Friday, December 20, 2013

Syro-Malabar Church facing pastoral vacuum

The Syro- Malabar Church in India is experiencing pastoral vacuum with the increasing number of youth belonging to the congregation seeking better pastures abroad.
The spiritual leadership of the Church, which is one of the largest Christian denominations in Kerala, is intensifying its pastoral activities because of the apprehension that the next generation may altogether abandon them.

According to a survey conducted by the Laity Commission, of the 3.5 million member- strong Church, 78 per cent of its ‘sheep’ in the age group of 20-32 years are living out of Kerala or India and are unlikely to settle back in Kerala.

“It is true that the migration is affecting the social atmosphere of Syro Malabar families. At the same time we are not in a position to blame those leaving country seeking better opportunities,’’ points out V C Sebastian, Secretary of the Laity Commission.

The greatest concern of the Church is that the new generation will be losing the tradition dating back close to two millenia, that it claims to possess.

“Children of Syro Malabarians who are brought up in a different country, in a different socio- cultural atmosphere, will remain ignorant of the tradition. Even if these children are taken back home, the character formation would have happened. This situation certainly worries the Church,” said Bishop Mathew Arakkal of Kanjirappally, who is also the chairman of Laity Commission.

The Commission takes care of the pastoral affairs of members of the Church, both inside the country and abroad.

The Laity Commission has already opened Laity Centers in different countries and across India to facilitate members of the Church who live away from their home. These centers are being opened as directed by the Bishops’ Synod.

“Though the focus was on Syro-Malabar community, the flow of youth from other religions and communities is also on the rise. But this has not affected those communities much. There has not been any in-depth study on this subject,” says Sebastian.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is an East Syrian Rite. It is one of the 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in the Catholic Church. It is the largest of the Saint Thomas Christian denominations with around four million believers and traces its origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. It is also the second largest Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome.

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