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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
7 August 2012
Greg Kandra

Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis greets CNEWA employee Elizabeth Thomas, who is originally from southern India. (photo: Erin Edwards)

“Witnessing is the most important thing in the Christian life.”

That was the prevailing message of Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, as he paid a visit to CNEWA’s central offices in New York this morning. His Beatitude is on a pastoral visit to some of his church’s parishes and communities in the United States and will attend its annual convention held later this month.

Accompanied by the exarch for Syro-Malankara Catholics in North America and Europe, Bishop Thomas Mar Eusebius, His Beatitude shared some of his thoughts about his country, its people and the vibrant faith they have brought to North America. During a wide-ranging conversation in our staff conference room, he spoke passionately and eloquently about “witnessing” to the faith — through acts of compassion, charity and simple piety.

“We do that,” he said, “through education, through health care, through caring for those with H.I.V. and leprosy. It has to do with human dignity. I am proud and happy of how our people give witness with how they live.”

The major archbishop also wanted to underscore the universality of the Catholic Church. “Catholicity,” he noted, “is not uniformity, but diversity.” And he said that the Syro-Malankara Church could make its own unique contribution to “bring a new dimension to the Catholic Church.”

“We promote the theology of communion,” he said. “In this country, we have a strong vocation of being an apostle of communion.”

We are not here, he said, “just to preserve our linguistic tradition, but to strengthen the existing Catholic community. The church is beyond ethnic and linguistic boundaries.

“A lot of people have deserted, have gone away from the church and I think we have a responsibility. ... We have a role to play, to bring people back to the fold,” he continued.

Mar Cleemis was especially excited about reaching out to Hispanic non-Catholics in the United States, and working to draw them back into the faith.

“We want to make our liturgical experience available to them,” he said emphatically, “and I think we must seriously work to promote Catholic communion among them. That is my special dream for our presence in the U.S.”

In drawing a portrait of his immediate predecessor, Cyril Mar Baselios, he described the unassuming archbishop as “a man set apart for all.” In fact, this is a unique charism of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and those who lead it.

Tags: CNEWA Indian Catholics Syro-Malankara Catholic Church