March 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 53
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    VATICAN ( -- The Chaldean and Syro-Malabar Catholic churches will celebrate their Jubilee in Rome on March 18 and 19, the Vatican has announced.

    The Chaldean and Syro-Malabar churches both trace their origins to the Assyrian Church. But while the Assyrian Church as a whole broke with Rome in the 5th century-- in the first major split within Christianity-- these particular churches have remained in communion with the Holy See. About 3 million Catholics in India follow the Syro-Malabar rite, while the Chaldean Catholic Church centered in Iraq has 500,000 faithful.

    On March 14, the Vatican published the program for the Jubilee of these Eastern Catholics. Pilgrims from the two churches will meet with Pope John Paul II in an audience on March 18. Then on that same Saturday afternoon, the Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid will preside at the Divine Liturgy in the Roman basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, with Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, concelebrating the Chaldean-rite ceremony.

    On the following Sunday, Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam- Angamaly, India, will preside at a celebration of the Mass in the Syro- Malabar rite in the same basilica, again with Cardinal Silvestrini attending. Cardinal Simon Lourdusamy, the former prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, is also expected.

    There have been occasional tensions between the Syro-Malabar Church and the Latin Church in India during recent years. In 1992, in an effort to ease those tensions, Pope John Paul II created the new rank of "major archbishop" of Ernakulam-Angamaly to lead the Syro-Malabar Church, and installed Cardinal Antony Padiyara in that post. Cardinal Padiyara retired in 1996, and-- in an other illustration of the lingering difficulties within Indian Catholicism-- his successor has not yet been named. Archbishop Vithayathil is actually functioning as apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, and thus the ranking leader of the Syro-Malabar Church.


March 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 53

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