Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Indian bishop quits to become a hermit

 Auxiliary Bishop Jacob Muricken of Palai has left his official post to become a hermit

A Catholic bishop has become a hermit, quitting his position to fulfill his long-cherished desire, the first such case in the Catholic Church in India.

Auxiliary Bishop Jacob Muricken of Palai diocese of the eastern rite Syro-Malabar Church based in the southern state of Kerala left the bishop’s house on Aug. 15 and moved to a hermitage he built in Nallathanni in Kanjirappally diocese.

Bishop Muricken, 59, "took this decision following approval from the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church,” Father Joseph Maleparampil told UCA News on Aug 22, a week after the prelate left the bishop’s house.

“The prelate will spend his remaining life in prayer in isolation and continue to hold the title of bishop. This is the first case in India’s Catholic Church where a bishop has become a hermit,” Father Maleparampil said, adding "The prayers of the bishop will surely rejuvenate the Catholic Church."

“Bishop Muricken is so down to earth that before becoming bishop he never used to wear footwear. He began to wear slippers after becoming the auxiliary bishop and he also follows a very simple vegetarian diet eating twice a day. He is an inspiration to all of us,” the priest said.

Earlier speaking to UCA News, Bishop Muricken said his decision to quit the bishop's office came from "an inspiration from God."

"It is a special call within a call to become a monk and abstain from official life as a bishop and other administrative roles in the diocese. It is to become closer to God and nature," he said.

The idea of leading a solitary life came to him in 2017, five years after he was ordained auxiliary bishop of Palai. 

The bishop said he looked forward to spending the rest of his life "more in prayer and meditation and leading an eco-friendly life away from the hustle and bustle of the routines of a bishop."

The prelate in an interview released through deepika.com, a Churn-run news portal announcing his move, said his life and prayer in solitude “will help transform the Catholic Church and people across the globe.”

The prelate said he wants to be with the people but “God inspires me to go into solitude.”

“When an ordinary person becomes a monk or hermit it will not be noticed much, but when a bishop becomes a monk it will get the attention and focus of many people who will in turn think about the will of God,” he said.

“Solitary life does not mean that I hate the world, but to see the world as per the will of God who is the creator. Now people treat the world as a utility and exploit it for luxury, but my attempt as a hermit is to live in the world according to the will of the creator.”

The prelate said his life in the hermitage will be totally focused on the holy host and with the presence of Christ all the time.

“When I was in the bishop’s house I was busy with so many things but now I will only focus on a Christ-centered life.”

The prelate said he chose a remote place as he wanted to avoid a public who visit him for personal worldly gain rather than spiritual gain.

“Now I am sure only those who wish to gain spiritual insight will call on me and I will interact with them,” he said.

“I will also discharge the duties of a bishop in case of emergencies such as ordinations where a bishop is unavailable or other such things, but not to hold any office of bishop.

“Such emergency assignments will be accepted provided Church authorities make the request,” he added.

Bishop Muricken hit international headlines in 2016 by becoming the first bishop in India to donate one of his kidneys to a Hindu. 

Muricken was born in Muttuchira, a village parish in the diocese, on June 16, 1963. He joined a seminary after completing a master's degree in economics and was ordained a priest in 1993.

The two-week synod in session at Mount St. Thomas, the headquarters of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kochi, since Aug. 16, has not made any official announcement regarding Bishop Muricken.