Patriarch-Catholicos direct talks likely

Initiative has come from Aphrem II in the form of an invite for dialogue and Orthodox Church responds positively

George Jacob

Kottayam: In what appears to be a thaw in the decades-old vicious Church case which saw the schism in the Malankara Church hitting abysmal low and innumerable legal battles, the synod of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church which concluded here on Saturday gave the green signal for a direct talk with the Patriarch of Antioch.

In fact, the initiative came from the Patriarch early this week in the form of an invite for a dialogue. Speaking to The Hindu, Metropolitan Yuhanon Mar Dioscoros, secretary of the synod, said the invite was from Metropolitan Mathews Mar Thimothios, secretary to the Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Aphrem II. The letter said the Patriarch was ready for a dialogue regarding issues in the Church and invited the Malankara Church for the purpose. Mar Dioscoros immediately replied that he would get back after discussing the issue in the synod.

The synod discussed the issue in detail. The press note released later said: “It was decided to finalise steps to bring the message of unity and peace to all believers of the Church in a legal manner, based on the Constitution of 1934 and the judgment of the Supreme Court.”

According to Mar Dioscoros, the decision of the synod will be conveyed to the Patriarch immediately. “We will take further steps on the basis of the reply from the Patriarch,” he said. The date, venue, and theme all would depend on the reply from Antioch. Based on the reply, the Orthodox Church will send a delegation to initiate the dialogue and make way for direct interaction between the two pontiffs.

When contacted, Thomas Mar Timothios, senior bishop of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Church and head of the Kottayam diocese, expressed cautious optimism. He said it was the Patriarch who had taken the initiative. “The invite was part of an attempt to create genuine reconciliation among the two groups. However, he alone will not be able to achieve anything. He needs support from both sides,” he said.

He said the dialogue, it if materialised, will have to arrive at a clear roadmap for the process which will be long and slow. Basic to such a roadmap will be creating mechanisms to resolve local issues. “No one should feel they are neglected.”

While specific technical issues will have to be addressed, the larger perspective should not be neglected. “The call of the Church in the present milieu should be clearly understood and articulated,” he said and added that “so far, little issues had a huge cumulative impact on the community.” The effort should be to create genuine reconciliation and unity. No body wants to repeat 1958, the metropolitan said.

The Hindu Daily