The Major Archiepiscopal Commission for
Evangelization the Pastoral Care of the Migrants
The Major Archiepiscopal Commission for Evangelization and Pastoral Care of the Migrants is constituted to assist the Major Archbishop of the Church in carrying out his responsibilities towards the Syro-Malabar migrant faithful out side the proper territory of the Syro Malabar Church (in India and aboard) and to animate and co-ordinate the evangelizing mission of the Church.
The Catholic Church is a communion of twenty three sui iuris Churches with different liturgy, theology, spirituality and administrative system. The Syro- Malabar Church is the second largest in number among twenty two Eastern Churches with a total population of 3.8 million faithful. It is a Major Archiepiscopal sui iuris Church with a Synodal structure. The Synod is the supreme legislative and judicial authority in the Church. The Major Archbishop is the father and head of this Church (CCEO, 55). As the father and head of the Church, the Major Archbishop must be solicitous not only for the faithful of his Church in the proper territory, but also for the migrants scattered all over the world. He enjoys certain rights and duties towards the faithful who belong to his Church no matter wherever they stay (CCEO.148§ 2). He exercises his pastoral authority in the Church with the help of various Commissions because canon 124 of the CCEO prescribes that there should be various Commissions to take care of the different fields of activities in the sui iuris Church. The Commissions are erected by the Major Archbishop, constituted of persons chosen by him and are governed by norms established by him (Synodal News, No. 1, August 1993, p. 47).
In the very first meeting of the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, held from 20 to 25 May 1993 at the residence of Mar Antony Padiyara, the then Major Archbishop, at Ernakulam under the chairmanship of Archbishop Abraham Kattumana, the Pontifical Delegate to the Syro-Malabar Church, decision was taken to constitute the Major Archiepiscopal Commission for the Evangelization and Pastoral Care of the Migrants. This Commission was constituted to assist the Major Archbishop of the Church in carrying out his responsibilities towards the Syro-Malabar migrant faithful outside the proper territory of the Syro Malabar Church in India and aboard and to animate and co-ordinate the evangelizing mission of the Church. The same Synod elected Bishop Mar Gregory Karotemprel CMI as the Chairman and Bishops Mar Joseph Pallikaparampil (Pala) and Mar Paul Chittilapilly (Kalyan) as members of the Commission. (Synodal News, No. 1, August 1993, pp 6-7, Synodal News, No. 6, May 1995, p. 41).
While the VI Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church was in session from 12th to 24th January 1998, Mar Varkey Vithayathil C.Ss.R., the Apostolic Administrator of the Syro-Malabar Church reconstituted the Commission for the Evangelization and Pastoral Care of the Migrants with Bishop Mar Gregory Karotemprel CMI as the Chairman and Bishops Mar Joseph Pallikaparampil and Mar Gratian Mundadan CMI as members. The Commission members took charge on 21 May 1998 (Synodal News, No. 11, March 1998, p.15).
The VII Synod of Bishops, held at Mount St Thomas from 14 to 20 November 1999, took the decision to establish a Mission Secretariat under the auspices of the Major Archiepiscopal Commission for Evangelization and Pastoral Care of the Migrants at the Major Archiepiscopal Curia, Mount St Thomas. Mar Varkey Vithayathil, the then Apostolic Administrator, canonically erected the Mission Secretariat at Mount St Thomas vide Decree No. 1871/99 on 17th December 1999. (Synodal News, Vol. 7, Nos. 1& 2, December 1999, pp 56, 70, 124)
In the course of the XI Synod of Bishops held at Mount St. Thomas from 3 to15 November 2003, Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, the Major Archbishop reconstituted the Commission for the Evangelization and Pastoral Care of the Migrants with Bishop Gregory Karotemprel CMI again as the Chairman and Bishops Mar Vijay Anand Nedumpuram CMI and Mar Mathew Vaniakizhakkel VC as members (Synodal News, Vol.11, No.2, December 2003, p. 30).
During the XVI synod, on 27th August 2008, Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, the Major Archbishop reconstituted the Commission for the Evangelization and Pastoral Care of the Migrants with Bishop Sebastian Vadakel MST as the Chairman and Bishops Simon Stock Palathara CMI and Mar Antony Chirayath as members (Synodal News, Vol.12, Nos.1&2, Novembers 2008, p. 47).
The love of Christ towards migrants urges us (cf. 2Cor. 5:14) to look afresh at their problems and to respond more efficiently to the pastoral needs of the Syro-Malabar faithful living outside the territorium proprium of the church in India and abroad and the zeal for Christ obliges us to be His witnesses in the whole world sharing the light of Faith lit by St Thomas the Apostle. Mission
Pastoral care of the emigrants of the Syro-Malabar Church has always been the priority of the Commission. Some of the members of the Commission in the past were appointed Apostolic Visitors of the USA and Canada as well as the European countries. They presented reports of their visitations to the Synod as well as to Rome. The Commission arranged several meetings and deliberations with the Latin prelates of the migrant areas and sent various memoranda to Rome as well as to other ecclesiastical authorities. As a result of these efforts, St Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago was erected for the Syro-Malabar migrants in USA and Canada, chaplains were appointed for the pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar migrants by the Latin prelates in many places and several Syro-Malabar parishes were established in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. Commission ensures regular correspondence with the emigrant communities
The Commission was entrusted with the task of arranging the conduct of the first Syro Malabar Mission Assembly. Accordingly a preliminary meeting was held in November 1998 at Poornodaya in Bhopal with delegates from all dioceses, especially from mission dioceses for drafting the first Working Paper (Lineamenta). The Mission Assembly was held from November 12 14, 1999 at Mount St Thomas. As per the direction of the Synod, held from November 14 20, 1999, the Commission convened a Meeting of the Bishops of the Dioceses of the Syro Malabar Church outside the Territorium Proprium and the major Superiors of the Syro Malabar Religious Congregations and Institutes of Apostolic Life, working in the above Dioceses at Poornodaya in Bhopal from 13 to 15 October, 2000.
An all-inclusive Syro-Malabar Catholic Directory was published by the Commission for the first time in November 2004. The Commission joyfully undertook the preparation of a Mission Policy of the Syro-Malabar Church in the challenging circumstances of the Mission of the Church in the third millennium. After several years of study, consultation, discussion and preparation it was finally promulgated on March 19, 2006. It was simultaneously translated into Malayalam as well. The Commission conducted the first ever Global Meet of the Syro-Malabar emigrants at Mount St Thomas, the Major Archiepiscopal Curia from 18 to 21 of August 2006 after a year long preparation. Almost 380 participants from all over the world participated in the Meet and of them some 100 were from outside India and others from various cities and Syro-Malabar dioceses in India. The Commission brought out a Directory of the Syro-Malabar Migrants, with a brief history, general statistics, contact details and other relevant pieces of information of every sizeable Syro-Malabar migrant community in India and outside. The Commission also published two issues of the Mission India. Around the time of Christmas in 2006 Syro-Malabar Global Mission was published for the emigrants of the Syro-Malabar Church as per the suggestions of the Global Meet 2006. Together with Sathyadeepam the Commission (CEPCM) brought out a Mission Supplement as a special issue in order to introduce the Syro-Malabar Mission Dioceses to the Mother Church in Kerala. The Supplement contained articles and pictures on all the Mission dioceses of the Syro-Malabar Church and it was a landmark achievement for the Commission. A study seminar on the Mission Policy of the Syro-Malabar Church under the title Mission Congress 2007 is being planned out by the Commission. The Commission intends to publish a shorter version of the Directory of the Syro-Malabar Church in 2008.
Church Teachings on Pastoral Care of the Migrants
The history of humankind is a history of migration. Migrations are on the increase day by day for reasons of better livelihood, or for other demands of life like jobs, strenuous conditions in one’s own country, religious persecution and so on. It is a matter of serious concern for all nations and people. There are many advantages along with it, like good job opportunities, peaceful life, higher salaries, wide range of living standards and so on. But it is a fact that migrants who have had to give up their homeland, their possessions and relations inevitably carry with them the characteristics and memories of their own people as an indelible identity which cannot be renounced or denied. Experience has shown that the inability of expression in other than the mother language and loss of cultural and spiritual patrimonies not only damage the conscience but also cancel religious convictions and practices. As far as the Church is concerned, migration has a great missionary dimension. Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi notes: “It is the result of their living presence and witness in the midst of new people that forms new Churches. So they are the real seeds and the evangelizers” (n.21).
Migration always involves uprooting, detachment from one’s people, culture and place. At the same time it is for insertion and integration into a new society and place. In the Old Testament God brought the Israelites to the promised land to make them a chosen race and wanted them to keep up their identity in the new land. God did not want the Israelites to be scattered but united as the people of God. As Yahweh cared for the Israelites, the migrants need special pastoral care from the part of the Church lest they be disoriented in the new situation. St. Paul says: “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom.15:7).
Proper pastoral care of the migrants is a great mission entrusted to the Church. Erga migrantes caritas Christi, an instruction issued in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People notes: “Welcoming the stranger is intrinsic to the nature of the Church itself and bears witness to its fidelity to the Gospel” (n. 22).The mission of the Church towards migrants calls for an integrated approach of the proclamation of the gospel, clear policy and programs of pastoral works, catechetical and liturgical formation, fostering dialogue with them, working for their human rights, dignity, etc.
There is no dearth of Magisterial material safeguarding the right of pastoral care of the migrants. Popes, Councils and Encyclicals recommend the retention and promotion of the rights of the migrants. None of the Vatican documents encourage absorption or integration of the immigrants into the Church of arrival. The teachings of the Church with regard to the pastoral care of the migrant faithful of any sui juris Church, anywhere in the world, are crystal clear from the following Church documents.
Teachings of the Councils
Lateran Council IV
“Since in many places people of different languages live within the same city or diocese, having one faith but different rites and customs, we therefore strictly order bishops of such cities and dioceses to provide suitable men who will do the following in the various rites and languages: celebrate the divine services for them, administer the Church’s sacraments, and instruct them by word and examples” Lateran Council IV (1215), can. 9, Counciliarurn Eccumenicourum … Rome.1962, p. 215.
Second Vatican Council
For the Catholic Church wishes the traditions of each particular church or rite to remain whole and entire, and it likewise wishes to adapt its own way of life to the needs of different times and places” (OE. 2).
Therefore these churches are of equal rank, so that none of them is superior to the others because of its rite. They have the same rights and obligations, even with regard to the preaching of the Gospel in the whole world (cf. Mk16:15), under the direction of the Roman Pontiff” (OE. 3)
Provision must be made therefore everywhere in the world to protect and advance all these individual Churches. For this purpose, each should organize its own parishes and hierarchy, where the spiritual good of the faithful requires it…each and every Catholic, as also the baptized members of any non-Catholic church or community who come to the fullness of the Catholic communion, must retain each his own rite wherever he is, and follow it to the best of his ability” (OE. 4)
It likewise pertains to Episcopal conferences to found and promote agencies which will fraternally receive those who immigrate from missionary territories for of work or study, and which will aid them by suitable pastoral attention” (AG.38).
This Synod solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while keeping in mind the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to their own disciplines, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful and better adapted to foster the good of souls. The perfect observance of this traditional principle-which indeed has not always been observed-is a prerequisite for any restoration of union” (UR. 16).
Where there are faithful of a different rite, the diocesan bishop should provide for their spiritual needs either through priests or parishes of that rite or through an Episcopal Vicar endowed with the necessary faculties. Wherever it is fitting, the last named should also have an Episcopal rank” CD. 23) Teachings of Popes “Pope Pius XII says that “for Oriental Churches there should not be any compulsion to substitute their customs with those of the Latin Church and every Rite must have equal estimation and dignity before the common Mother Church” (AAS. 1944. P. 137)
Regarding the pastoral care of the faithful of the Eastern Rites who are living in Latin Rite dioceses, in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Conciliar Decree Christus Dominus 23 and OrientaliumEcclesiarum4the Latin Ordinaries (bishops) of such dioceses are to provide as soon as possible for an adequate pastoral care of the faithful of these Eastern Rites, through the ministry of the priests or through parishes of the Rites, where this would be indicated, or through an Episcopal Vicar endowed with the necessary faculties where circumstances would so indicate” (Letter of Pope John Paul II to the bishops of India on May 28, 1987).
The migrant has the right to pastoral care from the local Church. It should be emphasized that he or she has the right not to the generic pastoral care common to the whole body of the believers but to a specific ministry adopted to their language and especially their culture” (Message of John Paul II on World migration day 1990, L’Osservatore Romano, August 6, n.32, Vol.23 (1990), p.11.
I particularly urge the Latin ordinaries in these countries to study attentively, grasp thoroughly and apply faithfully the principles issued by the Holy See concerning ecumenical cooperation and the pastoral care of the Eastern Catholic Church especially when they lack their own hierarchy.” (John Paul II, Orientale Lumen (1995), n.9.
“There is an urgent need to overcome the fears and misunderstandings which appear at times between the Catholic Eastern Churches and the Latin Church… especially with regard to the pastoral care of their people, also outside their own territories.” (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Asia, 1999, n.27.
The Christian faithful have the right to worshipping God according to the prescriptions of their own Rite approved by the 2 legitimate pastors or the Church and to follow their own form of spiritual life consonant with the teaching of the Church” (CIC.214).
If the local Ordinary has faithful of a different rite within his diocese, he is to provide for their spiritual needs either by means of the priests or parishes of that rite or by means of an Episcopal Vicar” (CIC. 383§2).
The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own Church sui iuris, and to follow their own form of spiritual life consonant with the teaching of the Church” (CCEO. 17).
No one can presume in any way to induce the Christian faithful to transfer to another Church sui iuris” (CCEO.31).
The Christian faithful of the Eastern Churches even if committed to the care of a hierarch or pastor of another Church sui iuris, nevertheless remain enrolled in their own Church” (CCEO.38).
No one can validly transfer to another Church sui iuris without the consent of the Holy See” (CCEO. 32§1).
The Christian faithful of the Eastern Churches even if committed to the care of a hierarch or pastor of another Church sui iuris, nevertheless remain enrolled in their own Church” (CCEO.38).
The eparchial bishop to whom the care of the Christian faithful of any other sui juris Church is committed is bound by the serious obligation of providing all the things in order that these Christian faithful retain the rite of their own Church, cultivate and observe it as much as they can; he should foster relations with the higher authority of that Church” (CCEO 193§1).
The eparchial bishop is to provide for the spiritual needs of those Christian faithful, if it is possible, through the presbyters or pastors of the same Church sui iuris as the Christian faithful or even through a syncellus constituted for the care of these Christian faithful” (CCEO 193§2).
In places where not even an exarchv has been erected for the Christian faithful of a certain Church sui iuris, the local hierarch of another Church sui iuris, even the Latin Church of the place is to be considered the proper hierarch of these faithful, with due regard for the prescription of can. 101; if, however, there are several local hierarchs, that one is to be considered their proper hierarch who has been appointed by the Apostolic See or, if it is a question of the Christian faithful of a patriarchal Church, by the Patriarch with the assent of the Apostolic See” (CCEO. 916§5).
Era migrantes Caritas Christi
Erga migrantes caritas Christi is an instruction issued in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
Welcoming the stranger is intrinsic to the nature of the Church itself and bears witness to its fidelity to the Gospel” (n. 22).
With regard to Catholic migrants the Church makes provision for a specific kind of pastoral care because of the diversity of language, origin, culture, ethnicity and tradition, or of belonging to a particular Church sui iuris with its own rite… The uprooting that moving abroad inevitably involves (from country of origin, family, language etc.) should not be made worse by uprooting the migrant from his religious rite or identity too” (n. 49).
When groups of immigrants are particularly numerous and homogeneous therefore, they are encouraged to keep up their specific Catholic traditions. In particular, efforts must be made to provide organised religious assistance by priests of the language, culture and rite of the migrants selecting the most suitable juridical option from among those foreseen by the CIC and the CCEO.” (n. 50)
Eastern Rite Catholic migrants, whose numbers are steadily increasing, deserve particular pastoral attention. In their regard we should first of all remember the juridical obligation of the faithful to observe their own rite everywhere insofar as possible, rite being understood as their liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary heritage (cf. CCEO Can. 28, §1 and PaG 72) (n.51).
All the above official teachings of the Church attest to the solicitude of the Church for the migrants and defend their pastoral rights. The official ecclesiastical position on the emigrants from the time of Lateran IV (1215) favoured providing ministers of the rite and language of the emigrants because migration is no reason to dissolve one’s birth- rite. The inability of the Syro-Malabar Church to cater to the spiritual and liturgical needs of the migrants can lead to their alienation and ultimate separation from the Mother Church. The only solution to solve the above issue is to extend jurisdiction everywhere in the world as territorial or personal. Any further delay in doing so will result in irreparable damage to the entire Catholic Church. Besides, it is also a question of keeping up the credibility of the Catholic claim that the Church stands for justice, peace and harmony. It is all the more right and just for the Church to allow the faithful to protect as well as foster their own faith traditions everywhere in India through the establishment of appropriate juridical structures proper to the sui iuris Church.