By Alison Rebello
Birmingham March 19: The Syro Malabar Bishop of the Eparchy of Great Britain Joseph Srampickal spoke emphatically about his vision of the church, in the wake of the recent imbroglio surrounding the Kerala priest who brought disrepute to the Catholic Church. Without mincing words, he appraised the gathered audience at Sehion Second Saturday Convention in Bethel convention centre, Birmingham about what constitutes faith and why we should not be taken aback by such incidents.
Bishop Srampickal, who possibly chose the venue, at the backdrop of the Lenten season; to send a strong signal to the Syro Malabar Catholics from all over Britain as he tried to put an end to this flared up discussion, in all social media platforms and Christian circles. The Malayalee audience which included two of his Vicar General’s Dr Mathew Choorapoikayil and Fr Sajimon Malayilputhenpurayil sat in awe of his expression around the thorny subject. He used a deeper theological insight combined with his command and perfect body language; as he tried to exude his point across, resulting from the impact of the aforementioned incident.
In his Talk, he not only engaged the audience by asking appropriate questions that helped clarify any unsettled doubt in the minds of the people but he based his talk firmly rooted in ‘Dominus Iesus’ (The Lord Jesus) which is a declaration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith documented and signed by its then prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI.
He went on to quote extensively from Dominus Iesus: “The Church has proclaimed and witnessed with fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus. For that reason, Saint Paul's words are now more relevant than ever: “Preaching the Gospel is not a reason for me to boast; it is a necessity laid on me: woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This explains the Magisterium's particular attention to giving reasons for and supporting the evangelizing mission of the Church, above all in connection with the religious traditions of the world.”
Continuing in this line of thought, he quoted the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church saying: “the Compendium, with its brevity, clarity and comprehensiveness, is directed to every human being, who, in a world of distractions and multifarious messages, desires to know the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life,’ entrusted by God to His Son’s Church.”(John 14:6). The intention of the Declaration, in reiterating and clarifying certain truths of the faith, has been to follow the example of the Apostle Paul, who wrote to the faithful of Corinth: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I myself received” (1 Cor 15:3). Faced with certain problematic and even erroneous propositions, theological reflection is called to reconfirm the Church's faith and to give reasons for her hope in a way that is convincing and effective.
The mission of the Church is “to proclaim and establish among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom”. On the one hand, the Church is “a sacrament — that is, sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of unity of the entire human race”. She is therefore the sign and instrument of the kingdom; she is called to announce and to establish the kingdom. On the other hand, the Church is the “people gathered by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”; she is therefore “the kingdom of Christ already present in mystery” and constitutes its seed and beginning.
He spoke at some length about the unicity and universality of the salvific mystery of Jesus Christ. This inheritance of faith has been recalled recently by the Church's Magisterium: “The Church believes that Christ, who died and was raised for the sake of all ( 2 Cor 5:15) can, through his Spirit, give man the light and the strength to be able to respond to his highest calling, nor is there any other name under heaven given among men by which they can be saved ( Acts 4:12). The Church likewise believes that the key, the centre, and the purpose of the whole of man's history is to be found in its Lord and Master”.
He summed up by saying : “ All are required to seek the truth and embrace it especially in those things that concern God and his Church, and when they come to know it, to embrace it and hold fast to it,” rather than being distracted by such incidents.
While diligently handling the current crisis Bishop Srampickal gave a homework to everyone. He asked everyone to go home and spare some time reading ‘Dominus Iesus’ document which he said, is available on the internet. In my opinion, that was another masterstroke from the former Vice Rector of Pontifical Urbaniana College of the Propaganda Fide,Rome saying that “do not be carried away by the swarm of social media information and stay confused, but be guided by the faith and the Church which will stay firmly rooted,inspite of the upheavels.”
From an analytical point of view ,if you look at two of Bishop Srampickal’s Talks at Bethel (House of God) Convention centre, it is crystal clear that he is using this platform positively as the means to engage his flock in Great Britain. It was in Bethel he first announced that the Syro Malabar Mass or Qurbana will be said in English to attract the next generation of the Syro Malabar faithful and since then he has been celebrating the Mass in English and encouraging his priests to do the same across Britain. Secondly, in March second Saturday convention he again took the opportunity to alert both the clergy and the faithful that if one of the priest has done something wrong that does not mean that your faith is in jeopardy. He reaffirmed his trust in the Church and its magisterium and asked everyone to hold steadfast to faith. This truly brings to fore the motto chosen by the bishop ‘do the work of an evangelist’ as stated in his coat of arms. I can clearly see him moving in that direction and path for his British flock.
When asked by this reporter, several of them who attended the talk said that they were motivated by the way the shepherd of the Eparchy of Great Britain Joseph Srampickal is herding them to greener pastures in the light of the Church’s teachings.