Launches old age pension scheme for Adoor Diocese, first of its kind
Visual media classes for Sunday School students introduced
Equal rights for women to greatly benefit those based outside Kerala
Model home for the aged planned
Mickey Mouse-like cartoon characters to be adopted to teach teachings of saints to kids
MUSCAT : HG Dr Zachariah Mar Aprem (45), Metropolitan of Adoor-Kadampanaadu Diocese, was in Muscat recently for the Harvest and Parish Day celebrations of Muscat Mar Gregorios Orthodox Maha Edavaka as its chief celebrant. The Metropolitan also visited Orthodox churches in Sohar and Salalah during his two-week visit before he returned to Kerala.
Mar Aprem (Fr Sabu Kuriakose) a Registrar at Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam is also a fierce orator and a gifted singer. His Grace also serves as Assistant to Malankara Metropolitan, assisting the Catholicos in day-to-day administrative affairs. During his visit, Mar Aprem spent time to discuss various aspects about the vision of his new Diocese, old age pension scheme for his Diocese, the lingering feud of Kolencherry church and other issues in a frank interview.
Nature of work as Assistant to Malankara Metropolitan:
I had been the Principal Secretary to the Catholicos Emeritus Baselios Marthoma Didymus I all through his reigning years. With this vast administrative experience, I am presently working as Assistant to the Malankara Metropolitan. It is a tight schedule since I am also heading a new diocese. The work as Assistant to HH has more executive powers. Since a Catholicose-designate is not being elected, I am also looking after as the assistant. This was based on the consent of all the senior Metropolitans and also since I was Principal Secretary to the Catholicos Emeritus.
I am stationed at the Kottayam seminary twice a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Under an existing system, I can definitely say that my heading a new diocese is the most challenging task, than the work as Assistant.
The task of carving 7 new dioceses was a herculean task. Another challenge is the Malankara Association meeting in March 2012 when there will be a reshuffle of the managing committee members in the ratio of 1:2. This meeting will elect members to the next Malankara Managing Committee and the new Committee will replace the present one that completes its tenure next year. However, there will be no increase from the number of Managing Committee’s 129 elected members and 30 nominees of Malankara Metropolitan. The 2012 Malankara Association gains utmost importance considering the fact that the Centenary of the establishment of the Catholicate also falls in 2012.
On Vision of Adoor-Kadampanaadu diocese:
Earlier, Adoor was under Pathanapuram diocese and it was a collective decision of placing Adoor under a new diocese. The intention was that the faithful should receive more Episcopal presence, attention and supervision. It is a small diocese but with a big responsibility and I am determined to build it up as a challenge. I have to be accessible to all sections of the diocese. I have had several rare visits to the residences of the diocese members which were warm and affectionate. During such a visit in Adoor, a 74-year-old bed-ridden paralysed lady kissed my palm with tears said: “This is for the first time I am meeting and touching a Thirumeni.”
I have also targeted the youth and children. For an hour every month we interact with Sunday School children and teach them new songs. We had the Angels’ meet at Pathanapuram for 600 Sunday School children which was highly successful. All the five spiritual wings of the diocese are active in my diocese.
Shalabangal, a magazine like Balarama (children’s weekly comics-digest) was released exclusively for Sunday School children. Shalabangal, is an informative tri-monthly colour magazine containing Biblical stories, messages from metropolitans, general knowledge and other moral stories. The magazine is priced at Rs 10.
On old age pension scheme:
I am making all efforts to consolidate my diocese. During the first meeting with the vicars, I decided to visit all the 48 churches having around 8,000 families. As I step into the second year of heading the new diocese, I am confident of taking it to further heights. During my visits, I could notice how the old and infirm were neglected by their kith and kin. They need company and solace at this age. The diocese which formed a committee came out with the idea of the old age pension scheme. Presently, we are distributing Rs 750 per month to about 110 old and infirm persons in the diocese. Out of Rs 750, Rs 500 is given from diocese level and the remaining at parish level. I am personally sponsoring at least 25 persons for the scheme. We intend to increase the amount if we are able to find more sponsors.
Future plans of the Diocese:
We want to do more for the weaker and neglected upper class. Later we plan to have an old age home in a 1 1/2 acre plot with all modern amenities like clinic, reading room, chapel which will be under the supervision of a vicar. It will be a standard and model one and not a conventional one. The inmates must have a family feeling at their place of stay and we have to give prominence to this.Our immediate priority will be to develop Epiphanios Centre (HQ Adoor-Kadampanaadu diocese) and to launch more income generating schemes. Also there are plans to have a self supporting system and future plans are to purchase 4-5 acre of rubber plantations in the Patanapuram-Koodal area.
Every month we have a monthly meeting of priests and all issues are discussed threadbare and their views taken into confidence.
Introduction of visual media:
In October we introduced visual media classes for Sunday school students of class 8-12 in my diocese. On a projector the students were explained the meaning of sacraments and liturgical aspects in English and Malayalam. It is purely faith oriented. During the Catholicate Centenary celebrations we have plans to have bring all sacraments under visual media. Fr John Samuel and Fr Ashwin Fernandes from UK will be specially looking into this to implement the project.
We are planning introduce Mickey Mouse-like cartoon characters to teach teachings of saints to kids so that they understand them quickly. This will be for students up to third standard which will also develop their vision better.
On Kolencherry church standoff:
The court had granted the right of administration of the church to the Orthodox faction, but the government is yet to implement the order, and is said to be looking to settle the matter in an amicable manner. A sub-committee of the State Assembly has conducted six rounds of talks with the representatives of both the factions, but is yet to find a way out. It is purely the inaction of the State government in implementing the court order in the Kolenchery issue.
The government’s insincerity with regard to the case has been exposed.It is really unfortunate the talks are dragging on even after six rounds. There is no hope for reconciliation efforts between the two groups. The state government as everyone knows has failed to execute the court order which allows us the ownership of the two churches. The present UDF government must be determined to implement decisions of the court and they have a constitutional responsibility. This is not merely a church issue at all and cannot be taken from that angle. It was a mutual empowerment and a decision of the executive, legislature, and the judiciary. A just decision has to be taken before it is too late. If the next generation has to have faith in a system, we have to agree to this. We need to have a law abiding government where by all the sections of the society will follow a collective will. Had the court order being implemented, it would have been a reflection on the chief minister and his leadership abilities. We need to have stern, determined leaders who can act boldly and not being coward to solve the issue.
The Chief Minister has assured both the factions that the government would settle the scuffle over the ownership of St Peters and Paul’s Church amicably. Both factions had raised allegations against each other during the recent agitation after the verdict. Though the High Court’s Kerala Mediation Centre intervened in the issue, the issue has remained unsettled. The Chief Minister has to act but there are other compulsions.
On women’s emancipation:
For the first time women are getting full membership in parish assembly, which is a revolutionary thing to happen in our Church. A good decision on the revision of the Constitution has been made, whereby women folk will be entering the mainstream of parish administration. The proposals of the Rule Committee that women have the right to vote at the general body and to take part in its activity have to be welcomed. This will bring in changes also at the administrative level involving the participation of all. Let me tell you, here power is not the only criteria but it will definitely have a reflection on all aspects. It will of great help to women members based outside Kerala Diocese due to their forward thinking and ability to take initiatives.