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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
30 August 2019
Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service




In this image from 2012, Cardinal George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India, is pictured at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

In a step designed to quell ongoing controversies, the Vatican announced the appointment of a vicar for the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and Pope Francis conferred on him the personal title of archbishop.

Archbishop Antony Kariyil had led the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Mandya, India, and served as secretary of the synod of bishops of the Eastern-rite church before his appointment as vicar was announced by the Vatican on 30 August.

The website Matters India reported that the synod, in agreement with the Vatican, created the post of vicar to the major archbishop to help deal with ongoing controversies involving Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, major archbishop of the church.

The vicar was to have broad administrative powers and complete control over the financial affairs of the archdiocese, but the cardinal would retain the title of major archbishop and must be consulted on important decisions, the website said.

Matters India also reported that the synod lifted the suspension of the archdiocese’s two auxiliary bishops and transferred them to other dioceses: Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath will succeed Archbishop Kariyil in Mandya and Bishop Jose Puthenveettil will become auxiliary bishop of Faridabad. Both appointments were announced by the Vatican on 30 August.

In June 2018, Pope Francis had named an apostolic administrator to run the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly in an effort to put an end to infighting and financial controversies aggravated by disputed land deals approved by the cardinal.



Tags: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church

21 August 2019
CNEWA Staff




Flash floods in Kerala have wiped out houses, leaving many families homeless and in desperate need. (photo: CNEWA)

Catholic Near East Welfare Association has received urgent requests for aid from partners in flood-ravaged Kerala in southern India.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy (diocese) of Palghat reports that torrential rains have triggered landslides in the hilly areas of the Palakkad District, burying houses, people, livestock and patches of agricultural lands in mud several feet deep. CNEWA’s regional director in Kerala, M.L. Thomas, adds that flash floods have ravaged the lower regions of the district, destroying houses and fields located along its rivers and streams.

“Raging floodwaters have caused massive mudslides in the hilly areas,” he writes. “Farm lands have been wiped out and houses have disappeared. It is heartbreaking to watch.”

Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat and the bishops in the neighboring eparchies of Mananthavady and Thamarassery have asked CNEWA for monies to help clean and restore homes for the poorest families affected by the flooding and landslides, as well as funds to help subsistence farmers clear their devastated plots — most of which are smaller than 2 acres — and reclaim them for vegetable cultivation and the keeping of livestock, such as pigs and goats and chickens.

CNEWA is asking our generous donors to help our suffering brothers and sisters in southern India in their hour of need.

Many residents of Kerala depend on livestock and agriculture for their livelihood — and these have been wiped out by the flooding. (photo: CNEWA)

“Their livelihoods have been shattered,” Mr. Thomas writes, “and measures need to be taken to restore their lives as soon as possible.”

Click here to help people affected by floods in Kerala.

In the United States, urgent donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800 442 6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022 4195.

In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1 866 322 4441.

Since the torrential rains began on 8 August, more than a quarter of a million people have been displaced and housed in temporary shelters, including in parish community centers. As priests and sisters visit the hardest hit families, parishes are mobilizing relief supplies for those who remain displaced and living in camps. The death toll continues to climb — at least 200 by several accounts — as bodies are recovered from homes buried in mud.

The flood devastation has left many Kerala residents trying to salvage whatever they can of their homes. (video: CNEWA)

“While we are not an emergency relief organization,” says CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John Kozar, “I urge our friends and benefactors to do what they can to help us as we accompany the churches of Kerala respond to these real human tragedies.

“Helping the poorest of the poor — right now through the eparchies of Palghat, Mananthavady and Thamarassery — is a beautiful expression of how we stand in solidarity with the Eastern Catholic churches.”

An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the subcontinent of India, the Middle East, Northeast Africa and Eastern Europe. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to displaced families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the children, elderly and disabled; and offering formation and supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders.

CNEWA is a registered charity in the United States by the State of New York and in Canada. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued.



Tags: CNEWA Kerala

29 January 2019
Anubha George




On a home visit, Father Vinu Joseph and Sister Savari Arul administer medication to a patient. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)

In the current edition of ONE, journalist Anubha George reports on the inspiring work among the poor with a mobile clinic Healing the Forgotten in India. Here, she offers more details from her visit.

It is the end of October. The roads are winding. We’re driving up the hills. The Sun is at its scorching peak. The weather is humid. We in the Kanyakumari Social Service Society (K.K.S.S.S.) ambulance are sweaty and thirsty. But the morale in the team is at an all time high. It’s as if nothing can faze them. There is no urgency as the palliative care team visits one home after another. It’s as if serving the community is their one and only purpose.

That is the one thing I take away from them: that service is a calling. There are people in this world who go to absolutely any length to help others, without expecting anything in return.

K.K.S.S.S. was set up in 1972. It is the social development arm of the Diocese of Thuckalay in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. K.K.S.S.S. runs a mobile ambulance which provides palliative care for people who are very poor and have nowhere to turn to for help.

This morning, the Rev. Vinu Joseph is leading the team of a nurse and three volunteers. We go high up in the hills. It’s a tribal area. It’s an actual forest. Tigers and wild elephants can be spotted. Health services aren’t easily accessible to people here. We park the ambulance by the foothills and start to climb up. A two mile hike later, we’re at Vijay Kumar’s home. It’s a hut. He’s 52 and had a stroke a few years ago. Doctors said it was caused by high blood pressure. Vijay Kumar wasn’t even aware he had high BP. His daughter stands by the door with her two children. One is a toddler, the other an infant. There are big poisonous spiders weaving their webs all around. A dog guards the hut. There are some hens and chickens running around.

Vijay Kumar is bed ridden. He has been so since the stroke. His wife welcomes Father Vinu as he walks in. I’m too scared of the spiders to go in. Vijay Kumar puts his hand out. I hold his hand from outside the window. Members of the K.K.S.S.S. team have known the family a while. Father Vinu prays. The family are Hindus. But they’re glad that someone’s come to check up on them. They’re happy that someone prays for them. Vijay Kumar’s daughter tells me they appreciate the support and help.

It turns out that the K.K.S.S.S. team make this trek up the hills just to check Vijay Kumar’s blood pressure a couple of times a week. All that just to check up on one person? I ask Father Vinu if that’s worth it. His reply touches my heart.

“People like Vijay Kumar look after our forests. They guard nature. The least we can do is look after them,” he says. Then he adds: “The service of the poor is the service of Christ. Jesus gives us the strength to do what we do. And he alone shows us the way.”

Read more in the December 2018 edition of ONE.



Tags: India

29 August 2018
Greg Kandra




Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomes Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath from India. (photo: CNEWA)

A trailblazer from India stopped by our New York office this morning for a visit: Syro-Malankara Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath.

CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, described a visit to the bishop’s home turf, what he calls “The Great North,” a few years ago:

The great call of these churches is to reach out to the real mission territory of India: The spiritual sons and daughters of the Apostle Thomas have undertaken a new missionary thrust to evangelize the “unreached” in the northern half of India.

On a series of visits with my hosts — a team of humble priests, religious sisters and lay leaders, including catechists — I have experienced firsthand this new approach to missionary life in India. It is happening not by building schools, erecting clinics or developing social service projects, but simply by humbly living with the poor. This means no formal structures — no buildings per se — but living, breathing witnesses of Christ who share with the poor the love that God has for all, giving them a sense of hope and belonging.

Cultural and political sensitivities prohibit me from sharing with you where some of these visits have taken place, but I can tell you what I experienced. I met humble, tribal people. Many were not of any caste (thus, they are literally outcasts) and all of them were hungry to learn about Jesus. They felt very comfortable and loved by the priests, sisters and lay leaders who were sharing their faith with the poor.

I may have been the first North American to have ever visited them — and these beautiful, spiritually thirsty souls made me feel most welcome by making the sign of the cross and praying with me (in their local language) the Lord’s Prayer. This is where I really choked up; at that moment I felt that God truly was the father of us all. They reminded me of this tenet of my faith.

We got a great sense of that faith from Mar Barnabas, whose zeal and joy enlivened our office. He shared with us stories of the tremendous sacrifice and sense of mission that animate the Christians in his diocese — men and women, mostly lay people, who carry the message of the Gospel to people who may never before have heard the name of Jesus.

Often, these lay catechists teach and lead liturgies in an atmosphere of great risk.

“I tell them,” the bishop said, “at maximum you may lose your head. Get ready for it! And they respond, ‘We are ready!’”

The region he serves in northern India is very humble — he himself has no chancery, no house, no income beyond a modest budget to make ends meet. He described visiting one mission in his diocese and sleeping on the floor. But again and again, he reminded us of the faith that sustains and inspires his flock.

He told us about one man who isn’t a physician, yet people call him “the doctor,” and bring him anyone who is sick. He prays with them and for them—and often, that is enough.

“He tells them, ‘I have just one medicine,’” Mar Barnabas explained with a smile. “‘Prayer and fasting!’”

To spend time with this bishop — whom Msgr. Kozar described as “my younger brother”— is to be reminded of the missionary roots of our faith, and how that kind of fervor, even in times of great difficulty and challenge, continues to bear witness to the Gospel today.



Tags: India Indian Bishops

23 August 2018
CNEWA Staff




In India, massive flooding has destroyed thousands of homes in Kerala. CNEWA has released emergency aid to help some 4,000 families in need in the devastated region. (photo: CNEWA)

Catholic Near East Welfare Association has released $67,000 in emergency aid to help some 4,000 families cope with the flooding that has devastated much of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. Nonstop monsoon rains have swelled rivers, creeks and ponds, immersing heavily populated low lying areas in muddy waters. The rains have triggered landslides, severing power, washing away roads, livestock, crops and homes. More than a million people have fled their homes for refuge in camps set up on higher and drier ground. Up to 400 deaths have thus far been recorded.

The emergency aid includes food kits, potable water, medicines and sanitary items, said CNEWA’s president, Msgr. John E. Kozar, as well as household materials and school supplies for children. These items will be delivered to families in higher elevations in Kerala by social service teams of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches, including the High Range Development Society of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Idukki, the Shreyas Social Service Center of the Syro-Malankara Eparchy of Bathery and the Center for Overall Development of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Thamarassery. Aid to low-lying areas will follow.

The latest reports indicate that the rains have subsided, allowing some of the waters to recede. Recovery efforts are just beginning.”The local government and social service organizations of the church are all involved in rescue operations in many places around Kerala,” writes CNEWA Regional Director M.L. Thomas from his own flooded village near Cochin. “Food packets and clothing are being supplied to the hundreds of relief camps. [But] with so many people stranded in so many places, there is difficulty supplying essential materials.

“Right now, the needs are urgent and immediate. This is a terrible situation and will soon require help to rebuild and rehabilitate many neighborhoods and help thousands who have lost everything.”

An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the subcontinent of India, the Middle East, Northeast Africa and Eastern Europe. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to displaced families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the children, elderly and disabled; and offering formation and supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders.

CNEWA is a registered charity in the United States by the State of New York and in Canada. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800‑442‑6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022‑4195. In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1‑866‑322‑4441.



Tags: India Kerala

20 August 2018
CNEWA Staff




Floodwaters have left thousands of people in Kerala stranded or homeless. (photo: CNEWA)

Late Friday, we received the following message from M.L. Thomas, our regional director in India, regarding the devastating floods that have swept through the region:

The flood situation in Kerala is very scary and unpredictable right now. People — including many of our staff — are overwhelmed by the water and not able to move. Almost all of Kerala is now under water. The telephone and other connections are not working properly. Utilizing all sources possible, I am in touch with some of our priests and I have already received requests for help from many of them. I am personally involved right now in the rescue work.

The local government and social service organizations of the church are all involved in rescue operations in many places around Kerala. Food packets and clothing are being supplied to the hundreds of relief camps. With so many people stranded in so many places, there is difficulty supplying essential materials. However, everything possible is being done by the government and the Catholic church.

My own village is surrounded by floodwaters. There are two relief camps set up at my parish, and at another parish nearby. Thousands of people were evacuated to these two places.

A woman surveys the damage in her flooded home. (photo: CNEWA)

Almost all the dams are releasing water, which is now finding its way into many parts of Kerala through various rivers. In some places, the rain is still pouring.

Right now, the needs are urgent and immediate. This is a terrible situation and will soon require help to rebuild and rehabilitate many neighborhoods and help thousands who have lost everything.

To help support those in need in India, visit this page. And please keep all affected in your prayers.



Tags: India Kerala

9 August 2018
Anubha George




Residents gather for prayer and group discussion in the outdoor spaces of the Trippadam Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center run by the Bethany Sisters in Kerala. (photo: Meenakshi Soman)

In the current edition of ONE, writer Anubha George takes us to A Refuge to Mend and Grow, where the Bethany Sisters are helping forgotten and abandoned women. She offers some additional impressions below.

After an eight-hour journey from Kochi, we begin our climb into the mountains of Wayanad in north Kerala.

Fourteen hairpin turns later, where we see monkeys snatching food off people, the air turns cold. Gone is the humidity of Kerala. This feels a bit like the Indian version of the prairie —it’s spacious and very breezy. The air is clean and there are tall coconut trees all around. It is indeed a very picturesque part of the place known as “God’s Own Country,” Kerala.

There are two friendly faces waiting for us at the Trippadam Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center in Sultan Bathery run by the Bethany Sisters. We meet Sister Tabitha and Sister Darsana. Along with three other sisters, they look after 50 women who stay here. These women have been abandoned by their families because they suffer from mental health problems. Some of them will be here until their dying day. There’s medical help available here from the local government-run hospital; women can receive an assessment and monthly follow-ups with a psychiatrist, along with free medication and regular counseling sessions.

There are many challenges. The building is old; it was once a convent before it became an orphanage. It needs repairs. But in the middle of all this, the sisters offer a place of welcome and peace.

The sisters have created a sense of community and well-being for those who are with them; they give the women a feeling of security and of being loved. There’s a purpose to their lives— a life of routine. The day here starts at 5.30 am when the women are given coffee in bed. Then there’s prayer and meditation, followed by Mass. After breakfast, it’s on to chores around the center, such as cleaning and cooking. There’s also the garden to take care of, and chickens and cattle that need looking after. After lunch, it’s nap time. In the evening, there’s prayer outdoors in the garden (where there’s a little chapel) and then it’s lights out at 9 pm.

Throughout the day, there’s significant focus on prayer, alongside medical help and emotional support. The sisters believe it helps calm down the women. It gives them a sense of well-being and makes them feel that they’re not alone but that Christ is with them at all times.

We are reminded of that as we leave. As we walk out, a woman named Usha says goodbye. ”Christ looks after me,” she says. ”And he loves me.”

Read more from Anubha George in the June 2018 edition of ONE.



Tags: India

30 October 2015
Jose Kavi




Demonstrators in Bangladesh protest anti-Christian assaults throughout the Indian subcontinent. (photo: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/ZUMA Wire/Corbis)

In the Autumn edition of ONE, writer Jose Kavi writes on the persecution of Christians in India. Here, he reflects on his experience of reporting on anti-Christian violence in the country for more than 30 years.

Christians in India seem to be jittery these days. They feel helpless amid unprecedented attacks they have been facing for some time now.

Reporting these attacks now has given me a feeling of déjà vu.

I started reporting persecution of Christians in 1982, the year I joined South Religious Asian News, a news agency, as an in-service trainee.

That year Christians and Hindus clashed in Kanniyakumari, the southernmost district of India. Police firing on clashing groups had led to several deaths. The news agency ran stories for months about sectarian clashes involving both Christians and Hindus. Hindus then formed 49 percent of the district’s population and Christians 46 percent. The rest were Muslims.

Several probes by government and independent bodies blamed a group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S., “national volunteer organization”), for dividing people on the religious lines.

R.S.S. was formed in 1925 as a charitable, educational, volunteer, Hindu nationalist non-governmental organization. However, its main agenda is to create a Hindu theocratic state in India. It has now become the umbrella organization for all rightwing Hindu groups in India. Its political arm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P., “Indian people’s party”) now heads the federal coalition government.

Attacks on Christians and other minority religious groups in India have happened in proportion to the growth of R.S.S. and its affiliates in the country.

Most reported incidents of violence against Christians in 1998 occurred in Gujarat; it was the same year that the B.J.P. came to power in the state. The year began with an unprecedented hate campaign by groups espousing Hindutva (the ideology of Hindu nationalism). It culminated with ten days of nonstop violence against Christian tribal people and the destruction of churches and Christian institutions in the southeastern districts at the year’s end. Human Rights Watch investigated these attacks in the Dangs district in southeastern Gujarat. The events were preceded by escalating violence throughout the state in which many police and state officials were implicated.

Ten years later, Kandhamal district in Odisha, an eastern Indian state, witnessed much worse violence against Christians. Violence erupted upon the impoverished Christian minority in August 2008. A series of riots led by radical Hindus left roughly 100 people dead, thousands injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes destroyed, and 50,000 people displaced — many forced to hide in nearby forests, where more died of hunger and snake bites.

The violence was carried out by mobs adorned with saffron headbands, a sign of right-wing Hindu militancy, and shouting slogans such as “Jai shri ram!” (victory to the Hindu god Ram) and “Jai bajrang bali!” (a tribute to another Hindu deity). Attackers wielded rods, tridents, swords, firearms, kerosene and even acid.

The same year, as many as 24 churches, including the chapel of cloistered convent, were damaged and several Christians were attacked in Karnataka, a southern Indian state.

All these incidents occurred away from New Delhi, India’s political capital. However, this ancient city also faced an unprecedented anti-Christian violence six months after the B.J.P. took over the national government. Over three months, at least five churches and a school were vandalized and the blame went to R.S.S. and its affiliates.

The Delhi incidents put the government in a bad light internationally. The attacks stopped suddenly and all churches in the capital were given police protection.

However, attacks now continue in villages far away from Delhi — giving me no respite from reporting on anti-Christian violence.

Read Jose Kavi’s report, ‘There Will Be More Martyrs’, in the Autumn 2015 edition of ONE.



Tags: India Violence against Christians Indian Christians Indian Catholics

23 December 2014
Greg Kandra




On 26 December 2004, tens of thousands of lives in India were changed forever by one of the deadliest earthquakes and tsunamis in history. More than 200,000 people lost their lives throughout Indonesia.

CNEWA’s program director Thomas Varghese, now based in New York, was working in India at the time. In the video below, he describes what he experienced and saw — and how CNEWA responded to this humanitarian disaster.



Tags: India Tsunami

28 August 2014
Jose Kavi




Mahinder Singh sits with neighbors in their tiny village in Gangapar. (photo: John Mathew)

In the Summer edition of ONE, writer Jose Kavi explores the life and times of “untouchable” Christian Dalits. Here, he offers further insight into what he saw while covering the story.

I was happy when I was asked to write an article Dalit Christians. The Indian Church has been demanding justice for its Dalit members for nearly 65 years.

An estimated 70 percent of Christians in India are of Dalit origin, mostly in the Latin Catholic Church and Protestant denominations that were introduced in India by Western missionaries.

The presence of Dalits among the Eastern churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, is around some 20 percent, concentrated mostly in Kerala, the church’s base in southern India. It is hard to identify these people of former low-caste origin, since they are well integrated into the mainstream churches.

So to write this story I turned to northern India, where the Syro-Malabar Church has several dioceses. Both Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Faridabad and Bishop Aboon Mor Barnabas Yacob, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church’s apostolic visitor to North India, said their churches are currently focusing mostly on their people, who have migrated to northern India from Kerala. However, they do support the church’s Dalit struggle.

Photographer John Mathew and I asked priests in the Bijnor Syro-Malabar diocese if they are doing anything for the Dalit people. They said they have a few local converts but were not sure if they belonged to any Dalit communities. The diocese covers Uttarakhand state and parts of neighboring Uttar Pradesh.

We decided to try our luck and set out to Gangapar-Birbhanwala, the diocese’s newest parish, in Uttar Pradesh. And it was a journey into new world. After traveling about five hours, we left the highways to enter a narrow dirt road. It took an hour to cover the 12 miles. We stopped at a bridge in Dhampur built over the Ramganga, one of the tributaries of the Ganges. Its blue and clean water gave us our first shock of the trip. The Ganges we have seen downstream at places such as Varanasi and Patna is no better than a sewage drain. The new government is planning to spend billions to clean up the river Hindus consider holy.

The Rev. M. J. Joseph, the young parish priest who came to the highway to guide us, said the river had changed its course only five years ago after a flood. The flood had washed away the road to Gangapar. We negotiated through farms and gutters and reached a tiny shed in the middle of an open field as the sizzling summer sun blazed above us.

“It is the parish church,” Father Joseph said with an apologetic smile. The tin-roofed shed has no cross, a normal sign of a church. There is no altar. The only Christian reminder is a painting of Jesus on the shed’s only wall. There was neither electricity nor running water. Our driver had to go to the nearby forest to answer nature’s call, as the place has no toilet.

Jarnail Singh, the church’s caretaker who lives in a room attached to the church shed with his wife and two children, asked his daughter Pinky to bring us water, which she did from the hand pump near the entrance.

Jarnail’s wife, Malkeet Kaur, readied the lunch by the time we finished exchanging pleasantries and conducting a few interviews. The special dish for the visitors was scrambled eggs.

After the lunch we set out for the villages. Most people live in thatched mud huts. Piles of cow dung cakes used as fuel and haystacks welcomed us at every entrance. Water buffaloes were tethered to poles near the huts. You could see charpai, the traditional cot that doubles up as sofa and bed, kept in the front yards.

Despite such dreary existence, everyone we met, including the aging Mahinder Singh, looked cheerful. He described his escape from Pakistan when the Indian subcontinent was divided. “I was so thirsty and went to drink from rivers, but they were filled with corpses. Then I went to wells, there also were dead bodies,” he recalled.

We asked him, “What makes you happy?”

“Prabhu Jisu” (“Lord Jesus”), he answered.

What more needed to be said?

Read more about Dalit Christians in Caste Aside from the Summer edition of ONE.



Tags: India Indian Christians ONE magazine Indian Catholics Dalits





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