Updated: January 10, 2012 09:30 AM GMT
For more than two years, a Catholic parish has been operating from a Protestant parish campus that some Church leaders hail as an example of practical ecumenism. “It is great ecumenism in practice,” said Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Pius of Madras-Mylapore about the cooperation between the two parishes in Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Since October 2009, Sacred Heart of Jesus Shrine has been operating from the campus of St John the Baptist parish church belonging to the Church of South India (CSI). Bishop Pius said such an arrangement is “unique and a good example for others.” The parish, built in 1913, is the first shrine in India dedicated to the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The parish decided to shift to the Protestant campus to build a new shrine with modern facilities, the shrine’s administrator Father Peter Thumma said. The old one, he explained, was too inadequate to “suit the growing demand of devotees.” The priest said they plan to complete the new shrine by the end of 2012 at a cost of 100 million rupees (US$1.92 million). Father Joseph Manickam, the shrine’s rector, said that Catholic parish officials requested permission from the CSI leaders to use their campus until the shrine is built. The Protestant bishop and his laity council agreed. “Such a gesture was unique. Even though goodwill exists among churches, sharing of facilities on a long-term basis is very uncommon,” Father Manickam said. Officials of both Churches signed an agreement that they renew every year for eleven months. Revered Magimaidoss Enos, the CSI pastor, said, “We have shared the facility in an ecumenical spirit” because his people “understand” the situation. Even earlier, the Catholics and the Protestants used to hold joint Palm Sunday processions, he added.