Monday, January 22, 2007

UCAN: Major archbishop's sudden death saddens Syro-Malankara Church

The Catholic Church does not only consist of us who follow the Roman Rite. Many other sui juris Churches form part of the Catholic Church as well.

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in the Syro-Malankara Church who have just lost their Father and Shepherd. Looking at the turnout, and reading the heartfelt sentiments expressed by the simple folk and dignitaries alike, one can easily see how beloved the late Major Archbishop was.

I thought is was really fascinating, the way the Major Archbishop was carried around almost upright throughout the ceremonies.

And the vestments were glorious.

Photos courtesy of the Church's official website at

UCAN: Major archbishop's sudden death saddens Syro-Malankara Church


UCANews (

PATTOM, India (UCAN) – The Catholic Church's youngest Oriental rite plunged into sadness after its head, Major Archbishop Cyril Baselios, died unexpectedly on Jan. 18

The 72-year-old major archbishop was hospitalized the previous day following kidney-related complications, according to his secretary, Father Varghese Kalayil. He suffered a heart attack at 6:45 p.m. while taking a stroll in the hospital corridors and died immediately, the priest told UCA News.

His church is based in Kerala state, southern India, and the major archbishop stayed in Pattom, a suburb of the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, 2,815 kilometers (1,745 miles) south of New Delhi.

Major Archbishop Baselios was president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India 2000-2004. The conference includes all bishops from India's three rites – Latin, Syro-Malankara and Syro-Malabar – which make up the Catholic Church in India. The Latin rite follows the Roman liturgy and was established by European missioners in the 15th century, while the two Oriental rites, both based in Kerala, follow Syrian church traditions and trace their origins to St. Thomas the Apostle.

As television channels in Kerala flashed the news soon after the prelate's death, people began flocking to the church's headquarters. As the crowd swelled, the administration deployed police to manage the mourners.

"We have lost our father," said Edizon Joseph, a Syro-Malankara Catholic from Kerala, 225 kilometers (about 140 miles) to the north. Major Archbishop Baselios "was always a source of inspiration to all of us," the 44-year-old man continued. "We could knock on his door at any time."

Joseph Thomas from Ullannur, the prelate's native village, rushed to the capital city upon hearing the news. He recalled that the church leader had helped him complete studies and always guided him. "I came here to express my gratitude," Thomas, an engineer, told UCA News.

Hundreds of nuns, priests and laypeople spent the night in prayer. To accommodate the crowds, the prelate's body was moved from the bishop's house to nearby St. Mary's Cathedral, where funeral services are scheduled to take place on Jan. 20.

Church leaders joined political leaders in condoling the death.

Catholicos Baselios Thomas I, head of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in India, in his message, described the late prelate as "a great friend of the Syrian Jacobite Church in Kerala and a pillar of inspiration." The Syro-Malankara rite was part of the Jacobite church before coming into the Catholic fold in 1930.

The head of the Latin-rite church in Kerala, Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of Verapoly, hailed the major archbishop as a "charismatic leader who helped the Malankara Church achieve fast growth spiritually and socially," and who stood in the forefront when the Catholic Church faced challenges.

Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, stated in his condolence message that the Indian church has lost a "true leader" who "led the church with his vision and mission during the times of crises." He always tried to uphold human rights and human values, and dedicated his life for the poor and the marginalized, the cardinal noted. The Syro-Malabar Church leader recalled that the late prelate helped fight for the rights of minorities "whenever their freedom was challenged."

Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay, head of the Indian Latin-rite bishops' conference, said the late prelate was committed to inculturation of the church. The major archbishop was "an efficient facilitator" between India's Oriental rites and the universal church, he added.

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan described the late prelate's contributions to the state as unparalleled. He "worked for communal harmony and development of society," the communist leader told UCA News.

Others who condoled the death were federal Defense Minister A.K. Antony and Oommen Chandy, Kerala's opposition leader.

The Syro-Malankara rite was made a major archiepiscopal church in February 2005, with the late prelate became its first major archbishop. The church has 500,000 Catholics in two archdioceses and four dioceses.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yes indeed its a great lost for malankara catholic church and for teh universal church. he was a caznon lawyer and an iminent theologian. Our Beloved Bishop, Go in peace and pray for the Church.