(Malankara-NAED) - His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East & Malankara Metropolitan is on a Fraternal Visit to His Holiness Pope Franicis, Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Fraternal Visit lasting from September 4th to September 6th, 2013, includes high level meetings with His Holiness, commissions and meetings, such as Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Members of the Delegation accompanying His Holiness the Catholicos, include His Grace Thomas Mar Athanasios, Metropolitan of Chenganoor Diocese, His Grace Dr. Mathews Mar Thimithios, Metropolitan of U. K., Europe, and Africa Diocese, Rev. Fr. Dr. K. M. George, Rev. Fr. Dr. Johns Abraham Konatt, Priest Trustee, Rev. Fr. Abraham Thomas, Secretary to Department of Ecumenical Relations, Mr George Muthoot, Lay Trustee, and Dr. George Joseph, Secretary to the Malankara Association.
The full text of Pope Francis’ address to His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church can be read below:
Your Holiness, dear Brothers in Christ,
It is a joy for me to meet Your Holiness and the distinguished delegation of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Through you, I greet a Church that was founded upon the witness, even to martyrdom, that Saint Thomas gave to Our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostolic fraternity which united the first disciples in their service of the Gospel, today also unites our Churches, notwithstanding the many divisions that have arisen in the sometimes sad course of history, divisions which, thanks be to God, we are endeavoring to overcome in obedience to Lord’s will and desire (cf. Jn 17:21).
The Apostle Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 2:28) with one of the most beautiful confessions of faith in Christ handed down by the Gospels, a faith which proclaims the divinity of Christ, his lordship in our lives, and his victory over sin and death through his resurrection. This event is so real that Saint Thomas is invited to touch for himself the actual marks of the crucified and risen Jesus (cf. Jn 20:27). It is precisely in this faith that we meet each other; it is this faith that unites us, even if we cannot yet share the Eucharistic table; and it is this faith which urges us to continue and intensify the commitment to ecumenism, encounter and dialogue towards full communion.
With deep affection I welcome Your Holiness and the members of your delegation and I ask you to convey my cordial greetings to the Bishops, clergy and faithful of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. I also greet to the communities you are visiting in Europe.
Thirty years ago, in June of 1983, Catholicos Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews I paid a visit to my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II and to the Church of Rome. Together, they recognised their common faith in Christ.
Afterwards, they met again at Kottayam, in the Cathedral of Mar Elias, in February of 1986 during the pastoral visits of the Pope in India. On that occasion, Pope John Paul II said: “With you I desire that our Churches may soon find effective ways of resolving the urgent pastoral problems that face us, and that we may progress together in brotherly love and in our theological dialogue, for it is by these means that reconciliation among Christians and reconciliation in the world can come about. I can assure you that the Catholic Church, with the commitment she made at the Second Vatican Council, is ready to participate fully in this enterprise.”
From those encounters began a concrete path of dialogue with the institution of a mixed commission, which brought to birth the agreement of 1990, on the day of Pentecost, a commission which continues its important work and which has brought us to significant steps on themes such as the common use of buildings of worship and cemeteries, the mutual concession of spiritual and even liturgical resources in specific pastoral situations, and the necessity to identify new forms of collaboration when faced with growing social and religious challenges.
I wanted to recall some of the steps in these 30 years of the growing closeness between us, because I believe that on the ecumenical path it is important to look with trust to the steps that have been completed, overcoming prejudices and closed attitudes which are part of a kind of “culture of clashes” and source of division, and giving way to a "culture of encounter", which educates us for mutual understanding and for working towards unity. Alone however, this is impossible; our witnesses and poverty slow the progress.
For this reason, it is important to intensify our prayer, because only the Holy Spirit with his grace, his light and his warmth can melt our coldness and guide our steps towards an ever greater brotherhood. Prayer and commitment in order to let relationships of friendship and cooperation grow at various levels, in the clergy, among the faithful, and among the various churches born from the witness given by St Thomas. May the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten us and guide us towards reconciliation and harmony, overcoming all causes of division and rivalry which have marked our past. Your Holiness, let us walk this path together, looking with trust towards that day in which, with the help of God, we will be united at the altar of Christ's sacrifice, in the fullness of Eucharistic communion.
Let us pray for one another, invoking the protection of Saint Peter and Saint Thomas upon all the flock that has been entrusted to our pastoral care. May they who worked together for the Gospel, intercede for us and accompany the journey of our Churches.
The full text of His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Paulose II's address to His Holiness Pope Francis, can be read below:
Your Holiness, most Venerable Brother in Christ,
Praising the Triune God, let me humbly greet Your Holiness in the name of the Bishops, Clergy and the Faithful of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India. I thank God for this occasion for us to meet each other in the first year of your blessed pontificate, in this city sanctified by the martyrdom of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. People of goodwill everywhere are rejoicing in the gracious words of Your Holiness and the way in which you exemplify the pastoral ministry of Christ our Good Shepherd.
My illustrious predecessors in the Indian Catholicate of the See of Apostle Thomas, His Holiness Baselios Augen I had the privilege of receiving His Holiness Pope Paul VI in Bombay in 1964, and His Holiness Catholicos Marthoma Mathews I visited His Holiness Pope John Paul II in Rome, and also received the Blessed Father at the Mar Elia Orthodox Cathedral at Kottayam in 1986. Since that time, with the instruction and blessing of both the Heads of Churches we have the ongoing bilateral Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Church.
Participation of the representatives of the Malankara Orthodox Church in the conciliar process of the Catholic Church since the Vatican II has been of crucial importance in the growth of our mutual understanding. At the Second Vatican Council Fr. K. Philipose (later Metropolitan Mar Theophilos), Fr. Paul Verghese (later Metropolitan Mar Gregorios) and Dr CT Eapen were “Observers”. Fr K M George participated as “fraternal delegate” in the Millennium Synod of Asian Bishops in 1998 and the Synod of Bishops in 2008 at the Vatican. Being a founding member of the World Council of Churches the Malankara Orthodox Church has had several other avenues of conversing with the Catholic Church through the Faith and Order Commission and other commissions of the WCC.
The Malankara Orthodox Church , faithfully rooted in the apostolic tradition of the holy Apostle Thomas in India, is committed to the true unity of our churches as willed by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. In the broader frame of unity of all Christians, I have a special dream for the unity of Christians in the St Thomas tradition. Wherever possible and appropriate, we are willing to cooperate with our sister churches in ministering to the pastoral needs of the people, particularly the poor and the marginalized. Some of the present pastoral issues may be resolved on the basis of the common tradition that existed before the unfortunate division in the Indian church in the 16th century.
I particularly acknowledge the valuable contributions of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in fostering our bilateral relations. By arranging mutual visits, encouraging theological dialogues, providing scholarships for theological students and above all respecting the Orthodox identity of our Indian Church, the Council fruitfully promotes our search for true unity in mutual respect and Christian love.
Although Christians are a small minority in India and Asia in general we have the great task of witnessing to the life giving Gospel of Christ by caring for the poor and the downtrodden, by nurturing peace, justice and communal harmony and by working with and learning from the great spiritual-ethical traditions of India. In all this the Indian Catholic and Orthodox churches can fruitfully cooperate in the bond of love.
My venerable Elder Brother in Christ, I gladly join Your Holiness in your deep prayer for peace in our world, especially in Syria, the Middle East, and Asia. With great joy and hope, we invite Your Holiness to visit India, and we offer our humble prayers to God our Father that your blessed ministry may continue to inspire our churches in the power of the Holy Spirit and bring new hope for humanity at large.
Glory be to the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit, One true God, now and for evermore. Amen.
To listen to the Vatican radio reporting about the visit of His Holiness the Catholicos, please click here.