In Kitchener visit, Indian cardinal praises respect for family and religion – Catholic Kitchener
The worldwide leader of a rite of Indian Catholics visited Kitchener on Wednesday June 22nd.
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, eminent Archbishop of the Catholic Church of Syro-Malankara, oversees the Syro-Malankara Rite, located in Kerala, India, which claims this rite to nearly half a million Catholic believers worldwide. The other Catholic community for Indian Catholics is the Syro Malabar Rite.
In the United States, the eparchy of Mary Queen of Peace (similar to a Latin rite diocese) rules all Syro Malankara Rite churches, including St. Jude Church in Kitchener’s East Oak Lane section.
The 57-year-old prelate became the Catholic Church’s youngest cardinal in 2012, the first to be named after the Syro Malankara Rite, and therefore the first to elect a Pope, Pope Francis, in 2013. He spoke here with representatives of the Archdiocese about the Catholic Christian communities in India and with recent migration in the United States.
Both Catholic rites trace their Christian roots back to the evangelization of the Apostle Thomas himself in their country in the first century.
Cardinal Cleemis believes that one reason Christianity has found its way there and continues to grow is the fertile soil of openness of India’s predominant Hindu population.
While Christians make up 2.3 percent of the population and Catholics only 1.8 percent, they enjoy respect and dignity in the country because this is “a cultural aspect of India,” said Cardinal Cleemis.
“The Hindu community in general is so loving and welcoming – all good values in human life. When Christianity came to India in AD 52, these were the people who received the gospel. Therefore, they have the inherent quality of receiving good things from others, ”he said.
In recent years, cases of violence against Christians have surfaced in India, which Cardinal Cleemis believes is a sign of political opportunism by minority actors in Indian society, not religious hatred or discrimination by most Indians of a religious faith or by the secular Indian government.
He hates to refer to such attackers as Hindus but as “people who did not understand the Hindu religion,” he said. “It’s a tiny group, but this group tries to influence the vast majority of the Hindu population and says, ‘This is the only land we have as Hindus.'”
The cardinal sees such attempts to lead India from a secular state that respects all faiths to a single religion, Hinduism, as misguided and inconsistent with Indian tradition and the will of its people, which is contained in the country’s constitution are anchored.
“The majority of Hindus are still secular, which means they accept the other religion for what it is,” he said. “’Secular’ is not against religious values. Catholic and secular means that you recognize Muslims and Hindus for who they are. “
The majority of Hindus, he said, “are very godly people, very welcoming people, and they still care about other communities as well. The vast majority are Hindus, but it is not a Hindu nation. (It is) a Federal Republic with a secular constitution, a very open and welcoming community. “
The visit to Kitchener is not the first for Cardinal Cleemis. He saw the local Catholic community here serving for three years as officials in the New York-based Mary, Our Lady of Peace Eparchy, who, according to 2012 Vatican statistics, serves more than 11,000 Syro Malankara believers in the United States and Canada.
That was before he was called to serve high level leadership in the Church in India. Having served as auxiliary bishop and archbishop in India, he now leads all Syro Malankara Catholics in the world as their chief archbishop. He is also President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and a member of two Vatican councils.
As with many immigrant peoples, the first generation has close ties to their homeland, while the next generation is more firmly rooted here.
The same is true of Indian Catholics today, and Cardinal Cleemis sees it as “a positive thing. When they come to a new culture, they have to take root in it. America has become their home. People become aware of their country – this country – and work for its progress. “
He believes that Christians with Indian heritage can help the Catholic Church in America focus on family strengthening.
“I am sure that our presence here in this great country will continue to fuel family growth,” he said.
Although he sees increasing divorce in many societies, “patience, sacrifice, mutual understanding” are strong values in Indian families. And also: “What God has united, people do not let people share. God united you, it is not a man-made reality, ”said the cardinal. “This focus should be on families, and I hope that our liturgy and sacramental life also make a positive contribution to our presence here.”
As a sign of the growing presence of the growth of the Syro Malankara Catholics in this area, Cardinal Cleemis pointed to “a very well established youth group in our eparchy here” and said that this summer there is a youth meeting of the diocese at the Holy Family University of Northeast Kitchener, Jan. 29-31 July.