About 400 people attended a global conference for the Syro-Malabar Church Aug. 18-20 in Kochi, Kerala, 2,595 kilometers south of New Delhi, to discuss challenges the community is facing.
The delegates called on their bishops to provide more pastoral care for diaspora communities. They also blamed Latin-rite Church leaders for suppressing and discriminating against Eastern-rite Catholics in their jurisdiction.
The delegates represented Syro-Malabar Church (SMC) communities in Australia, Canada, Germany, Persian Gulf nations, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as in major Indian cities outside Kerala, the southern Indian state where the Eastern-rite Church is based.
The Latin-rite Catholics "want our donations, not us," said SMC member Michael Joseph, who lives in the territory of the Latin-rite Diocese of Baroda. "We are forced to adopt their liturgy and tradition," Joseph said, alleging that some Latin-rite priests are "dead against" SMC Catholics conducting Sunday Mass in their native language, reported UCA News.
Another delegate recounted the difficulty with which they finally received a Syro-Malabar priest and the many challenges he faced, from a lack of resources to accusations from Latin-rite priests that he was creating disunity among local Catholics for wanting to build a church for the SMC community.
Bishop Gregory Karotemprel of Rajkot, who organized the meeting, said the Indian Bishops would discuss these issues at their synod. The bishop said he has tried to sort out inter-rite issues but Latin-rite bishops have not responded to his letters and suggestions.
The Vatican made the SMC self-governing in 1992 but retained the right to decide on administrative matters for Syro-Malabar dioceses outside Kerala.
The Syro-Malabar Church traces its origins to Saint Thomas the Apostle, who landed in Kerala in the year 52. While Syro-Malabar Catholics are united to the Pope and are part of Catholic Church, their liturgy differs from that of the Roman Church. The essentials however, remain the same, as they are both based on a unified Apostolic tradition. The SMC has 13 dioceses in the state of Kerala and another 12 elsewhere in India. Its sole diocese outside India is based in Chicago and serves SMC Catholics in North America.
Most of the 158 Catholic dioceses in India belong to the Latin rite.
Eastern-rite Catholics of the Syro-Malabar Church, who live in Latin-rite territories, say they face severe challenges in practicing their faith and traditions, reported UCA News.