Time for Some Unilateral Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)

by Georgy S. Thomas



We're now in the sweet spot period of HH Baselius Paulose II as the Catholicos
of the East.

Christians and non-Christians alike in Kerala have taken note of how HH
Catholicos Didymus timed his orderly exit from the exalted office and handed
over the shepherd's staff to his successor, exactly at the moment when the
church was preparing to celebrate his 90th birthday. That renunciation has
struck a chord.

And even though we don't have the freedom to have a planned, widely announced
installation ceremony for the new Catholicos (my understanding: fearing Jacobite
mischief, the installation is always hurriedly announced and conducted during
court holidays), the orderly conduct of that solemn event too has not gone

In the days following his assumption to office, HH Catholicos Baselius Paulose
II has further endeared himself to the laity through his enthronement message
suffused with pristine, noble thoughts:


Now the broken families of Malankara are eagerly hoping to see some gesture from
him to signal that he will walk the extra mile for the peace which can heal all

There's only a small window available for this gesture. In another month, the
scene would be set for the annual ritual of the ugly face-off at the Aluva
Seminary. After that it would be back to the familiar tit-for-tat mode.

Meanwhile, dissension has raised its head within the Jacobite faction over its
ties with Damascus. The flashpoint is North America. To turn the focus away from
this sorry state of affairs, hardliners in that faction may engineer another
diversionary crisis here even before January 26.

Therefore, the sweet spot will not last long, and many hope that HH the
Catholicos would soon make some gesture which will signal his hope for unity.

Two CBMs to Start With

What can be that gesture? I have two simple, unilateral confidence building
measures (CBMs) to suggest.

a.) A unilateral announcement that laity of the Malankara Orthodox Church in all
outside Kerala dioceses, except North America and Brahmavar, have the freedom to
invite Jacobite priests to solemnise weddings in our churches.

b.) A unilateral announcement that laity of the Malankara Orthodox Church in all
outside Kerala dioceses, except North America and Brahmavar, have the freedom to
avail the services of Jacobite priests to conduct the last rites of their
departed dear ones.

Some thought has gone into this. For one, unlike the Jacobites, we've never had
any issues with the sacramental authority of Jacobite priests.

Second, I've avoided dioceses in Kerala because complications can arise in
disputed churches. There are church disputes in Brahmavar and North America too.
So they too have been kept out.

Now comes the question, Why only weddings and last rites?

As a first step, these too sacraments are most suited for CBMs. The services and
the hymns are the same (they use the same translation by Konattu Abraham Malpan
and Vennikkulam C P Chandy). And I see little risk of a wedding or a last rite
sermon degenerating into a contentious discourse over the thrones of Saint Peter
and Saint Thomas.

Of course, the CBMs should be rolled out in an orderly manner. A Jacobite priest
officiating ceremonies at any of our parishes should bring a letter from his
bishop certifying that he's a serving priest. The vicar should make a record of
it in a register before the sacraments begin.

The vicar should also quickly alert the office bearers, on whom the
responsibility would fall to treat the visiting priest with the utmost respect.
They should also ensure that he takes back with him a small gift on behalf of
the parish, as a token of appreciation.

Every six months or so, the diocesan bishop should go through the records of all
parishes under his care for details about visiting Jacobite priests. He should
then send a letter to his Jacobite counterpart expressing gratitude for the
services rendered.

In time, we can hope that they too will reciprocate the gesture.

If it succeeds, the gesture can be extended to Jacobite bishops too.
If that succeeds, then other CBMs can follow.

It will be through such baby steps that peace will descent in Malankara. A
ground-up movement has more chances of success than a hoped for grand
announcement which can quickly degenerate into squabbles over who will report to

Awaiting the wise feedback of MTV readers.