THOMAS CHRISTIANS COME TO ROME FOR JUBILEE
The Syro-Malabar Apostolic Major Archiepiscopal Church of the St Thomas
Christians celebrated the Great Jubilee in Rome at the invitation of the
Central Committee for the Great Jubilee. The Jubilee celebrations
culminated on Sunday, 19 March, in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist
at the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, at which Mar Varkey Vithayathil,
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, presided. Mar Jacob Thookuzhy,
Mar Joseph Pallikaparambil, Mar Abraham Mattam and Mar Jacob Manathodath
were the other Syro-Malabar Bishops concelebrating with hundreds of
priests from the Syro-Malabar and other Churches.
The celebration began with a procession conducted in
Indian style, in which traditionally clad women welcomed the celebrants
with flowers. The dignitaries, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, Cardinal
Roger Etchegaray, Cardinal Simon Lourdusamy, Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I
Bidawid, Armenian Patriarch emeritus Pierre Kasparian, Archbishop
Crescenzio Sepe, Auxiliary Bishop Luigi Moretti and Mr K. P. Fabian,
Indian ambassador to Italy, were welcomed with garlands and assisted the
main celebrants with lighting the lamp.
During the solemn liturgy the whole congregation
thanked God for all his beautiful gifts to the Church. The Scripture
readings were in three languages and the homily in Italian. The prayer of
the faithful was offered in four Indian languages. Cardinal Achille
Silvestrini read a Jubilee message and the General Convenor, Fr Job
Myladiyil, expressed everyone's thanks.
On 16 March a Jubilee meditation with Eucharistic
Adoration was organized and conducted in St Peter's Basilica, and on 18
March many Syro-Malabar faithful attended the papal audience in St Peter's
Square. The Holy Father had a special Jubilee message for the Syro-Malabar
According to tradition, the Syro-Malabar Apostolic
Church originated in the preaching of the Apostle St Thomas. He arrived on
the Malabar coast in 52 and established seven and a half Churches before
being killed in 72 at Mylapore. For this reason the faithful have
traditionally been called St Thomas Christians.
In 1923 Pope Pius XI created the Syro-Malabar
hierarchy. The proper territory was limited to Kerala and it was extended
a little in 1953 and 1955. The territory currently includes all of Kerala
and some districts of Tamilnadu and Karnataka states, where there are 14
Dioceses for the Syro-Malabar Church. In addition there are 10 Dioceses
outside the proper territory.
In 1992 Pope John Paul II elevated this Church to a
Major Achiepiscopal Church with the see of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
According to recent statistics, the Church has
3,669,313 faithful, not counting the faithful of the Gulf countries,
Australia, South Africa and missionaries outside India. Vocations to the
priesthood and the consecrated life are very strong. Diocesan priests
number 2,799, seminarians 1,199, men religious 3,439 and women religious
30,066. There are 6,823 charitable institutes and schools. About 67 per
cent of the missionaries working in the Latin Dioceses of India are from
the Syro-Malabar Church.