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The ecumenical, humanitarian and pastoral projects of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches also receive considerable support.

Nearly 200 Syro-Malankara Catholic seminarians – the great majority – study at St. Mary’s Seminary, located in the hills overlooking Kerala’s capital city of Trivandrum. A small portion attend Latin or Syro-Malabar institutions. Until 1987, however, all Syro-Malankara aspirants pursued religious life in Latin or Syro-Malabar facilities. And although this improved the lines of communication among India’s various Catholic churches (which have been at odds for centuries), the lack of a Syro-Malankara institution inhibited the seminarians’ formation in a Syro-Malankara context.

“[A Syro-Malankara seminary] is certainly necessary for the strengthening of this particular Catholic tradition,” writes Mar Joseph Powathil, Syro-Malabar Catholic Archbishop of Changanacherry and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. “But it [will] also contribute to a really Catholic sense of communion…by deepening one’s ecclesial sense and communion-awareness.

“Formation in a spiritual tradition can never be a closed one like the formation of an ethnic group,” the Archbishop continues. “Proper ecclesial formation in a Catholic tradition can only promote preservation of unity in diversity.”

The enormous expense of planning, building and maintaining a structure alone, besides the financial obligation to support seminarians and staff, delayed the establishment of the seminary. Philosophical concerns also stalled the project:

“Some,” explains Cyril Mar Baselios, Syro-Malankara Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum, “were hesitant to admit even the possibility of a theological pluralism in the church, arguing that all priests are to be trained in complete uniformity in terms of their philosophical and theological training.”

In 1983, after receiving support from the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the Syro-Malankara hierarchy began the first phase of St. Mary’s Seminary by offering a three-year philosophy course. Construction of the impressive complex began in 1986, to be completed 10 years later. In 1992, the second phase of the seminary was marked with the inauguration of a four-year theology course. And this past March, 19 deacons, all nurtured in the Syro-Malankara tradition, were ordained to the priesthood.

While special emphasis is placed on the Syro-Malankara liturgy and tradition, the current curriculum is formed in accordance with guidelines established by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

The Instruction issued last January by the Congregation reaffirms the necessity of the liturgical formation of priests:

“It is, therefore, necessary that the liturgical life be celebrated with great care and always in its integral form in Eastern seminaries…such that the candidates may be shaped by it and learn it in all its richness and completeness…. The liturgy is to be the true font of spirituality by which the candidates are formed.”

But what if the form of the liturgy is an element of dispute, as it is in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church? How does this discord affect the formation of priests?

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