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India

Kerala bishop wants to become a hermit

Auxiliary Bishop Jacob Muricken of Palai awaits a decision two years after applying to leave his office

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Kerala bishop wants to become a hermit

Auxiliary Bishop Jacob Muricken of Palai in the southern Indian state of Kerala has applied to relinquish his bishop's office to lead a monastic life. (Photo supplied)

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A Catholic bishop in India who donated one of his kidneys four years ago now wants to quit his bishop's office to become a hermit.

Auxiliary Bishop Jacob Muricken of Palai in the southern Indian state of Kerala has applied to church authorities to relieve him from the bishop's office to help him lead a simple monastic life.

The 57-year-old prelate told UCA News that he sent his application to the synod of his Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Catholic Church two years ago and is waiting for a decision. He is the first Indian bishop to make such a request.

Cardinal George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, has "promised to consider my case positively," the bishop said.

A decision has been delayed because the synod, the decision-making body of the church, needs to get approvals from the Vatican to relieve a bishop from office, Bishop Muricken said.

The bishop maintains his decision to quit the bishop's office comes from "an inspiration from God" and he will follow it provided he gets permission from the synod and the Vatican.

"It is a special call within a call to become a monk and abstain from official life as a bishop and other administrative roles in the diocese. It is to become closer to God and nature," he said.

The idea of leading a solitary life came to him in 2017, five years after he was ordained as auxiliary bishop of Palai. "Until then, I had no such desire."

The bishop said he looks forward to spending "the rest of my life more in prayer and meditation and leading an eco-friendly life away from the hustle and bustle of the routines of a bishop."

Even as a bishop, he spends long hours in prayer and follows vegetarianism. He gets up around 2.30am each day and spends three hours in personal prayer before joining others in morning prayers, people close to him said.

Bishop Muricken said he does not plan to join any existing monastic congregation. He wants to lead a secluded life in the hilly Idukki district without any assistance or helpers.

A bishop in southern India's Salem Diocese resigned on March 19 and opted to live in a village parish. Bishop Sebastianappan Singaroyan, noted for his simplicity, now lives in a parish in the same diocese, helping out its main priest.

Bishop Muricken hit the international headlines in 2016 by becoming the first bishop in India to donate one of his kidneys to a Hindu man. The kidney donation came four years after he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Palai on Aug. 24, 2012.

Bishop Muricken was born in Muttuchira, a village parish in the diocese, on June 16, 1963. He joined a seminary after completing a master's degree in economics and was ordained as a priest in 1993.

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