Prot. No. 1100/2015
Pastoral Letter on Sabha Dinam
GEORGE CARDINAL ALENCHERRY, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, to the Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Men and Women Religious and Lay Faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church, May the Grace of the Lord be with you all!
My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,
In response to the question of St. Thomas: “Lord, we do not know where you are going; then, how will we know the way?”, Jesus replied: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn: 14:5-6).The question of Thomas and the response of Jesus took place when Jesus revealed that he would be leaving the disciples to go to His Father and that he would come back after preparing a place for them in Heaven and that they would know the Way to the Father.
Jesus revealed a great truth to the world because of the intervention of St.Thomas. Christ is the Way to the Father for the children of God. Sons of men find truth and attain the fullness of life through this Way. Jesus has come from his Father in heaven and his birth as a man is meant to give the fullness of life to mankind. It is the Way of Christ that we have to seek to get the meaning of life. St. Thomas wanted to find the Way that Jesus would take to be with the Father. If Jesus is the Way, it means then, that His life would be the Way that we have to choose for our lives too.
Seeker of the Way:
St.Thomas has sought the Way to heaven. He searched for it not from anyone else but from his own Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. He found the way from Jesus himself. For every Christian, the Way of life is Christ himself. To be baptized into a new being with Christ, living like Christ, suffering, dying and rising like Christ is the way of life for a Christian. This way of life is called the ‘Way of Christ” by Christians, as we read in the Act s of the Apostles. The early Christians of India called this way, the Way of Thomas.Our forefathers were those who received the Way of Thomas.
One who walked in the Way:
St.Thomas walked in the way of Christ when he found that Christ was the Way. He accepted the experience of Christ as his own. St.Paul too speaks in the same vein when he says “Christ is my Life.” Jesus speaks about the persecutions that the disciples would encounter when they were sent for the ministry in Galilee. He reminded them that their sufferings would be similar to the sufferings of their Master,(Mt.10:21-25).The depth of discipleship is really revealed in the words that Thomas uttered when the other disciples tried to prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem by saying that the Jews were waiting to stone him to death: “ Let us go and die with him.(Jn.11:16).The desire of St.Thomas to follow the Way of Jesus was fulfilled when he was killed at Chinnamalai, Mylapore, pierced with a sword. Chinnamalai became the Calvary for St. Thomas. He died with Jesus. He might have said at the time of his death the words that he uttered when he was face to face with Jesus in the closed room: “My Lord and My God.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl has said in his book “Jesus of Nazareth” that those words of St.Thomas are the most important declarations of Faith that we find in the Gospel.
Those who have to walk in the Way:
Those who have accepted the Christian Way have to walk in the path of Christ. When we lose our Way, the credibility of our faith is at risk. When Christians are indulging in alcoholism, extravagant spending and luxurious ways of life, ignoring the obligations of their commitment to Jesus, something deep and spiritual is missing from their lives.
We don’t have to view this criticism with intolerance. People expect a life style that is in conformity with Christ’s way of life from those who are believers in Christ. That is the reason why Christians and Christian Churches are criticized more severely than the followers of other religions. How lofty is the way of Christ that teaches everyone to love one’s enemies and to practice that love to be witnessed through one’s own personal life. Christians have to develop such a noble way of life. Because of evil actions of a few Christians, the good that is done by the Church and the individual Christians is ignored by many in today’s world. Who can deny the great contributions made by Christians in the field of education and Healthcare in India? Christians are also in the forefront of many charitable activities. Many other groups or institutions are now engaged in charitable activities, inspired by the contribution of the Christians. Christians are also involved in helping the mentally and physically challenged people. We shall work to strengthen our Christian witness by continuing to do the good works and by avoiding sinful actions.
Priests, the religious and the laity have to join together in this reformation of life in the Church. The celebration of the Year of the Consecrate Life is in fact aimed at the reformation of all the believers in Christ. Through the activities of the Catholic Congress, Youth Movement and the Mathru Vedi, these steps for reformation in the Church can definitely be implemented.
On this day when we celebrate the memory, Dukarana, of the martyrdom of St.Thomas, we shall remember all those who sacrificed their lives for Christ especially those Christians who were martyred recently in Iraq and Syria and also the life of Sr.Rani Maria.
India is a land where the followers of many religions live in harmony. We do accept the good that is in all religions and do not reject anything that is true and holy in other religions as we proclaim the Truth and the Life that is Jesus, with respect for all. Many of the activities, life styles, traditions and teachings of other religions are different from the teachings of the Church .In spite of that, the Church respects these traditions and practices. For, all these religions contain the rays of Truth that illuminate the life of all (Non-Christian Religions No.20).
The celebration of Sabha dinam will be held at Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad. All the representatives of all the dioceses and Religious congregations are invited to participate in the celebration. I urge all our parishes and Pravasi communities to celebrate this day solemnly with Eucharistic celebrations, meetings and cultural programmes. The contributions collected on the Saba Dinam should be used for the common needs of the Church.
I am sorry to note that it has not been yet been possible to organize ecclesiastical structures for the Pravasi communities to worship in their own rite. Even though the Holy See is in favor of making arrangements in this mater, there are still some practical difficulties which remain unresolved.
Hence, I urge all our Pravasi Catholic faithful who are living outside the 29 dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church to observe July 2nd as a day of fast and prayers so that they may be given the permission to have their own ecclesiastical organizations to worship in their own rite. All the faithful are also requested to join the Pravasi Catholics on this day through their prayers.
Lovingly in Christ Jesus,
+George Cardinal Alencherry
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church
Given from the Major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mount St Thomas, Kakkanad, on the 23rd of May 2015.
Note: 1. This pastoral letter is to be read out during the Holy Mass on the 28th of June 2015, in all churches and chapels of the Syro-Malabar Church where there is Sunday Mass for the public.