When Mar George Alancherry was ordained a Cardinal, the newspapers wrote about how humble he is and how much he respects the Indian tradition with wearing a Syrian cross, that upholds the eastern tradition of Christianity, on a rudraksha chain around his neck. He is also said to be against the ‘Latinisation’ of the native Syro-Malar Church. But Mar Alancherry has ruined that reputation (of a native church trying to retain its identity while being part of a global Latinized Catholic church) by making an unwarranted intervention in a legal row between two countries, just a couple of days after his ordination in Rome.
When asked about the murder of two Indian fishermen by Italian marines, he said that he “immediately contacted the Catholic Ministers of Kerala urging the government not to act precipitately”. This has raised questions about his stand on justice and his allegiance to his country.
First of all, the Cardinal did not have to intervene in the legal dispute between the two countries because he was not asked for help by the Indian government to mediate. But he did, and it sets a wrong practice of religious leaders trying to influence an elected democratic government through it’s community members in the ministry. Suppose that he was asked for help to mediate and even then his priority should have been to ensure justice to the poor fishermen who were shot in cold blood by the Italian marines – as a fellow human being and a Christian. If he had to ‘urge’ the government about anything, it should have been to bring justice to the family members of the dead victims. But he failed to do that.
The Cardinal also said, “But the point is another: it seems that the opposition party wants to take advantage of the situation and exploit the case for electoral reasons, speaking of ‘Western powers’ or the ‘will of American dominance’“. Here also he is setting the wrong priorities. Political parties always look at the options to make political gains out of socio-political issues, especially during the elections. This is nothing new. And every single political party has done this. Congress party would do the same if they were on the opposition. So why is the Cardinal worried only about the Communists?
There is another side to the story which is about caste in Kerala Christianity. Though the Latin Catholic Church is part of the global catholic church, the Syrian Christians (Syro-Malabar Church) consider them as converted lower caste fishermen (and Syrian Christians consider themselves as Namboothiri descendants). The murdered fishermen are both Latin Christians. So you can assume why the Cardinal did not have any qualms to take sides. The Latin Catholic Church has reacted sharply to the comments of Cardinal Alancherry.
“They called it unfortunate and said it was against the interests and sentiments of the fisherfolk. The families of the victims also vehemently slammed the alleged statement. The Latin Catholics, mostly on the coastal belt of Kerala, are not likely to be happy with the reported statement from Alencherry, who is from the substantially more socio-politically influential Syro Malabar Church. This controversy is likely to amplify the socio-political divide between the two communities, although both are Catholics.” [via]
The story is reflecting badly on the Syrian Christian community. Sangh Parivar has begun to sharpen their weapons claiming that the Catholics have their allegiance to Rome than India. And we will have to wait and see how this dangerous precedence set by Mar Alencherry would help the soft terror strategies of Sangh Parivar and how it will affect the Christian community in the long run. And as long as we have such people in the clergy, who had declared Communism a greater threat than Hindutva while Christians were being persecuted in Mangalore and North Kerala by Sangh Parivar, it does not need much imagination.
Photo courtesy: Reuters/Firstpost.in