Faridabad diocese mulls personal parishes for “purist” Catholics
By Jose Kavi New Delhi: Discussions are underway in Faridabad Syro-Malabar diocese to create personal parishes for Catholics who claim direct Jewish blood lineage. Archbishop Kuriakose Bharanikulangara of Faridabad told Matters India on March 26 that they have started discussions on the matter with the Vatican and Kottayam archdiocese in Kerala. Kottayam archdiocese, created in 1911, is the only diocese in the world for the Knanaya Catholics, who practice endogamy. They are considered the descendants of some 400 people from 72 families belonging to 7 clans who in AD 345 came from Middle East to Kerala, southern India. They are known as Knanaya Christians since they were led by a Syrian trader named Thomas Kinayi. They marry only within their community to preserve their Jewish blood. Majority of Knanaya are members of the Syro-Malabar Catholic and the Malankara Churches. Their members have settled in all important cities of the world. Archbishop Bharanikulangara of Faridabad said the discussion on the matter started after the Syro-Malabar Synod started seeking modalities to provide better pastoral care to the Knanaya Catholics “within the current canonical provisions.” Since the Vatican had restricted the Syro-Malabar Synod’s jurisdiction to Kerala until now, the Kottayam archdiocese, which is part of the synod, has authority only on its members living within the southern Indian state. However, the Rome has extended the Syro-Malabar jurisdiction to all over India with the creation of Shamsabad diocese in Telangana on October 10, 2017. This has helped Kottayam archdiocese to have full all India jurisdiction. They can now make their own provisions for the pastoral care of people anywhere in India. “If we have all India jurisdiction for SMC, they can have jurisdiction all over India,” the Faridabad bishop explained. The prelate, a former Vatican diplomat, clarified that his diocese has not taken a final decision on the matter. Earlier on March 23, Archbishop Bharanikulangara had met with priests and the office bearers of Delhi Knanaya Catholic Movement. The archbishop explained to the group that until now he could not entertain their request for personal parish because of the Vatican restriction. The prelate indicated the possibility of entertaining their request in the light of the synod decision. He quoted the 280 section of Canon Law that recommends personal parish for a particular group that practices different culture and tradition. Such a personal parish would function under Faridabad diocese until Kottayam archdiocese gets all India jurisdiction. All Knananites in Faridabad would become members of the personal parish and their membership in other parishes would automatically be canceled. The archdiocese of Kottayam and DKCM will decide on the rules to govern the parish. The personal parish can set up Mass centers for the community after informing the Faridabad bishop. Such centers could be set up also in other states where Faridabad diocese has jurisdiction. The centers can conduct Mass daily, including Sundays. They could also conduct catechism and community awareness classes for their members. Faridabad diocese can rent its churches for the Knanaya community who will be served only by priests sent from Kottayam archdiocese. The meeting also decided that Faridabad dioceses will not interfere in any investment on the personal parish and that all investments will be the property of Kottayam archdiocese and the Knanaya community in Delhi. Faridabad diocese can collect funds meant only Mission Sunday and Holy Childhood until the personal parish comes under Kottayam archdiocese. The parish and Mass centers will read circulars of bishops of Faridabad and Kottayam. The new parish will issue all certificate and letters to its members. “All the members welcomed (the archbishop’s) suggestions wholeheartedly and all of them felt it was acceptable. Members thanked the archbishop and expressed their gratitude,” according to the minutes of the meeting attended by three priests and eight laymen. Archbishop Bharanikulangara told Matters India the he has not yet approved the minutes.