|Metropolitan Alencherry Mar Geevarghese|
|Cardinal, Major Archbishop of Syro Malabar Catholic Church|
|Church||Syro Malabar Catholic Church|
|Appointed||24 May 2011|
|Installed||29 May 2011|
|Predecessor||Mar Varkey Vithayathil|
|Other posts||Cardinal-Priest of San Bernardo alle Terme|
|Ordination||19 November 1972
by Mar Antony Padiyara
|Consecration||2 February 1997
by Mar Joseph Powathil
|Created Cardinal||18 February 2012
by Pope Benedict XVI
19 April 1945 |
Thuruthy, Kottayam district, Kerala, India
|Denomination||Catholic Saint Thomas Christians|
|Previous post||Catholic Bishop of Thuckalay (1997–2011)|
|See||San Bernardo alle Terme (titular see)|
George Alencherry, born Geevarghese Alencherry, is the Catholic Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. He was elected by the Holy Synod of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in 2011 to succeed Mar Varkey Vithayathil. He was appointed as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church on 18 February 2012. He was the first bishop of Thuckalay from 1997 to 2011.
George Alencherry was born on 19 April 1945 as the sixth child of Philipose and Mary Alencherry in Thuruthy in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Changanassery. Geevarghese is his baptismal name. Mar Alencherry had his primary schooling at St Mary's School (Thuruthy) and secondary education at St Berchman's High School (Changanacherry). He began his priestly formation in 1961 at the archdiocesan minor seminary at Parel, Changanacherry. While he pursued his studies in the minor seminary, he obtained his BA in economics with second rank from St. Berchmans College Changanacherry. After the minor seminary studies he was sent to St Joseph's Pontifical Seminary (Aluva), where he completed his philosophical and theological studies.
On 18 December 1972 Mar Antony Padiyara, the then archbishop of Chanagancherry, ordained him priest at Marth Mariyam Church (Thuruthy) for the archdiocese of Changanacherry. Later he continued his higher studies at the Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy from where he obtained his master's degree in first rank. While Mar Alencherry was pursuing higher studies at Aluva he served also as vicar of the filial church at Periyarmugham in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly. After completion of studies at Aluva, Alencherry was appointed as assistant vicar at the Cathedral church of Changanacherry and Director of the Archdiocesan Faith Formation department. Thereafter he served three years as secretary of the Commission for Catechism of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC). After his tenure in KCBC he was sent to Paris for higher studies. There he pursued his studies at Sorbonne University France and the Catholic Institute from where he obtained his doctorate in biblical theology. On returning to India in 1986, Alencherry was appointed director of the pastoral Oriental Centre (POC) at Palarivattom and deputy secretary of KCBC. He served the Church in Kerala in that capacity until 1993. Simultaneously he had served also as professor at St Thomas Apostolic Seminary (Vadavathoor). He continued to teach at Vadavathoor until 1997. From 1994 to 1996 he was the protosyncellus of the metropolitan of Changanacherry.
Bishop of Thuckalay
Pope John Paul II erected the Diocese of Thuckalay by the papal bull Apud Indorum on 11 November 1996. It was formed by separating the territory of the Archdiocese of Changanassery that extended over to the state of Tamil Nadu. Alencherry, who was Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Changanacherry, was appointed the first bishop of the new eparchy. The establishment of the diocese and Alencherry's appointment were promulgated on 18 December 1996. Alencherry was consecrated bishop on 2 February 1997 by Mar Joseph Powathil, Metropolitan Archbishop of Changanassery, with Mar Mathew Vattackuzhy, Bishop of Kanjirappally, and Lawrence Mar Aprem, Bishop of Marthandam, as co-consecrants. He was installed as bishop on the same day by Mar Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Bishops' holy synod that began on 23 May 2011 at the Major Archiepiscopal Curia at Mount St Thomas (Eranakulam) elected Alencherry to be the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The news of the election was announced in the Vatican as well as at Mount St Thomas, the Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Curia, on 26 May 2011. Alencherry was elected as the successor of the deceased Major Archbishop Mar Varkey Vithayathil. He is the first head of the Syro-Malabar Church to be elected by its synod. When Pope John Paul II made the Syro-Malabar Church a major archiepiscopal church in 1992, appointing Antony Padiyara as its first major archbishop, he reserved the power to appoint the major archbishop and bishops. However, in 2004, the Holy See granted full administrative powers to the church, including the power to elect bishops.
On 23 May, the first day of the synod, the synod elected Mar George Valiamattam, the Archbishop of Tellicherry, to preside over it. Then followed the procedures of election of the new Major Archbishop. Thereafter the president of the session asked Alencherry whether he accepted the election and in the following sitting the newly elected expressed his acceptance by reading it out before the synod. Immediately the request was sent to the Pope, through the Apostolic Nunciature in New Delhi, for the approval of the election of Alencherry. The papal approval was given on Wednesday, 25 May (evening), and it was communicated to the Administrator, Mar Bosco Puthur, on Thursday, 26 May (morning). The papal approval of the election of Mar Alencherry was announced in the synod by George Valiamattam. Thereafter the newly elected Major Archbishop, in accordance with canon law, made his oath of fidelity and communion to the Holy Synod and the Church. Thereafter all the bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church expressed their respect and ecclesial communion with the new major archbishop. Mar Alencherry said his services would be for all people of India. He stressed inter-rite relations, inter-faith harmony and ecumenism.
On 18 February 2012, Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to the rank of cardinal during a ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica, making him Cardinal-Priest of San Bernardo alle Terme. Earlier cardinals belonging to the Syro Malabar Catholic Church were Joseph Parecattil (28 April 1969), Mar Antony Padiyara (28 June 1988) and Mar Varkey Vithayathil (21 February 2001).
His visit to Rome for that consistory coincided with the arrest of Italian merchant marine officers on board the Enrica Lexie who shot and killed two Kerala fishermen on a fishing vessel. Alencherry provided a statement to the Italian news service Agenzia Fides that "This episode must be investigated: if there is a guilty action, it must be treated legally and the guilty must be punished. We must fully respect truth and justice." He denied any interest in serving as a mediator. He had previously been quoted accusing some Kerala politicians of exploiting the incident for their own purposes and seemed to suggest he was actively seeking to resolve the dispute. Upon his return to India, he expressed unreserved sympathy for the families of the dead fishermen and ascribed any other misunderstandings to misquotes by Fides.
Alencherry participated as a cardinal-elector in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis. During the conclave, Alencherry (along with Coptic Catholic Patriarch-Emeritus Antonios Naguib, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, and Syro-Malankara Major Archbishop Baselios Cleemis) was one of the four cardinal-electors from outside the Latin Church who wore different vestments, proper to their respective churches.
Pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar Catholics outside the "proper" territory
Historically the Prelates of St. Thomas Christians were called Archbishops of India. The titles used for them were "Metropolitan and Gate of All India" or "Gate of India". This indicates the highest rank of authority in the Indian Church and the extent of its jurisdiction. He enjoyed an All India jurisdiction, the ruler of the entire Holy Church of Christians of India. The Vatican Codex 22, written in Cranganore in 1301, gives the titles as Metropolitan and director of the entire holy church of Christian India. In 1564, Pope Pius IV created the Archdiocese of Angamaly (with jurisdiction over all India). Currently this title belong to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church. For the Catholics, in 1600 the Metropolitan status of the see of Angamaly was abolished and was made suffragan to Goa, with far-reaching consequences. Later, the Metropolitan status was restored to the see of Angamaly but never the title of "All India". In 1896, Syro-Malabar Catholics got their own hierarchy, but instead of re-establishing the old jurisdiction over all India, three Apostolic vicariates were established in Trichur, Ernakulam and Kottayam.
By the second half of twentieth century, members of the Syro-Malabar community have emigrated in big numbers to other parts of India and to foreign countries. According to Vatican II and subsequent documents, their pastoral needs must be met by the priests of their own rite and in their own rite. For the pastoral care of these Syro-Malabar Catholics, there exist a Diocese of Kalyan, a Diocese of Chicago, and others. Big cities of India like Delhi, Bangalore, Madras, Calcutta have many Syro-Malabar Catholics.
The faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church are about four million, of which 3 million and 400 thousand live in the twenty-eight dioceses in India. Of these dioceses, eighteen are in the territory of the Syro-Malabar Church itself (Kerala, part of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka). We have a territorial jurisdiction only in these eighteen dioceses. And we'd like to have a territorial jurisdiction covering the whole territory of India: this is one of our appeals to the Holy Father and for us it is an important request. We believe it is our right. Before the arrival of Western missionaries – the Portuguese arrived in the sixteenth century – the jurisdiction of us ‘Catholic Christians among St Thomas' was extended to all of India. Then the Western missionaries, because of the influence of European monarchs, took jurisdiction of India, restricting ours to the areas where we were more concentrated.— George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, 2011
Pope Francis resolved this issue to some extent in October 2017 with the creation of the Eparchy of Shamshabad to encompass all the areas of India not included within the jurisdiction of an existing eparchy.
Christian unity and Petrine ministry
The Catholic Church through the Council for Christian Unity, has already begun a dialogue on the primacy. I think we should continue the dialogue and seek a common agreement with the Eastern Churches, as there was in the first four centuries of Christianity. At that time there was a common understanding of the primacy. Now the Orthodox Church argues that it is impossible to go back to theology before the Council of Chalcedon because we do not possess any documents from that era. But I think that from the documents and statements subsequent to the time of Chalcedon there would be the possibility of dialogue and agreement on the Petrine ministry. Because there is the phrase primus inter pares. We all need a Petrine ministry of unity, which is a reference for all the Churches. I hope that a halfway point is found where the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches could come together in full communion with the Church of Christ.— George Alencherry, 2011
Land Sale Controversy
The city police has registered a case against Cardinal George Alencherry and three others in connection with a series of land deals that reportedly resulted in financial losses for the archdiocese. The case has been registered under IPC Section 120B, 406, 415 and 420, police sources said. The case has been registered following an order of the Kerala High Court on a writ filed by a Catholic layperson. The court observed that there was prima facie evidence to indicate criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and misappropriation of money in the land deals. Along with the Cardinal, three others are subject of the investigation. They are senior archdiocesan functionaries Father Joshy Puthuva and Father Sebastian Vadakkumpadan, and a layperson Saju Varghese.
The Kerala High Court, on 6th March 2018, ordered the police here to register an FIR against the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, and three others on a complaint alleging irregularities in land deals involving them in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese. Passing the order, Justice B Kemal Pasha rejected the Cardinal’s contention that the land belonged to the diocese and that a third party could not complain about the alleged loss in the sale of such a private property. He held that the Cardinal was only a caretaker of the assets owned by the church and that any ordinary member of the society could seek action if any irregularities took place in the dealings of the Church properties.
The Kerala High Court stayed probe into alleged irregularities in land deals in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese involving the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, and three others on 16th March 2018. A division bench of Chief Justice Antony Dominic and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu issued the stay while considering a plea filed by the Cardinal against a single bench order directing police to register an FIR in the case. Staying further investigation, the court directed police to maintain status quo in the matter. Meanwhile, the online portal UCANEWS published a report that 'Vatican blamed for turmoil in Syro-Malabar Church'
Cardinal Alencherry, at Chair of Saint Peter, 11 October 2014.
- "Mar George Alencherry (Bishop of Thuckalay) The new Syro‐Malabar Major Archbishop" (PDF). Archdiocese of Ernakulam (Press release). 26 May 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2018. The date of this document is not specified.
- "Diocese of Thuckalay". The Syro-Malbar Church. Archived from the original on 14 September 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- "Mar Alencherry is new Syro-Malabar Church head". CathNews India. UCA News. 26 May 2011. Archived from the original on 29 May 2011.
- "Dalle Chiese Orientali: Conferma Dell'Elezione dell'Arcivesovo Maggiore di Ernakulam-Angamaly dei Siro-Malabresi (India)" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- Pullella, Philip (18 February 2012). "India's George Alencherry among 22 new cardinals inducted by Pope". Reuters. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Enrica Lexie Crew Arrested". Deccan News. 19 February 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Pescatori uccisi in Kerala: il Card. Alencherry difende "verità e giustizia"". Agenzia Fides (in Italian). 22 February 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Marò pugliesi, l'arcivescovo Alencherry: «Confido nell'aiuto di alcuni ministri»". Corriere del Mezzogiorno (in Italian). 21 February 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Cardinal Mar Alencherry back says he shares grief of fishermen's families". First Post. 3 March 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Rinunce e Nomine, 24.04.2012" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Archived from the original on 23 April 2013.
- "List of Cardinal Electors". Zenit. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- News Service on 's channelYouTube
- Rev. Dr. Francis Thonipara, "St. Thomas Christians: The First Indigenous Church of India", p. 69
- MS Vat Syr 22; Wilmshurst, EOCE, 343 and 391.
- J. P. M. van der Ploeg, "The Christians of St. Thomas in South India and their Syriac manuscripts", p. 187
- St. Thomas Christians under the Portuguese Padroado
- Pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar Catholics Outside the Proper Territory
- Roberto Rotondo and Gianni Valente (1 October 2011). "'Ours is the faith of the apostles, handed down by St Thomas'". 30 Giorni. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- "Provisions for the Syro-Malabar Church, 10.10.2017" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
- HC orders FIR against Syro-Malabar church head over land deals
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to George Alencherry.|
- "Alencherry Card. George". Holy See Press Office. Archived from the original on 4 September 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
- "Major Archbishop Mar George Cardinal Alencherry". Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
- "Pope appoints 22 new cardinals". CNN. Video of the consistory.
|Catholic Church titles|
|Bishop of Thuckalay
George Rajendran Kuttinadar SDB
|Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly