31 July 2012
CNEWA’s Bob Pape shares with Cardinal George Alencherry a copy of The Long Island Catholic, featuring the prelate’s visit to a parish in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. (photo: Erin Edwards)
Today, CNEWA welcomed to its offices the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, who is visiting the United States on a pastoral trip. The four-million-strong Syro-Malabar Church is one of the 22 Eastern churches in full communion with Rome and, said the engaging prelate, is “a church that goes out” to preach the Good News.
“A church that does not preach, teach and baptize in the name of the Father will be dormant and will eventually die,” he said. We must not be afraid of temporary failures, he continued. “Not even St. Paul was always successful. But if the church lives the Gospel as Christ intended, we will attract even those who hate us.”
A native of Kerala, the cardinal met with CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, and CNEWA’s New York-based staff. He spoke eloquently about the growth of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in its heartland of southern India, but also throughout the subcontinent and beyond. Despite the presence of hundreds of castes in India, “the Malabar Church holds together” and is “making advances” among the dalits, the suppressed peoples throughout India once called the “untouchables.”
Even as Kerala changes from a rural state to an advanced economy, the cardinal commented on the commitment to the faith made by Syro-Malabar Catholics. “There are different aspects to the growth of the faith,” he said. “There’s a more serious commitment, especially with the concept of charity ... it isn’t just a family tradition anymore.
“At the same time,” he said, “the faithful are going along on their own accord ... internalizing the faith and expressing it” more as individuals and less as parish-centered communities than before. Cardinal Alencherry noted that this change has evolved particularly in the past 20 or 30 years and that it has challenged the “pastoral approaches of our priests.”
Priestly “formation has had to change,” he said, so that Syro-Malabar priests “can adapt and address particular pastoral needs.”
The cardinal spoke about the welcoming environment given to Syro-Malabar Catholics by the church of North America, which includes nearly 100,000 Syro-Malabars in the United States alone. He noted, too, the importance of governing structures to support the church outside its “proper territory.” Prayers, the Eucharist and relationships among Syro-Malabar families in practicing the faith, he said, keep the church alive and are “good for the Latin Church, too. Otherwise, we lose them.”
“Wherever there are conflicts in the church,” he said, “you will find a lack of dialogue, a lack of communication.
“I always tell my bishops and priests that we are called to serve, and to serve means to engage in dialogue with truth and love.”
Tags: CNEWA Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Indian Christians Urbanization Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly