“Placidachan”, it was so that the Malayalees always knew and fondly called the great son of the Syro-Malabar Church, Very Rev. Prof. DDDr. Placid Joseph Podipara, CMI. He is, in fact, the voice of the Thomas Christians of India of the twentieth century and stands as a towering personality among the ecclesiastical luminaries of this country.
Father Placid spent himself completely for building up the community of Mar Thomma Nazranikal (St Thomas Christians of India) in its genuine charm and colour. We must admit that he succeeded to a great extent in this Herculean task. He led an austere and holy life. Being a true believer, he knew very well the relation and distinction between his own mother Church, the Mar Thomma Margam, and the Universal Church. He fostered a filial devotion to both.
True reverence and obedience to the Pope, the Successor of St. Peter, Head of the Universal Church and Symbol of Ecclesial Communion; allergy to worldly honours and positions; unassuming hard work; the habit of suffering with the Saviour; filial devotion to the mother Church; and so on are but a few of the virtues that shone forth in the life of Father Placid. The magnanimity and serenity he expressed even when he was misunderstood, or when his selfless attempts to illuminate the Mar Thomma Margam were criticized and ignored, or when he was accused of false charges, was admirable and exemplary. He completed his life as a messenger of peace and thus made meaningful the name PLACID which he received in the CMI religious community. Waves are rather nil on the deep sea. Father Placid was, indeed, a man of depth both in his learning and in his spiritual life. Spiritual life for him was the authentic liturgical life of his mother Church.
He was born on October 3, 1899 at Arpookara in the Podipara family. His early education was in St Ephrem’s High School, run by the St. Joseph’s Monastery, Mannanam, the mother-house of the CMI (then TOCD) RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY. He joined the same religious community after his High School education and became a professed religious in 1919. He was then sent to the St Joseph’s Seminary, Mangalore, of the Jesuits for his priestly studies. On December 3, 1927 he was ordained to the priesthood. In 1928 he went for higher studies to Rome and returned with three doctorates (in philosophy, theology and canon law) to teach in the Major Seminary of his religious community at Chethipuzha, Changanassery.
Besides the regular teaching assignment in the Seminary, he was involved in very many other activities during his 24 years of residency at Chethipuzha. He was a sought after retreat and convention preacher and a close associate of the Re-Union Movement. He was also the consultor of several Bishops. In 1934 he was appointed a member of the Pontifical Commission for codifying the Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, and in 1939 the examiner of Syriac Language in the Kerala (then Travancore) State University. In between he served the CMI religious community as the first Consultor to the Prior General for five years from 1943. In 1952 he was appointed a Consultor to the Congregation for Oriental Churches, which he continued up to 1977. He was specially selected by His Eminence Eugene Cardinal Tisserant to be his Private Secretary during his official visitation to India in 1953. It brought many benefits to the Oriental Churches in India.
In 1954 he was called to Rome and there he served the Church in various capacities. He was a member of the Pontifical Commission for restoring the Syro-Malabar Qurbana, the Commission for preparing the agenda of the Second Vatican Council, the Synodal Commission for the Eastern Churches, the Commission for preparing the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, and so on. He was also a Professor in the Pontifical Oriental Institute and Urban University, Rector of the Malabar College, Papal Expert to the Second Vatican Council and Visitator to the SIC Convents in India.
He returned to India in 1980 and went to his favoured residence, the CMI Monastery at Chethipuzha. There he peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on April 27, 1985. His mortal remains are laid to rest in the monastery chapel and the tomb has become a place of prayer and source of consolation for those who knew him well.
It is right and fitting, I believe, that this beloved son of the Mar Thomma Margam be becomingly remembered and emulated from generation to generation. It is up to the Hierarchy of the Syro-Malabar Church, in collaboration with all other Churches belonging to the St Thomas Christians of India, to erect or establish a remarkable monument in honour of this unique personality.
Dr Varghese Pathikulangara, CMI
FR. PLACID’S MEMORANDUM TO HIS EMINENCE EUGENE CARDINAL TISSERANT
Changanacherry, South India.
Nov. 26, 1953
(Submitted at the Bishop’s House, Thiruvalla)
May I herewith submit for Your Eminence’s kind consideration certain questions regarding the Syro-Malabar Church. These questions deal with:
- The restoration of the Syro-Malabar Rite
- Seminaries for the Syro-Malabarians
- Extension of the Syro-Malabar territory and jurisdiction with special reference to objection from Double Jurisdiction. The question of a Hierarch for all Syro-Malabarians dispersed throughout India is hinted in this connection; this Hierarch may hearken back to the ancient Syro-Malabar Metropolitan known as the DOOR OF ALL INDIA.
- A mission for the Syro-Malabarians.
- Syro-Malabar provinces of Latin Religious Institutes.
- Religious Congregations and Institutes among Syro-Malabarians
- Educational Institutions.
I have briefly developed these questions in these appended pages under the general heading CERTAIN QUESTIONS REGARDING THE SYRO-MALABAR CHURCH.
In the course of developing these questions I have also made a few suggestions for the progress of the Syro-Malabar Church, revealing certain things that do or may do harm to the same Church.
Kissing the sacred purple on bent knees and imploring Your Eminence’s blessings,
I beg to remain,
Your Eminence’s obedient son
Fr. Placid of St. Joseph, TOCD (CMI)
CERTAIN QUESTIONS REGARDING THE SYRO-MALABAR CHURCH
I. The Restoration of the Syro-Malabar Rite
The Syro-Malabar Rite is highly latinised and also mutilated. Its restoration cannot be delayed any longer. But there is no hope that an efficient move will come from Malabar itself. It would be enough for the present to restore to the Rite its structural unity and original physiognomy. This is the minimum that in no way can be omitted or delayed. The restoration can easily be begun from the Pontificals.
The tendency to copy everything Latin should be discouraged. By restoring the Rite to its original physiognomy it must be given scope for congenial growth in the different environments it may find itself in the various parts of India.
Laymen exhibit a great desire to have parts of the Rite translated into Malayalam. This will certainly promote their spirituality. But it is not advisable to introduce Malayalam into the Rite before the Rite has been restored as said above. There is need of creating in all, both clergy and laity, a true liturgical sense. The background has to be prepared in seminaries. The introduction of Malayalam will be a nice occasion for restoration of the Rite.
Since the Syro-Malabar Rite was known as LEX THOMAE before the 16th century and also in the 16th century, it is suggested that it be called THOMAS CHRISTIAN RITE. This appellation will be more appealing to the educated Hindus for whom the particle SYRO may sound foreign. Of course, the Rite will remain Chaldean in structure; but the Thomas Christian touches it still has, will be given more prominence. This will easily make the Hindus understand that Christianity has been in India from the very beginning.
II. Seminaries for the Syro-Malabarians
a) Major Seminary. The Syro-Malabarians have no Major Seminary of their own. True, there is the Alwaye Seminary. But though this be under the S. Oriental Congregation, it is for purposes of jurisdiction under the Latin archbishop of Verapoly. It may be mentioned that the territory wherein stands the Seminary is common to the Syro-Malabar Church Archbishop of Ernakulam also. Again, the formation imparted in this Seminary is utterly inadequate at least from the Oriental point of view. There is no provision for oriental studies such as the history of the Syro-Malabar church, the history and nature of the Syro-Malabar Rite and so on. To teach all these there is need of a thorough change in every line. For, as things stand at present, nothing of all these seems to be possible in view of the relations between the teachers and the taught. If this state of things cannot be changed, the other alternative would be to have a separate central Major Seminary exclusively for the Orientals. It is high time to proceed with this reform which must include in a special manner the liturgical and historical formation of the alumni.
Orientals studying in other seminaries such as Kandy, Trichy, Mangalore & c should be given all facility to learn and practise things Oriental.
The TOCD (CMI) House of Studies also have to become more Oriental in outlook. There also the Oriental atmosphere is lacking, and there is required a more intense study of things Oriental.
b) Minor Seminary. Each Eparchy has now a Minor Seminary in which students are taught syriac and Latin for two years. No sufficient attention, however, is paid to the teaching of Syriac. It is supposed that those who are sent to Alwaye will learn Syriac there. But what about those who are sent to Kandy (Now Pune) and other Places ? Again, at alwaye the study of Syriac is confined to liturgical books and to a few other lessons only. Hence a solid foundation has to be laid in the Minor Seminary itself. The atmosphere in the Minor Seminary is not conducive to this at present. There are professors whose very presence creates in the students an indifferent attitude towards things Oriental. This attitude in course of time makes them neglect or even hate everything Oriental.
The above mentioned remarks apply also to the TOCD (CMI) students who undergo the same courses before they are received into the Novitiate.
III. Extension of Syro-Malabar Territory:
The present Syro-Malabar territory is very small. It is only as extensive as the territory of the Eparchy of Thiruvalla, and is also shared by the jurisdictions of Thiruvalla, Vijayapuram, Cochin, Alleppey and Verapoly. It may, therefore, be extended to the north and to the south so as to cover at least the whole of Malayalam speaking areas of South India.
The extension to the north is imperative since the great majority of the faithful of the Latin diocese of Calicut is Syro-Malabarian in Rite and nationality. A portion of the Latin diocese of Coimbatore-Melarcode may be added to the Syro-Malabar territory since the faithful there are Syro-Malabarians and the place is contiguous to the Eparchy of Trichur to which it is said to have belonged at one time.
The extension to the south also is a necessity. The Syro-Malabarians in Travancore-Cochin are a very strong community and so they have to have their influence felt in Trivandrum, the Capital of Travancore-Cochin. The Jacobites have their own churches and priests in Trivandrum. The Syro-Malabarians , however, have no influence there as a community. There are already a few syro-Malabar families permanently residing in Trivandrum while the TOCD (CMI) Fathers maintain a residence also there. There are, besides, more than a thousand and more familoies of Syro-Malabar colonists in the Latin dioceses of Trivandrum and Quilon. These colonists are not, as a whole, very rich and many of them live in the interior where they cannot have free access to Latin priests. There are v.g. hundreds of families of Syro-Malabarian colonists in a place called Maya in the Latin diocese of Trivandrum inhabiting mountainous regions. Once in a month or so a European missionary goes to them, but his services are inadequate to keep the colonists in the practice of their faith. Moreover, in some places there is also the influence of Jacobites who are of the same race and culture as the Syro-Malabarians. Considering all these there may not be any serious objections to extend the Syro-Malabar jurisdiction to the south also.
a) Syro-Malabar jurisdiction outside the Malayalam speaking areas:
Outside the Malayalam speaking areas also there are to be found many Syro-Malabarians v.g. in Bombay, Madras, Bangalore, Poona, Delhi & c. Since India is politically one now, the Syro-Malabarians will continue going out and forming Communities in chief centres as officials or as laborers or as students... The Jacobites and the Marthomites who have gone out in the same manner have got in some places chapels and priests of their own and where they have no chapels their priests minister to them in Protestant Churches. Since the Syro-Malabarians and these non-Catholics are of the same stock having also family connections there is danger for the Syro-Malabarians to lose the Faith in places where they have no priests of their own. For the aforesaid non-Catholics there are, moreover, Bishops who occasionally go out of Travancore-Cochin to visit them.
Hence the suggestion that for the Syro-Malabarians dispersed throughout India outside the Malayalam speaking areas there be given a Hierarch who may see to their needs through Syro-Malabar priests or otherwise. this will be a means also for promoting the reunion of Jacobites and Marthomite emigrants. The latin ordinaries can do very little or nothing in this line. In the centres spoken above, TOCD (CMI) houses or residences also could be opened to cater to the needs of the Syro-Malabar emigrants.
It may be said that the needs of the emigrants could be met by sending to them Syro-Malabar priests under the local Latin Ordinaries. But as a matter of fact, the Syro-Malabar Hierarchs may not be moved to send out priests or to put up churches for these emigrants as long as these emigrants continue to be under Latin jurisdiction. Hence the question of a Hierarch for them as well as the opening of TOCD (CMI) houses or residences are to be taken up for immediate consideration.
b) Objection from double jurisdiction:
It is fear of double jurisdiction that is often adduced as an objection against the extension of the Syro-Malabar territory and jurisdiction. But double jurisdiction in this case is not like the Padroado and Propaganda jurisdictions of old which had for their subjects faithful of the same Rite and of the same Canonical discipline existing in the same territory and sometimes in the same parish. in our case, on the contrary, Orientals and Latins though existing in the same territory, have different Rite and also different Canonical disciplines. Again, double jurisdiction is something which cannot be entirely abolished. For example, if in the same territory there are people of different languages, the Bishop of that territory will have to give different pastors for different languages. Is not this a kind of double jurisdiction ? But it may be said that here the adjustment rests with the same Bishop. Yes, in the case of Hierarchs of different Rites, the adjustment rests with teh Bishop of Bishops, the Roman Pontiff and all reasonable clashes could be satisfactorily composed. Double jurisdiction is not a new thing in the Catholic Church in the sense exposed here. It exists in Travancore-Cochin and in many other parts of the world, and before long Western Europe also will have to deal with the same in view of Oriental emigrants who now pour in thither. True, there are and there will be rivalries. But these rivalries will be less intense than those between certain communities of the same rite under the same jurisdiction; and as a rule, they will be conspicuously palpable only in places where ecclesiastical heads reside side by side. As far as Malabar and also other parts of India are concerned, rivalries are based ultimately not on Rite or jurisdiction, but on Caste feelings, and on the spirit of Separatism so natural to the country. The same rivalries which now are fostered under the pretext of different rites or jurisdction will continue to exist even if all were put under one jurisdiction with one Rite. Hence, for fear of rivalries the idea of double jurisdiction may not be given up. The good overweighs the evil that may result from double jurisdiction. Since Orientals are Orientals everywhere and since they will not prosper except under their own Hierarchs they may be given Oriental Hierarchs wherever they are in sufficient numbers to have a Hierarch.
Taking up again the question of a Syro-Malabar hierarch for all the Syro-Malabarians dispersed throughout india outside the Malayalam speaking areas, it may be pointed out that the ecclesiastical Head of the Syro-Malabarians had the title of DOOR OF ALL INDIA (thar'aa d'kolah hendo). Even after the Portuguese Latin rule was imposed upon the Syro-Malabarians, the Syro-Malabarian Prelates were occasionally making use of this title. The Jacobites too used to make use of this title, and they as well as the Marthomites give to it a practical sense by sending out Bishops to their emigrants everywhere in India. Thus the institution of a Hierarch, as said above, will only be a revival of history. Such a Hierarch, moreover, can effectively look after the Rite of those who go out to the Missions retento ritu (retaining the proper Rite). A day may come when all these missionaries could be formed into a Missionary Society to do intense mission work in their own Rite and under this Hierarch.
IV. Amission for the Syro-Malabarians:
There are some 1000-2000 Syro-Malabarians now gone out to do mission work throughout India and Pakistan (also Ceylon) under Latin jurisdiction. MKost of the boys have had to change into the Latin Rite.
There are several mission stations of the Latins that are regularly being supported with money raised form the Syro-Malabarians.
Hence the Syro-Malabarians have men and means for missions of their own. It is their Rite that stands in the way. As things stand at present, to go out for mission work means giving up of practising the Syro-Malabar Rite and following the Latin Rite. Nay, even those who join the Latin diocese of Vijayapuram for mission work, though they ahve to work in the Syro-Malabar territory in the midst of Syro-Malabarians have to follow the Latin Rite ! (If the Vijayapuram mission needs the support of syro-Malabarians in this way, why should it exist at all in the midst of Syro-Malabarians ? ).
The Jacobite and Marthomites who in their own way do mission work in their Rite and under their own jurisdiction see in all these inequality between Latins and Oriental Catholics. They may say thus: "If we remain Jacobites or Marthomites we can work anywhere in the whole of our motherland India; but if we become Catholics we shlal have to give up our rite and jurisdiction, if we would go out for the same even though we work in our motherland". They, moreover, may begin to doubt the equality of Rites in the Catholic Church which will certainly impede their reunion. Thus at least as a SYMBOL the Syro-Malabarians may be given an outside mission in India in their Rite and under their own jursidiction.
Denial or delay of a mission to the Syro-Malabarians may have its evil consequences on the Syro-Malabar Church and Rite. The Syro-Malabarians now exhibit an intense mission spirit and if that spirit is not fostered in a way congenial to their Rite, it may soon subside or adversely affect the progress of the Syro-Malabar Church even at home.
If the mission spirit is not fostered in a way congenial to the Rite, i.e., by opening a mission in the Syro-Malabar Rite, those who go out for the missions will be foreigners both for their Syro-Malab arian brethren whose Rite and jurisdiction they desert and also for those under whom they work since these are originally Latin whether Indian or non-Indian. And before long when the imediate needs of the Latin missions will be satisfied the Syro-Malabar recruits will find themselves utterly foreigners to the missions and thus in course of time the mission spirit now seen in the Syro-Malabarians will slowly die out as it will have no natural outlet.
Secondly, it is not an exaggeration to say that the mission spirit, though highly laudable in itself, has already begun to affect the Syro-Malabar Church and
Rite adversely. The idea is spreading fast that the Syro-Malabar Rite has no vitality nor any value worth the while sinc no mission work is possible in that Rite on an extensive scale as those who generously go out for the spread of the Gospel cannot keep and use it. This has lowered among the Syro-Malabarians themselves the esteem they had for their Church and Rite. Thus generous donors who contribute for hte Latin missions abstain from succoring to the needs at home. In fact an inferiority complex is steadily being developed among the Syro-Malabarians to which training in seminaries contributes no small shares.
The Rector of the minor seminary of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Palai is a Syro-Malabarian who was keeping a mission home in the Latin diocese of Vijayapuram recruiting applicants, chiefly Syro-Malabarians, for the Latin mission. He has now housed the mission home in the minor seminary itself where mission recruits and seminarians for the Eparchy of Palai are being taught Latin together. The professor of Latin is a Syro-Malabarian now changed into the Latin Rite and is a missionary in a Latin mission, and his chief concern is recruitment for his mission. The teaching of Syriac is not properly attended to. The result will be that the future priests of Palai will be more indifferent to the interests of their Rite and church than the priests of other Syro-Malabar Eparchies. And it is a fact that the greatest number of vocations for the missions come from Palai. In the Alwaye seminary also the mission spirit is instilled into the alumni in such a way that only the Latin side is insisted upon.
To remedy these evils, present and future, there is need of opening mission in the Syro-Malabar Rite.
Many speak of a mission seminary. But a mission seminary to train Syro-Malabarians for the Latin missions as it is being done today, will only produce greater evils for the Syro-Malabar Church and Rite. Hence, the mission seminary should be in the Syro-Malabar Rite for Syro-Malabar missions.
V. Syro-Malabar Provinces of Latin Religious Institutes:
Several times a year several Latin missionaries and Religious come to Malabar to recruit vocations. Here rises the question: Why could not bigger Latin Religious Institutions such as the Salesians, Capuchins & c. form Syro-Malabar provinces or houses and train the aforesaid recruits in the Syro-Malabar Rite ? The Jesuits have already taken up the idea.
The Capuchins have a house at Bharananganam under the Syro-Malabar jurisdiction of Palai, and in that place there are no Latins at all. Hence the experiment can be begun there with the Syro-Malabarian capuchins who have changed into the Latin Rite. If the Capuchin house at Bharananganam remains Latin it will gradually latinize the mind of those who live in the surrounding localities.
The cloistered Carmel has two houses in the Latin diocese of Vijayapuram in the midst of the Syro-Malabarians. The bulk of the vocations in course of time will become Syro-Malabarian. Hence, could not these houses be made Syro-Malabarian ?
In this connection may be mentioned the case of those Syro-Malabarian girls who now go out, retento ritu (retaining the proper Rite), and join Latin Religious Institutes, as well as of those who in the same manner join Latin Institutes in Malayalam speaking parts of South India both in and outside the Syro-Malabar territory. Could not they be better organized so that in course of time at least Syro-Malabar houses be opened for them ? It is admitted that this requires much study and patient readjustments. But the good of the Syro-Malabar Church may demand such a study and readjustment of things.
VI. Religious Congregations and Institutes among Syro-Malabarians:
All the Syro-Malabar Religious Congregations or Institutes except that of the TOCD (CMI) Fathers, are eparchial. The Congregation of Fathers of the Most Bl. Sacrament, and that of the Medical Mission Sisters are intereparchaial existing in the eparchies of Changanacherry and Palai. The otehrs (The Society of the Vincentian Fathers of Ernakulam; The Clerical Congregation of the Little Flower, Ernakulam; The Clerical Society of the Oblates, Kottayam; the Malabar Missionary Society of Trichur, the Congregation of TOCD (CMC) Sistgers, of Franciscan Tertiary Sisters, of Adoration Sisters, of Holy Family Sisters, of Sisters of the Poor, of sisters of Charity, of Visitation Sisters....) area all eparchial in the sence that each Institute is confined juridically to one eparchy alone. Some of these v.g. the Congregation of TOCD (CMC) Sisters, of Franciscan Tertiary sisters (FCC), of Adoration Sisters (SABS).... have the same name, the same Origin, the same work, almost the same constitutions; still, juridically they are not one, but as many as there are eparchies in which they have houses. After the eparchy of Changanacherry was divided into the eparchy of Changanacherry and Palai all the congregations of sisters, except the one of the Medical Mission sisters, were also divided between the two eparchies, so that the Congregations which were juridically one are juridically two now.
It is suggested that all these Congregations or Institutes of men and women be brought along canonical lines, that the same Congregations for women be unified or at least federated, that all be established on a sound financial basis, special care being given to the Religious formation of the members. To take up the question of finance and Religious formation there may be the need of retrenching vocations.
VII. Educational Institutions:
In Travancore-Cochin there are many - too many - higher educational institutions such as High Schools and University Colleges. If the Hierarchs, both Oriental and Latin, agree among themselves the number of such institutions could be reduced in future. Now there is competition even among parishes of the same eparchy to put up higher educational institutions. The amount of money unnecessarily spent on these institutions could thus be diverted for social works such as erection of hospitals, of technical institutes etc., which are the crying need of the day. Here is a field for Orientals and Latins to cooperate.