a political crisis there. We are bound to help them for whatever need they require, be it diplomatic or at government level.

We will get together with other communities to promote peace and stability. India’s basic foundation is laid on peace and harmony, which is Ahimsa. Indians do not go anywhere to create trouble, our culture is not that. Mahatma Gandhi did not teach us violence; he practiced non-violence, co-operation, all these form part of our basic foundation. Our philosophy is also based on religion, god-fearing, truth, justice, non-violence – all these are our basic teachings and doctrines.

Q: What is our stand on politics and why have we been sidelined despite being the second largest Christian community? What are the other alternatives?

A: We have been grossly sidelined by both the main political groups in Kerala. For this, the first and foremost thing we have to do is to educate our community about this; otherwise it will destroy the very existence of the community. Both the groups really don’t care a damn for the community though we are the second largest Christian community in the state. This rejection (by political groups) has led to a situation where we have no ability to react. Thereby our words or standing has no meaning. All communities have a voice. But it is not the case with our community. This is mainly because our community is not sure of standing firmly under a single leadership and we are not ready to be controlled by a leadership or obey his ideas. We are highly selfish….

There is no alternative but we will gradually communicate this to the ordinary people.

Take the case of Punalur Assembly constituency. We were initially told that a person from our community was offered a seat in the polls, but towards the end were told that someone else have been offered the ticket. When we enquired, we didn’t get any concrete reasons as to why this happened and we were taken lightly.
As leader of the Malankara Orthodox community, we should lead the community to educate the people on this but we cannot toe a political line or political principles. Our community is becoming voiceless and powerless and this will do us more harm in the days ahead. All these cannot be done overnight. A beginning has to be made at least now.

Let me reiterate that our church will not enter politics. However, our church will communicate the issues to both the political fronts. Many of our church members are members of different political parties. Church will not direct its members to support a particular political party. Instead, it will encourage its members to support candidates who work for the common good of the society, that is our view.

Q:Will there be a peaceful reunion ever with the Patriarch faction and what about the reconciliation efforts done in this regard…

A: (Switches over to Malayalam with a request….)
oh…This is a confrontation between justice and injustice. This is purely an ethical problem. Either we should hold up justice or should we support injustice. Say for example: in the Mahabharat, during the Kurukshetra war between Pandavas and Kauravas, there was justice among the Pandavas, but not among the hundreds. At that time, there came a situation when Arjuna (master archer) had to take a decision regarding going to war — we see a sad and disheartened Arjuna placing the bow and arrow on the ground. At this stage, a confused Arjuna feels that if he begins the conflict, his brothers will die. That’s why he decides that he is not powerful enough to wage a war, whatever be the loss. At that point of time, Lord Krishna enters the scene and advises Arjuna to perform his duty. That means to uphold justice. If a war should happen, then it should happen. Else, what you do is considered to be injustice… this interpretation is mentioned in Hindu mythology but our Lord Jesus doesn’t teach us this.

But one fact is very right: what is the yardstick for measuring justice and injustice in the context of our situation in Kerala and the country. Suppose if we are unable to get justice, we will approach the respected courts. This is justice. If they say this is not justice, then what is justice? This is my question? Secondly, we cannot identify ourselves under or accept a foreign leadership, be it politically, socially or religiously. Orthodox people are always pleading for an indigenised Indian national culture. The illegal ways of approach used in religious activities cannot go on.

I said two main factors: One is confrontation between justice and injustice. In this context Jesus Christ also faced a stage where He had to accept punishment in order to fulfill justice. Here Pilate when asked Jesus what is truth, Jesus answered him saying “you know the truth.”

What I am saying is this factional fight is a confrontation between justice and injustice. What is the measuring tool to evaluate this?

In a democratic set up, the proper means to know which is justice and injustice, must be proved and declared by the judiciary. An acceptance of a foreign leadership serves no good for the community. In a way it’s something similar to slavery.

Here, some who want to achieve their own personal ends, who don’t want to obey any laws, politically with wrong preaching or in an unprofessional manner runs the show.

Two months back I visited Mulanthuruthy Church and led the Holy Qurbana. I have never entered the church during my childhood nor after I had grown up. The authorities informed that the Orthodox Catholicos was arriving to perform the service. I stepped in, completed the Eucharist and it was calm throughout and came back peacefully. The problem here now is creating atrocities and pleasing some minor groups and fomenting trouble. These groups (other faction) if they want to go out they can do it and we don’t bother, and will not question that right..

‘Needhiyudhe sothu aneedithullavan thattiparikkunnadhe sherialla…’

There are murders taking place, criminals are being encouraged and it is bad that at a religious level, a top religious head is into such heinous crimes which he should not have done. This is my frank opinion. But we cannot stop all these.

‘Bellamullavan, bellamillathavane akrami kunnu..’ that’s what is happening here. But I want to stress again that we cannot live under or accept a foreign leadership in an Indian democratic set up.

Secondly, if it is a confrontation between justice and injustice, to prove the definition of justice we can use established norms. Otherwise, if they are keen in believing or following a foreign leadership, then do not plead for the assets.

We are always ready for reconciliation. Whatever happens has to be within the framework of the 1934 Constitution which has been approved by the Supreme Court. Even if the people are one, some leaders have different opinions. They want foreign domination. But we cannot accept that and we want our church to be independent.

Q: The old seminary turns 200 in 2015 but still its syllabus is still based on the Serampore University. Will you take the lead to make it a deemed university? MOSC also celebrates its 100th anniversary next year and what are its main plans.

A: Surely. We have already started it technically, but it has to proceed further. We do have some problems being affiliated to Serampore University towards teaching our dogmas and doctrines properly. We have to do it more carefully and want more students to study at the seminary. We have charted out the plans but finance is a problem. We have to see if we can keep up our ethical stand, but if done it will be fine. We need to have a proper infrastructure to implement it. Surely, we will make it a deemed university with UGC recognition and efforts have already begun in this direction.

For the centenary celebrations, a separate committee has been formed and they will look into it. The basic principles of the church however are the same, like helping the poor and the marginalised.

Q: How about ecumenical efforts to bring all Christian factions together. Will MOSC give stress to it under your lead.

A: Ecumenical relations with other communities are good. Any one section swallowing (or silencing) up the other or not recognising is not proper. Let us keep the identity of all the churches and come together to work for a common cause and against social evils. Ecumenism is vast or forms a major part of the community.

We all have different dogmas and doctrines. Jesus Christ is only one. But what He said is been interpreted or defined differently and in different angles. We don’t have to bother. Every one has their own traditions. So what we need from ecumenism in my opinion is respect for each other, acceptance between each other, along with that many common causes and difficulties faced by man. On such grounds we can unite together — so coming together for a common cause to bring peace, harmony and truth in the society is good and appreciable.

Q: What measures will you take to help revise our constitution in the light of women soon getting voting privileges.

A: The entry of women towards a voting system is good. The constitution has to be changed and it has got its own proceedings. However, the most important difficulty here is that now a bishop is being elected by a samithi or a parliament consisting of 4,000 members. With the inclusion of women, it will be around 8,000, which is an unwieldy issue.

Therefore, there should be proper canvassing and subjective quality is best called for. I mean to say regarding the election, we have to look into the ethics, quality, financial stand and how important it is for the efficiency of the system.

Democracy has got it merits and demerits. Women’s way of thinking is different and is in different spheres. However, it will have its merits and demerits. Finally, we have to find the pros and cons of implementing this major decision by the Sabha.

Q: Are you in favour of retirement age for bishops? How will the church utitlise their services post-retirement.

A: Surely, before I was of the opinion that there should not be a retirement age for bishops. But, earlier, we had fever number of bishops. There were no unwieldy problems as I said earlier. Presently the number of bishops has gone up with the rise in diocese and the area wise. Earlier, there was a single bishop and a single diocese. Those days, to see or to meet with a Thirumeni we had to wait for a long time. Now it is not like that. In order to bring efficiency to the system, we should keep an age bar for retirement. This will not create any harm, that is my opinion. We should change in with the times. If not it will reduce the efficiency of the sabha as such.

I think I have been able to answer all your queries.
Thank you and God Bless

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15 Responses for “Catholicos calls for educating Orthodox community on church’s role in politics”

  1. Reni Daniel says:

    @Abraham
    Holding my comment to myself? I thought this is a place for commenting.
    The disclaimer from moderator is pretty clear and I don’t think anyone would require further explantion unless it is from the IOH moderator
    The funniest part is that before advisiing me to reserve my comment, you have broken your own advice.

  2. Abraham says:

    @George

    Whatever people write here, are there personal opinions, and has nothing to do with the views of the church leadership.

    Secondly, may I ask, who is formenting trouble among syrian christians? Can you guide me to one church in kerala without politial aspirations ? MOSC/JOSC requires political support, to assist them get court orders imlemented, to stop takeover of churches, to open closed churches etc etc. Unlike some churches in kerala, our political aspirations are NOT to cover up nasty business deals, run profit making academical institutions, influence shape/backtrack govt laws, cover up muder cases etc etc…

    @ Reni Daniel,

    Please dont turn IOH into another MOtv Blog. Its not Orthodox christians alone who read these. Hold your comments to yourselves, when you are using a christian platform associated with a church.

  3. Reni Daniel says:

    Theoretically any Roman catholic is equally eligible to become POPE. Practically NONE has ever become except from Europe. It is NOT going to happen , even from Latin America where they have the highest number of Catholics.

    Well who is complaining? Catholics in India have already told to restore their pristine freedom. It will take another decade for Jacobites who are still on war with their brethren.

    Candidates are selcted according to their religious affiliation in the state. What HH Bava was that you should not discriminate on the bases of church affiliation.
    That is why we responded even without HH Bava asking us to vote for any party. When my wife and I voted for LDF in Ernakulam we knew already that only UDF would win. Ours was protest vote against this strategy of Roman Catholics who wanted all the seats. HH Bava had never issued IDAYALEKHANAM like Catholics nor asked faithful to work in LDF like HH patriarch did on his visit to India. But Please don’t think we teh faithful are fools. In teh next election too my family will vote for LDF if Congress discriminate against Orthodox Church.

  4. Reni Daniel says:

    @george,
    Can any Jacobite born here in India become leader of Syrian Church? I has been clearly mentione din their constitution that ONLY AN ARAB can become theie HEAD, PATRIACH. This is called SLAVERY. This is RACISM.

  5. george says:

    I am also a person residing outside Kerala and not much into church politics. But I feel there is a freedom of selection and faith is given in our constitution. Hence if Roman catholic or Jacobite would like to have their spiritual head originated from foreign country, what is the problem for you guys? There is a freedom of faith and expression in our country. I have great regards for your HH. But I cant accept his policy of mixing politics with religion and fomenting troubles among syrian christian communities in Kerala.
    It is always better to divide and grow in this situationa and pressurise people to follow your path of belief.

  6. H.H. Bava Thirumeni is very certain in some of the points during H.H. interview. The points to give voting right for women is important and the Church constitution shall change to make the electoral parliament limited to only 4000 Association members including women. Also the Church Managing committee’s elected members strength limited as 129. There is no need for members to the above bodies. The Indian Parliament did not increased the member’s strength even though our present population went up to 1.25 Billion. Another major issue heard in the interview was the retirement of for Diocesan Bishops which shall be implemented with top priority. Now H H Bava Thirumeni if wholeheartedly initiate / wanted then things can bring-forth and make all the good changes for the best future of the Orthodox Church.

  7. Reni Daniel says:

    Just like countries won politically freedom in the last century, religious colonies will be freed in this century.
    We are leading this movement in India. Roman catholics in India , Jacobites, Pentacostals who are slaves of Americans,… all will follow this path of FREEDOM soon. THANK GOD

  8. Reni Daniel says:

    Had the British who ruled India for a very long period treated Indians as EQUAL to their own Brtish citizens in England, Indians would never have cried for independence.

    IT WAS THE BRITSH WHO TREATED INDIANS AS FOREIGNERS, NOT THE OTHER WAY.
    SO INDIAN INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT WAS A FIGHT FOR NATURAL AND GODLY JUSTICE.

  9. Reni Daniel says:

    @George
    Who is treating who as foreignner is theissue here.
    Jesus dies for all of us, thus our Lord is not treaitng me as a foreigner.

    Now let us take case by case
    POPE of Roman Cathiolic Church:
    In 2009, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil speaking after the release of his biography, Straight From the Heart, said “Roman Catholic Church Church is not treating Syro Malabar Church on a par with teh Latin Rite.

    Now very recently during the ‘ad limina’ in vatican on April 7, 2011. Read detailed report in Catholic Nes Service, which is available on net.

    The Vatican and many of the Latin-rite bishops of India are not treating the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church with justice, and that makes the church look bad, Auxiliary Bishop Bosco Puthur of Ernakulam-Angamaly told Pope Benedict XVI……are subject to the authority of the local Latin-rite bishop………
    “We are convinced that it is the credibility of the Apostolic See that is at stake if this jurisdictional right is not restored to its pristine status,” the bishop said………(READ FULL REPORT)

    WHO IS TREATING WHOM AS FOREIGNER, Mr George?

    NO need to expain the freedom concepts of Antioch patriarch.. What happed to the powers of HB THOMAS I over his US jacobites? You know better..

    SO IT IS CLEAR…. JESUS DOESN”T TREAT US AS FOREIGNER, wheras ANTIOCH, ROME treat Indians as Foreigners.

  10. george says:

    Why orthodox indian should accept a foreign suprimacy? But they cant dictaate to Catholics, Malankara Catolic or Jacobite to accepet their supreme religious head enthroned outside India. Jesus himself is a foreigner

  11. Reni Daniel says:

    The Church should remain vigilant about this issue and eb very firm. The advisors of the UDf leadership must have advised Congress and UDF leadership not to be worried about the initial reaction of the Church. Their advise would be NOT to be cowed down by this result and change the policy towards the Orthodox Church as they (Orthodox Church) would accept the reality finally.

    As our Holy Father sugested we should begin a campaign to awaken the political consciousness of our faithful.
    We should train more youngsters in to be active politics.
    In fact teh people who tell “not to become political coinscous” are SELFISH as they do not LOVE society. This trend has happened due to the SOFT_PENTACOSTAL mentality of some of our own people. We had very good leaers who were concerned abot society at large. This trend which started about a coupel of decades ago is due to the rise in SELFISH ‘SAVED’ menetality.

  12. Reni Daniel says:

    I wish one of my children should be in politics.
    What can our Church do for such children to gain political wisdom?
    Can we train a dozen talented students a year for political career?

    Reni Daniel
    Kochi

  13. Very Informative Interview.

  14. IOH MUSCAT says:

    Dear Tenny
    Thank you for your mail informing about the factual error.
    The Editor-in-Chief, IOH has carried out the correction.
    Regards
    IOH, Muscat

  15. Tenny Thomas says:

    Ramban Ittoop founded the Orthodox Seminary in 1815. Colonel John Munro, the British Resident in the Kingdom of Travancore supported the initiative and Gowri Parvathi Bai, the queen of Travancore granted 16 acres of tax-free land for the construction of the Seminary. The work started in 1813 and the building was completed and classes begun in March 1815. The Orthodox Theological Seminary will be 200 years old in 2015 and not 100. In fact OTS is older than Serampore University itself.

    This is not the first or the second or the third time the writer has his facts wrong. It is my humble request to the writer and the editors to please double check facts before posting on the site. I have made repeated comments and suggestions, but so far it looks like it has fallen to deaf ears.

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