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Safeguard Church unity, Pope urges bishops of India's Syro-Malabar rite

Catholic World News - April 07, 2011

In an April 7 meeting with bishops of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI underlined the value of unity: unity between the Church in India and in Rome, and unity between the Syro-Malabar Church and its Latin-rite neighbors.

"Each Bishop, for his part is called to be a minister of unity in his particular church and within the universal Church,” the Holy Father said. “This responsibility is of special importance in a country like India where the unity of the Church is reflected in the rich diversity of her rites and traditions.”

The Syro-Malabar bishops, who were in Rome for their ad limina visits, said that the Pope could help the cause of unity by allowing for the creation of Syro-Malabar dioceses outside the state of Kerela. The Indian bishops argued that they should be able to provide pastoral support for the faithful of their rite. At present, the Syro-Malabar faithful living in other parts of India come under the authority of Roman-rite bishops: an arrangement that sometimes provokes tensions within the Indian hierarchy. Bishop Bosco Puthur, an auxiliary of the Ernakulam archdiocese, said that “it is the credibility of the Apostolic See that is at stake” because of this unusual arrangement.

In his talk to the visiting Indian bishops, Pope Benedict had emphasized the importance of preparing young people for marriage, and especially educating them in the meaning of Christian marriage. The Pope observed that “the Church can no longer count on the support of society at large to promote the Christian understanding of marriage as a permanent and indissoluble union ordered to procreation and the sanctification of the spouses.”

The Pope also encouraged that Syro-Malabar bishops to be vigilant in promoting the spiritual formation of men and women entering religious orders, and maintain that vigilance, since “formation is never completed.” The Syro-Malabar Church has produced an impressive number of vocations to religious life.

At the start of his address, Pope Benedict paid tribute to the late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who died on April 1 of a heart attack, while the other bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church were in Rome. Cardinal Vithayathil had been the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam: the leader of the Syro-Malabar Church, whose bishops will elect his successor after their return to India.

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