1987-07-15 00:00:00

Pope John Paul II has directed India´s Latin-rite bishops to provide "adequate pastoral care" for Eastern rite Catholics through priests, parishes in the rite or an episcopal vicar.

The pope responded to problems of Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic migrants to Latin-rite areas in north India, ASIA FOCUS reported July 18, quoting the weekly Calcutta Herald.

The pope´s letter, dated May 28 and given the bishops by the apostolic pronuncio in Bombay July 2, was released to the press by Archbishop Simon Pimenta of Bombay, Catholic Bishops´ Conference of India (CBCI) president.

The pope resolved questions on: spiritual and pastoral help to Eastern-rite Catholics in Latin-rite dioceses, Eastern-rite Churches´ evangelization outside their own territories, and the relation of Eastern-rite Churches to the CBCI.

The pope directed the bishops to organize and coordinate missionary activity, if necessary through a special commission, to promote effective evangelization while avoiding confusion and rivalry.

He also confirmed that bishops of the three rites have a right to establish episcopal groupings according to their own ecclesiastical legislation.

The CBCI, the pope said, will continue addressing "questions of common concern and of a national and supra-ritual character, questions involving the Catholic Church and the government, etc."

The pope said enough Syro-Malabar Catholics live in the Bombay-Pune area to establish a Syro-Malabar eparchy (diocese) there, so he authorized the Congregation of Eastern Churches "to proceed accordingly."

The pope acted on recommendations of a commission headed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli. Formed in 1986 to study the issues, it included cardinal prefects of the two responsible Roman congregations.

The commission also included Archbishop Pimenta and representatives of rites: Archbishops Henry D´Souza of Calcutta (Latin), Anthony Padiyara of Ernakulam (Syro-Malabar) and Benedict Varghese Gregorios Thangalathil (Syro-Malankara).

Syro-Malabar Catholics have two archdioceses, Ernakulam and Changanacherry, and 10 dioceses: Irinjalakuda, Kothamangalam, Mananthavady, Palghat, Tellicherry, Thamarasserry, Trichur, Kanjirapally, Kottayam and Palai.

Syro-Malankara Catholics have one archdiocese, Trivandrum, and two dioceses, Battery and Tiruvalla.

Most Eastern-rite Catholics originated in Kerala state. They use Malayalam language in their ritual.

They trace their origin to St. Thomas the Apostle, who they believe introduced Christianity into India, working in the extreme south and in what is now the Madras-Maylapore area.

The Orthodox tradition is believed to have been established in the South by the year 200. A bishop sent from Jerusalem to India in 345 and a traveler in 530 reported Christian communities in the southwest and in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

A Franciscan, John of Monte Corvino, was in Malabar in 1294.

Vasco da Gama claimed India for Portugal in 1498. Pope Leo X gave Portuguese kings the right to patronage and to develop missions in Asia in 1514.

The Diocese of Goa was established in 1533 and St. Francis Xavier arrived in India in 1542. His Jesuit colleagues converted Orthodox and non-Christians.

The Thomasite Christians affirmed their allegiance to Rome, but many declared themselves an autonomous church in 1653.


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