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Mar George Alencherry Elected Major Arch Bishop of Syro-Malabar Church

May 28, 2011 by  
Filed under India, Kerala, Persecution

Mar George Allencherry

Mar George Allencherry

Kochi, Kerala, 26 May 2011: “The CSF hails the election of Mar George Allencherry and looks forward to an era of greater collaboration between the various rites, denominations and even between religions, since Kerala is a state, marked by unity in diversity”, said Joseph Dias, The CSF general secretary.

How does Major Archbishop George Alencherry feel being the first elected Asian Church leader?

“I feel it is part of the plan of God for this individual Church. I happened to be the instrument for that plan,” the prelate said, a day after his election as the leader of the larger of India’s Oriental Catholic rites. Although Church observers and media groups described him as the dark horse in the race, the new leader says he was prepared for the post as other bishops had recently given him enough indication for him to believe he could be elected. “The surprise was lessened because other bishops used to tell me to accept the post if such a call comes from God. So, I was reflecting on their friendly advice,” the 66-year-old prelate said. He is convinced he has a special mission and he will fulfill it with the cooperation of bishops of his Church as well those in Latin and Syro-Malankara Churches that make up the Catholic Church in India. Major Archbishop Alencherry says his priority is to collaborate with other Churches and religions for the welfare of all people in the country. He would also strive for unity and communion within his Church so that it can take up “effective evangelization” works within India and in other mission countries. He regrets, however, that his Church cannot exercise its right to evangelize because Rome has restricted its jurisdiction to Kerala, the southern Indian state where it is based.

His election indicates divine intervention. He is simple… and not a man of confrontation. The Syro-Malabar Church needs a person like him to guide the Church in modern times,” said Babu Paul, a theologian and expert on Church affairs. Bishop Alencherry emerged as the “dark horse” as he was not even among the probables, he said. Sebastian Paul, lawyer and former Member of Parliament, said Bishop Alencherry’s election “surprised us all.” He said: “I’ve no doubt that he emerged as a dark horse. Nobody thought about him till he was elected. Most of us were expecting Curia Bishop and Administrator Bosco Puthur would be elected.” Several television channels in Kerala state, where the Church is based, flashed Bishop Puthur as the winner, prior to the official announcement, he said.

Thuckalay Bishop George Alencherry has been named the new Major Arch Bishop of the Syro-Malabar Church. Born on 19 April 1945 at Thuruthy in Changanassery, Alancherry was ordained priest on 18 December 1972. Alancherry who graduated in economics from the Kerala University with second rank in 1965 also came out with flying colours from of the the Pontifical Theological Institute, Alwaye where he completed his Masters in Theology with a first rank. Alencherry also has a D.S.E.B. and D.Th. conjointly from Sorbonne University and Institut Caholique de Paris, France in 1986. He was ordained the bishop of Thuckalay on 2 February 1997.

 The Syro-Malabar Church has for the first time elected a new head. The Kerala-based Oriental Catholic rite, which claims its origin to St. Thomas the Apostle, elected Bishop George Alencherry of Thuckalay as its Major Archbishop May 26. The newly appointed bishop said his services will be for all people of India. He stressed inter-rite relations, inter-faith harmony and ecumenism. The Syro-Malabar Church along with the other Oriental rite Syro-Malankara Church and the Latin rite make up the Catholic Church in India. Bishop Alencherry, 66, succeeds Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who headed the Church. The 84-year-old cardinal died April 1 after a prolonged heart ailment. Pope John Paul II had appointed Cardinal Vithayathil its Major Archbishop in 1999.

Bishop Alencherry, however, is the first head to be elected by the Oriental Church’s synod. The election is part of the new administrative system put in place within the Syro-Malabar Church after Pope John Paul II made it a Major Archiepiscopal Church in 1992. With that elevation the pope appointed Cardinal Antony Padiyara as its first Major Archbishop. However, the pope reserved the powers to appoint the major archbishop and bishops. The Vatican in 2004 granted full administrative powers to the Church, including the power to elect bishops. The synod, following Syro-Malabar Church rules, met at its headquarters in Kochi to elect a new leader. The synod will conclude on May 29. He is currently the secretary of the Syro-Malabar Synod and also the chairman of the Synodal Commission for Catechesis.

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