Syromalabar Diocese in Chennai! When? Soon or Never?

By Dr. James Kottoor



On Aug.30th 2016 CCV (Church Citizens’ Voice)  published the article: “Now or never?  Syro-malabar Diocese in Chennai?” by  P.C.Joseph, a spokesperson for  Catholics in Chennai who are opposed to creating a different, divisivse Rite-specific diocese and new divisions  in the already existing, smoothly functioning and longstanding Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore  of the Latin Rite which takes good care of Catholics belonging to various Rites.

         Since this scribe had been writing on the subject for long from the sixties, at the request of the that group in Chennai I visited in the last week of September to meet the  Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore to find out his thinking and discuss it with the group who were  working for a happy solution for the last 50 years. The minds of former Archbishops, starting from R. Arulappa in the 1960ies followed by Archbishops Casimir Gnanadickam sj, Arul Das James, A.M.Chinnappa sdb  have been racking their brains to solve this issue for good, without much success. Now it is for the present  Archbishop George Antonysamy, formerly in the diplomatic service,  to try his turn and luck.

No Demand from Laity

              The meeting with Archbishop Antonysamy took place on  September 30th afterfoon on St.Thomas Mount. He was just finishing his retreat with the diocesan priests and was very gracious to meet me and express his thinking on the issue. Very frankly he told me, “not a single lay person ever approached him with the request of setting up a Syromalabar Diocese in Chennai.” The clamour  for it  first and foremost has always been from the part of Syromalabar Bishops and then priests of that Rite, who are going to benefit from such a new Ecclesiastical structure.

                 By benefits what is meant are positions like Bishoprics, positions of Parish priests and heads of  important institutions in the new diocese. The simple lay people are not the least bothred about these things. It is something like those who form new political parties for the sake of becoming MPs or MLAs or other profitable positions in the new political party.  This is beautifully expressed in the complaint of the Syromalabar Church’s oft repeated argument quoted ad nauseam at various occasions: “We produce 70% of the clergy of this country but we control only about 0.04% of the territory. Therefore we are justified in wanting more territory.”

         From this as anyone can clearly understand,  it is all about  Control: financial and political. It is precisely for this reason,  writers like me never hesitated to call this “Religious Colonization” pure and simple. True evangelization or spreading the good word is just the opposite, serving the poorest of the poor, and caring for the afflicted and abandoned, not ruling over territories or lording it over people which is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the good news Jesus preached by his words and deeds --- especially his mendicant life of three years treading the dusty roads of Palestine, without having even a postal address, let alone Episcopal palaces, or posh air-conditioned rectories or offices to stay in and exert authority.

Evangelization is incarnational

          Evangeliztion is incarnational,  as Jesus  did, becoming one with the people of the place, not importing one’s own culture  and tradition.  Since Jesus was born in Israel, he became a Jew, lived a Jew and died a Jew with the inscription “Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews (INRI) on his cross.  Had he been born in India, he would have been a Hindu,  said this scribe, and the Archbishop readily agreed.

         To start a new Syromalabar diocese anywhere the first thing needed is the consent of the Local functioning Bishop. Now that person is Archbishop Antonysamy. His wish is, and it has to be the wish of the people of the place, Chennai, which is overwhelmingly against.  Some 40 years ago when a consultation of the people was done under Archbishop R. Arulappa, all participants readily welcomed Kerala priests and sisters to work in various parishes, as most of them have  been known for their  real missionary spirit and zeal.  But when it came to entrusting certain parishes to Syromalabar priests,  opposition was too strong and reportedly only  2 among the big gathering voted for entrusting. That thinking of the people reportedly continues even today. In any case, it has to be ascertained.

Peoples’ Synod Suggested

        So the Archbishop told me, that he is thinking of inviting Cardinal George Alanchery, the head of the SMC, other  interested  Syromalabar bishops and priests, as well as the people’s representatives in Chennai for holding a Synod in Chennai to asses the general thinking of the people of God and act accordingly. On his own, he cannot, he will not  and he should not say “YES” or “NO” to a Syromalabar Eparchy, in Chennai, which is right and proper. No one can object to his stand.

         I discussed this thinking of the Archbishop on  Oct.3rd with the group headed by  P.C.Joseph, T.J. George, Peter Manavalan  and others in Chennai. The right outcome of such a consultation will depend on the  proper representation of the members of the synod, depending on whether the participants are mostly nominated Yes-men and women of the bishop or the Parish priests or elected persons and therefore representing the views of the local people.

        When  the present Pope  ordered a survey of the people of God (lay people) on “Challenges facing Christian Families” all over the world for the last two Vatican Family synods, most of our Indian bishops never conducted any  real survey, but sent the opinions of the bishops and their council of priests as the opinion of the laity. That should not happen in this consultation on a SM Diocese in Chennai.

Voting with Slips

              To prevent such a mishap, what I would suggest is the following. Once the date of the Synod of the people is fixed, all parish priests may be requested to announce it in their parishes with a sermon highlighting the pros and cons of a new Syromalabar Diocese and request the laity who wish to take part in the Synod to vote by dropping a slip with the voter’s: “Name, postal address and phone and with the inscription: “I am for the Syromalabar diocese”  or “I am against a Syromalabar  diocese” and drop it in the collection box  to be put up in every  parish. A period of three Sundays should be given for the laity to drop their votes. Those who voted in this way should be invited for the Synod to discuss various issues. Of course the organisers of the Synod may work out better ways for people’s participation.

            The major threats afflicting the Church in India are manifold. Remember the priestly prayer of Jesus “that they may all be ONE”  which included not only the believers and followers Jesus, but of the whole world, followers of different religions, unbelievers and atheists. That is why Jesus presented himself as the Son of Man, the ideal humane human being for all times, peoples and places.

Six Major threats

           The main threats to this unity in India is: 1. First it’s age-old  divisive Caste system and caste mentality  afflicting the whole church starting with the Bishops. A clear proof of Bishops and  priests infected with caste mentality was the recent kidnap on last April 26th of Bishop Gallela of  Kadappa,  a Dalit by his own three parish priests who belonged to the superior Reddy caste. I wrote several articles on it and sent them to all Indian Bishops.  A major aberration was that practically no Catholic weeklies wrote on this Kidnap. No area of India is free from this Caste mentality. In Kerala they have the community of  Puthuchristianies (newly converted from Pulayas and Parayas) and separate places and positions allotted to them in the Church in Kerala.  In Tamilnadu and Andhra this caste division is more sharp and biting.

         2. Second is the inter-Rite rivalries between various Catholic Rites in India – Latin, Syromalabar(SMC) and Syromalankara Churches. This can be compared to two main political parties – Congress and BJP – and the ever so many skeleton parties sticking to them to get visibility, political and financial benefits. The Syromalabar and Malankara churches may be compared to skeleton parties, which they are sure to object although facts may prove the contrary.

        3. A third threat shattering the quality of the Catholic community is the pure blood marriage (Endogamy) practiced by the Kottayam Diocese in Kerala  which is part and parcel of SM Church and endorsed silently and promoted by word and writing by many Bishops themselves. In the present case we have the latest letter of Bishop Angadiath of Chicago diocese supported by Cardinal Alancherry and Archbishop of Kottayam. We discussed this clearly racist practice, against the decrees and directives of the Vatican, especially of the Easten Rite many times in CCV and sent them to all Indian Bishops, with not a word of response from any of the bishops, except one stay bishop of Faridabad in Delhi.

Clergy-Laity divide

         4. Fourth is the sharp Clergy-laity divide in almost every diocese in India where they have not constituted either the
Diocesan and Parish Pastoral Council  to guide the spiritual needs of the parish or the Parish Financial council to look after the financial needs and issues which are not to be left to the whims and fancies of the Bishop, Parish priests and their yes-men. This is a directive from the  50 year old second Vatican Council, still to  be implemented in most of the dioceses and parishes in India.

       5. Fifth is the exhibition of the pomp and posh living of the Pyramidal structure of the  Church which Jesus turned upside down down when he washed the feet of his disciples and when Pope Francis gave his momentous address on the Synodality of the Church during the two Vatican Family Synods. This scribe wrote it more than 40 years ago as New Leader editor.

       Caste system in India has only four grades or steps in the ladder upwards and down wards – Bhramins, Shetriays, Vaisias and Sudras the good for nothing Dalits and untouchables.   But the pyramidal government structure in the church has many more steps – from the Pope at the very pinnacle of the Pyramid  to the good for nothing laity at the bottom with ever so many descending divisions like -  Cardinals (His Eminences), Archbishops (His Graces), Eparchs, Bishops(His Ecellencies), Monsignors, Priests, Religious, Chevaliers(from the laity) and finally the riffraffs called the laity.

Francis & Inverted Pyramid

          When Pope Francis overturned this Pyramidal  structure in his epoch making Synodal speech, he placed himself one step below  the bottom group laity to truly deserve the title (“Servus servorum”)   Servant of Servants. Recall his start at the very outset of his pontificate, calling himself  a sinner (“I am a sinner” in his first interview) not calling himself “His Holiness”.  For this  and many other things Elton Johnson graphically described Francis as: “Miracle of humility in an Era of vanity.”

                      His latest description of the laity was that the clock has stopped and now it is the “Hour of the Laity” when every one should look up to (not look down on) the  laity to draw inspiration and listen to what they have to say in pastoral and financial practice. Are the bishops and the clergy listening to these admonitions of Pope Francis? To Solve the burning issue of starting a new Syromalabar Church in Chennai, this is a MUST, that is, listening to the  people of Chennai and drawing inspiration and guidance from them. Readers with different or better views and suggestions are cordially invited to send in their suggestions for publication in the CCV  for further reflection, modification and action.

            6. All honorific appellations and different styles of royal dress in red and purple, in silk and satern must be wiped out  as an insult to  the “Behold the Man” half naked and going to be crucified. Jesus never wore a special glitering royal dress of a prince even during his royal ride into Jerusalem on the back of an ass with the accompaniment of olive branches, not gold studded ambrellas and golden or silver crosses. Here the first need of the Church is to evangelize the so-called “Evangelizers”.

         There are many more things to say. But it is enough to point out, what is happening to many organised religions, especially to Islam and the start of divisions within Islam into Sunni and Shia, which reminds us of the bitter animosities between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland.  The Rite rivalries in the Church in India has all the potential to grow into such an open confrontation between Suni and Shia, if the sharpening divisions are not nipped in the bud. Unity is strength, divided we fall, the whole Church in India, both Syro and Latin. Let not misguided zeal for the House God (are they shining posh cathedrals?)  lead us literally to ZERO!

Contact at:, Mob:09445219203

                    (This write up will be forwarded to all Indian bishops for information, reflection, sharing, reaction and new suggestions. Please do something similar or better for the greater good of the public or (ad majorem Dei gloriam) for the greater glory of God! which in fact is the creation of a humane humanity!


 Published in Church Citizen’s Voice(CCV) Kerala, 10/7/16;



isaac gomes,     Kolkatta, 10/7/16

to me, 


A very pointed article, especially the six points which ail the Catholic Church.  But unfortunately it is our Laity stalwarts like John Dayal who are mum on Casteism among Catholics.  The Casteist issue helps him pose as a leader of the Laity which is absolutely misplaced. 


Isaac, Kolkatta


Joseph Mattam sj, 10/7/16/

to me

Dear James,

Just one observation. If Jesus were to be born in India he would have  been born as a dalit, not a  high caste Hindu. You  say in your article that Jesus would have born here as a Hindu. No, not a Hindu, but a dalit.


James Kottoor, 10/7/16/

to Joseph

Yes Joe, you are 100% right. If I had more time to reflect perhaps I would have written just that. I came back from Chennai only yesterday and I wanted to finish the report and send it today. I am fully sold on what you say. Perhaps I would have gone one step further and said, he would have been born an "Untouchable", not Dalit. Now I am fully concerned about the untouchables in India whether in society or Church. Thanks for the timely correction. God bless you. James

John Dayal, Delhi, 10/7/16/

to me, 

Excellent article, James 

God bless

John Dayal,Delhi
Sent from my phone 


Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

മലയാളത്തില്‍ ടൈപ്പ് ചെയ്യാന്‍ ഇവിടെ ക്ലിക്ക് ചെയ്യുക

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

അസഭ്യവും നിയമവിരുദ്ധവും അപകീര്‍ത്തികരവുമായ പരാമര്‍ശങ്ങള്‍ പാടില്ല. വ്യക്തിപരമായ അധിക്ഷേപങ്ങളും ഉണ്ടാവരുത്. അവ സൈബര്‍ നിയമപ്രകാരം കുറ്റകരമാണ്. അഭിപ്രായങ്ങള്‍ എഴുതുന്നയാളുടേത് മാത്രമാണ്. ഇ-മലയാളിയുടേതല്ല


സോമർസെറ്റ്‌ സെൻറ്‌ തോമസ് ഫൊറോനാ ദേവാലയത്തിൽ വിശുദ്ധ തോമാശ്ലീഹായുടെയും വിശുദ്ധ അൽഫോൻസാമ്മയുടെയും സംയുക്ത തിരുനാൾ ജൂലൈ 2- മുതൽ 11 -വരെ

മാര്‍ പുളിക്കല്‍ കാഞ്ഞിരപ്പള്ളി രൂപതാ മെത്രാന്‍; ഫാ. പീറ്റര്‍ കൊച്ചുപുരയ്ക്കല്‍ പാലക്കാട് സഹായമെത്രാന്‍

ഡാളസ് സൗഹൃദവേദി ക്രിസ്തുമസ് ആഘോഷം ഡിസംബര്‍ 28 -ന് ശനിയാഴ്ച

പി.സി.എന്‍.എ.കെ 2020 പ്രമോഷണല്‍ മീറ്റിംഗും ആരാധനാ സന്ധ്യയും

കെ എച് എന്‍ എകണ്‍വെന്‍ഷന് ന്യൂ ജേഴ്‌സിയില്‍ ഉജ്വല തുടക്കം

കുമ്പനാട് സംഗമം മയാമിയില്‍ ജൂലൈ 6ന്

സഭയില്‍ സമാധാന അന്തരീക്ഷം സംജാതമാകണം

ന്യൂജേഴ്‌സി സെന്റ് ജോര്‍ജ് ഓര്‍ത്തഡോക്‌സ് പള്ളി പെരുന്നാള്‍ ശനി, ഞായര്‍ തീയതികളില്‍

ഫിലാഡല്‍ഫിയയില്‍ ഉയിര്‍പ്പുതിരുനാള്‍ ഭക്തിപൂര്‍വം ആഘോഷിച്ചു

എംജിഒസിഎസ്എം ഒസിവൈഎം അലുമ്‌നൈ മീറ്റിങ് ന്യൂജഴ്‌സിയില്‍

സെന്റ് തോമസ് ഇടവക മൗണ്ട് ഒലിവിലേക്ക്

കാതോലിക്കാ ദിനാഘോഷവും അഭി. ഐറേനിയോസ് മെത്രാപ്പോലീത്തയ്ക്ക് സ്വീകരണവും

മാര്‍ത്തോമ്മാ സഭ സൗത്ത് വെസ്റ്റ് റീജിയണല്‍ കോണ്‍ഫറന്‍സ് വെള്ളിയാഴ്ച മുതല്‍.

മാര്‍ത്തോമാ യുവജനസഖ്യം ഭദ്രാസന കോണ്‍ഫറന്‍സ് റാഫിള്‍ കിക്കോഫ് നടത്തി

കന്യാസ്ത്രിക്ക് പൂര്‍ണ പോലീസ്‌ സുരക്ഷ നല്‍കാന്‍ കോടതി ഉത്തരവ്

ഫ്രാന്‍സിസ് മാര്‍പാപ്പായുടെ യുഎഇ സന്ദര്‍ശനം ഞായറാഴ്ച അരംഭിക്കും

ഫാമിലി കോണ്‍ഫറന്‍സ്; ഇടവക സന്ദര്‍ശനങ്ങള്‍ തുടരുന്നു

മകരവിളക്കിന്‌ മണിക്കൂറുകള്‍: സന്നിധാനം ഭക്തിസാന്ദ്രം

മകരവിളക്കിനായി ശബരിമല ഇന്ന് നടതുറക്കും

ക്‌നാനായ റീജിയണ്‍ പ്രീ മാര്യേജ് കോഴ്‌സ് ന്യുജേഴ്‌സിയില്‍ നടത്തപ്പെട്ടു

ഫില്‍ഡല്‍ഫിയായില്‍ എക്യൂമെനിക്കല്‍ ക്രിസ്തുമസ് പുതുവത്സരാഘോഷം ഡിസംബര്‍ 8ന്

ഫാ. അഗസ്റ്റിന്‍ വട്ടോളിയും കെ.സി.ആര്‍.എം.എന്‍.എ ടെലികോണ്‍ഫറന്‍സും (ചാക്കോ കളരിക്കല്‍)

സാന്‍ഫ്രാന്‍സിസ്‌കോയില്‍ സീറോ മലബാര്‍ കണ്‍വന്‍ഷന്‍ കിക്കോഫ്

കേരള സമൂഹത്തില്‍ വിടവ് സൃഷ്ടിക്കാന്‍ രാഷ്ട്രീയ അജണ്ട- മാര്‍ പൗലോസ്

താമ്പാ സേക്രട്ട് ഹാര്‍ട്ട് ഇടവകയിലെ സെമിനാരി ഫണ്ട് ഉദ്ഘാടനം നടത്തപ്പെട്ടു.

ബിഷപ്പ്‌ ഫ്രാങ്കോയ്‌ക്ക്‌ ജലന്ധറില്‍ രാജകീയ സ്വീകരണം

താമ്പ സേക്രഡ് ഹാര്‍ട്ട് ദേവാലയത്തില്‍ ഏലക്ക മാല ലേലം നടത്തപ്പെട്ടു

ന്യൂയോര്‍ക്ക് ക്‌നാനായ ഫൊറോനാ ബൈബിള്‍ കലോത്സവം നവംബര്‍ മൂന്നിന് ന്യൂജേഴ്‌സിയില്‍

കൂദാശകളൊന്നും വിലപറയാന്‍ ഉപയോഗിക്കപ്പെടേണ്ടതമല്ല

കന്യാസ്‌ത്രീ പീഡനം: ബിഷപ്പ്‌ ഫ്രാങ്കോ മുളയ്‌ക്കല്‍ അറസ്റ്റില്‍

View More