Some of the laity at St George Malankara Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Thiruvananthapuram are up in arms following what they termed “a violation”, which took place when Communist Party of India-Marxist Politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan walked up to the altar to greet the bishop. The incident took place at end of last month, when Balakrishnan, a former Home Minister and CPI-M legislator, was at the church to attend a wedding. When Metropolitan Gabriel Mar Gregorios was at the altar, Balakrishnan came to the altar and had a brief chat with him before leaving the church.
On Sunday morning, after liturgy, parishioners signed a petition expressing anguish over this incident for submission to the supreme head of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church at Kottayam. A member of the church who didn’t wish to be identified said, “Today (Sunday) morning, after service, a member of the church came with a letter addressed to our supreme head citing this incident. I put my signature on the petition because what happened is a serious lapse as far as the tradition of the church is concerned. We wish that such incidents wouldn’t take place. I saw that numerous people had signed the petition”.
According to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church’s traditions, apart from priests, those who enter the altar of the church must first receive a special blessing. A senior priest of the Orthodox Church, who requested anonymity, told IANS that he too heard of this episode, but found it pointless to blow it up, saying, “Yes, the rule is that only those who receive special blessings can be at the altar. At the same time, there’s also a rule that only those who are baptised can enter our church. But tell me, can that happen? We have so many people from other faiths coming to our churches, especially for weddings and funerals. This controversy is needless”. Incidentally, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy attends Sunday liturgy at St George Cathedral.
2 September 2012
This illustrates the proper enforcement of the canons throughout all of Orthodoxy… both Eastern and Oriental. The canons aren’t straitjackets, they’re guidelines. The priest involved here showed good sense… most probably, the bishop and the politician were friends. Trust me, this has gone on since Day One.
In the time of the Great Persecutions in the late pagan Roman Empire, Bishop Mensurius of Carthage (one of the wiliest foxes of Church History, and a hierarch well-worth emulating) was able to deflect the worst of the pagan persecution from his Church because he was friends with the pagan magistrate. Foxy Ol’ Mensurius even finessed the pagans when he received orders to turn over the Scriptures. He did… he handed over heretical copies without the slightest demur. Some disappointed pagans tried to argue with the magistrate, but he told them, “Bishop Mensurius was ordered to turn them over, he did, I took them, and I burned them, and that’s that” (no doubt the magistrate wrote up a fulsome report to his superiors, happy as a clam that he got to look good). Now, that’s how a bishop “bishes” and spares his Church.
By the way, a sorehead priest by the name of Donatus got seriously pissed off that Mensurius wasn’t “strict enough” with those who sacrificed during the persecution. Let’s cut to the chase… the Church ruled on it, and it found Donatus was chock full of shit. It praised Mensurius, and condemned Donatus. Donatus gave his name to a heresy… Donatism. It means anyone who’s TOO gung-ho and wants to apply the letter of the canons, not their spirit. That describes all of the konvertsy that I’ve ever met, wouldn’t you agree?
This smells like a setup to me. That is, a faction opposed to Mar Gregorios is trying to raise a stink. That impression is heightened by the priest’s reply to it all. Indeed, it smells very much like an old faction that keeps repeating the same stale arguments and accusations (they do sound like the konvertsy, don’t they?).