Sunday, 10 December 2017

The real 'sleehe' of the Syro Malabar Migrants of England: prayerful wishes to Rev Fr Thomas Thaikkoottathil and Rev Dr Lonappan Arangasserry .

The real 'sleehe' of the Syro Malabar Migrants of England: prayerful wishes to Rev Fr Thomas Thaikkoottathil  and Rev Dr Lonappan Arangasserry .
Dr Martin Thomas Antony






Rev. Dr. Lonappan Arangasserry MST





Rev. Fr. Thomas Thaikkoottathil MST








Introduction.
Syro Malabar Church is the second largest particular church of the Universal Catholic communion in the UK[i]. Syro Malabar faithful in the UK has been blessed with an Eparchy and an Eparchial Bishop with a number of wonderful gifted Priests working for the Church and the community. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the only other Eastern Catholic Church in the UK with an Eparchy. For several decades, there have been migrations of Syro Malabar faithful to the UK. The pastoral care of these migrants was provided by the local Roman Catholic hierarchy. For the last 15-20 years, as the number of migrants increased significantly, a few  Syro Malabar Priests came over to the  UK to serve the Roman Catholic parishes were providing some kind of  pastoral care to the diaspora community. The  Universal Catholic church teaches that all the liturgical, spiritual theological and canonical  traditions of Eastern Churches  be preserved and nourished[ii]. Therefore, the  only reason for the presence of Syro Malabar Church and its Eparchy in the UK  is  promotion and  protection of the ecclesial traditions of the Apostolic Church of Saint Thomas Christians. If this is not the priority, there is no need for a Syro Malabar Church in the U.K.
With the formation of the Eparchy, the Syro Malabar Church has gained a large momentum in demonstrating her identity and spirituality. The Eparchy is being organised into regions under the leadership of a few Priests in various aspects of pastoral care. Organisation of women's forum, children's forum and youth forum are very good initiatives in the development of the community. The first Bible convention attracted masses of people to gather together regionally to listen to the word of God and to praise and worship the Lord. The first 'Bible Kalolsavam' (Art festival with the theme of the Holy Bible)  was a big success in its organisational merits and the talents of the participants. In fact, with the formation of the Eparchy and the hierarchical system, the Syro Malabar Church in the UK is thriving in a completely different culture and language with the help of the wonderful clergy and the leadership of a young, energetic and enthusiastic Eparchial Bishop.
It is a sad news that two of the wonderful Priests of Syro Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain are leaving the UK.  Rev Fr Thomas Thaikoottathil MST, the Chaplain of the Syro Malabar community in the diocese of Salford has completed his term of 5 years in the UK and left to India on 09/10/2017. Rev Dr Lonappan Arangasserry MST, the Chaplain of the Syro Malabar community in the diocese of Shrewsbury is leaving on 11/12/2017 to India, completing his 3- year term in the UK. Both of them were chaplains of Syro Malabar church appointed by the Holy Synod of Syro Malabar Church. They are returning to India to continue their Mission work in the North India. Both of them were a real blessing to the migrant Syro Malabar faithful in the UK. They were both hard working and promoted the authentic Syro Malabar traditions among the migrant communities. Both of them considered Syro Malabar Church as their priority. It is really a loss to the Syro Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain. They are the real 'sleehe' who worked hard to build the Syro Malabar Church in Great  Britain.
Syro Malabar Church in the UK
The beginning of Syro Malabar Church in the UK was by the mass migration of Malayali Nurses in the late 20th century.[iii]  A number of Priests and certain lay leaders led these small communities with regular prayers, night vigils and celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy in the Malayalam language based on the local Roman Catholic parishes. The main theme was pastoral care in Malayalam language, regular Charismatic retreats and prayers rather than the spirituality and rite of Syro Malabar Church. They functioned as an 'ethnolinguistic' community within the Catholic church of Britain. The second Vatican council and the post conciliar documents clearly exhort for prompt actions for promotion and observance of the rites of the Eastern Catholic faithful in a foreign land as the patrimony of the Universal Church of Christ.[iv] Thus, there was a need for the pastoral care of these migrant communities as they are of a  different tradition  and spirituality related to a particular church in the Catholic communion
Rightly, the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church also took initiative and Chaplaincies were formed. A number or Priests were appointed as Chaplains in the UK by the initiative of the Holy Synod of Syro Malabar Church and the local Roman Catholic church[v].
The Malayali Catholic communities in the UK were not interested in promoting the spirituality of Syro Malabar Church as a Sui iuris Church in the Catholic communion. The celebration of Holy Eucharistic Liturgy in its proper form with dignity, sacredness and ecclesial sense was not on the top of the priorities.
 Some of these chaplains even fell into the trap of becoming personal chaplains of certain Malayali organisations.  It is well known that one of the Malayali communities resisted and refused to accept a Syro Malabar Chaplain from the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church but to remain as an autocephalous group with a private Priest as their own Chaplain.
They were interested only in getting a few celebrity preachers from Kerala on a regular basis, that too every so often,  to build up their affiliation groups. Thus, the Syro Malabar migrants in the UK became affiliation groups of a few celebrity Charismatic preachers from Kerala. Many of the English Roman Catholic Bishops and Parish priests were upset about the sectarianism and division among the Malayali community under their jurisdiction.
Liturgical indiscipline
The faithful were very sad about the widespread liturgical indiscipline prevailed in the Syro Malabar communities in the UK.  Most of the visiting Bishops and celebrity preachers explicitly disobeyed the unanimous decisions of the Holy Synod in relation to the celebration of the Holy Eucharistic liturgy[vi]. Their main excuse was that they were following the local customs.  It was very curious to observe that in one of the Roman Catholic parishes in Central Manchester where all the English Masses were celebrated 'ad orietum'- completely facing the altar-, a prominent Syro Malabar Chaplain regularly celebrated Holy Qurbana of Syro Malabar Church completely facing the people.
Liturgical disputes in Syro Malabar Church.
Before the Vatican Council II, the celebration of the Holy Eucharistic Liturgy was facing the altar even in the Latin Rite. The Eucharistic Liturgy facing the people (ad populum) gained popularity in the Latin Rite with the spirit of the Vatican Council II, even when there were no clear instructions from any of the documents of the Council to celebrate Holy Eucharistic Liturgy facing the people. In fact, even today, the Roman Rite Missal still give rubrics when to face the people during the celebration[vii], clearly indicating the fact that even in the Latin Rite,  the most appropriate mode of celebrating the Holy Eucharistic Liturgy is facing the altar.
In the Syro Malabar Church also, from time immemorial, the Holy Qurbana was celebrated facing the madbha. After the Vatican Council II, some of the Bishops of the Syro Malabar Church started to celebrate the Holy Qurbana ad populum- facing the people imitating the Latin Rite without any discussions with the fellow Syro Malabar Bishops. This led to two forms of celebrating the Holy Eucharistic Liturgy in Syro Malabar Church, the Southern eparchies celebrating fully facing the altar while some of the Northern Eparchies fully facing the people.
It has to be noted that during this period, There was no Syro Malabar Synod or Sui iuris status. The Bishops and Eparchies of Syro Malabar church functioned as individual Eparchies directly under the Pope. Many of the Bishops had no vision for an identity or individuality of the Church but considered the Syro Malabar rite as an offshoot of the Latin Church with a different Liturgy.
The Southern Eparchies of the proper territory of the Syro Malabar Church adhered to the Oriental traditions and spirituality and strictly obedient to the instructions from the Universal Church and Roman Pontiffs, some of the Northern Eparchies fell into the argument for unity in the Catholic Church in India and the need for a single rite for India. This led to the so-called movement for  Indianisation and inculturation.
A prominent Catholic Theologian Dr William F Macomber observed in 1977 that the hierarchy of Syro Malabar Church is aiming to reform the Liturgy in terms of modernisation and Indianisation with a view to becoming a single rite in India, once the Latin Rite in India is also sufficiently Indianised.[viii] But many of these so called reformations were mere adaptations from the Latin Rite[ix] as the Holy See strictly prohibited these 'abusive Indianisations' and 'arbitrary innovations' that are incompatible with sound and genuine traditions.[x]
When the Syro Malabar Church was elevated to a Major Archepiscopal church with a sui iuris status, this Liturgical dispute troubled the Church. The Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church in 1999, as a compromise, unanimously decided to celebrate the Holy Qurbana in the so-called 50 :50 formula- - initial parts up to anaphora facing the people, the whole of anaphora and communion facing the altar and final prayers after the communion facing the people[xi]. Sadly, the Holy Synod failed to implement this unanimous decision of the Synod due to resistance from a section of the clergy[xii]. Hence, the Holy Synod had to give dispensation to certain eparchies.
The pastoral situation among migrants in the UK.
Being a migrant community with faithful from all areas of the proper territory of the Syro Malabar Major Archepiscopal church, the real pastoral situation in the UK demands adherence to the Synodal decisions in relation to the celebration of the Holy Eucharistic Liturgy. The guidelines of Pastoral care of migrants promulgated by The Syro Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church instructs that the Sacred Liturgy and sacraments should be celebrated using approved texts and adhering to the rites and modes of celebration approved by the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church[xiii].
Many letters were sent to the Syro Malabar Chaplains, Holy Synod of Syro Malabar Church and even to the local Roman Catholic Church to facilitate the proper celebration of the Holy Qurbana and to promote the identity of the Church as a particular church and spirituality. Cardinal Vincent Nicholls, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales even acknowledged this need in 2014 and commented that all the  Chaplains and visiting priests should adhere to the approved norms of the Holy Synod in celebrating the Holy Eucharistic liturgy[xiv]. But abuses and indiscipline continued renouncing the decisions of the Holy Synod of Syro Malabar Church and even  instructions of the local Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The Catholic church teaches that the Holy Spirit direct and influence the Church. Thus, the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church and its decisions are influenced by the Holy Spirit and these Liturgical abuses are actually renouncing the Holy Spirit. The local Roman Catholic Bishops and certain learned English Priests were astonished about the ignorance and indiscipline even among the visiting Bishops.
Lights of Hope
By the Grace of God, Lights of hope were seen by the appointment of Rev Fr Thomas Thaikkoottathil as the Chaplain of Syro Malabar Community in Manchester in 2012 and Rev Dr Lonappan Arangasserry in 2014 to Cheshire. Both of these Priests started using the name 'Syro Malabar' for the first time in the region. Both of them started celebrating the Holy Qurbana according to the norms of the decisions of the Holy Synod of the Church- initial parts up to anaphora facing the people, the whole of anaphora and communion facing the altar and final prayers after the communion facing the people[xv].
Efforts were taken to promote the identity of the Church. They worked hard to establish the first-ever Syro Malabar communities in the UK  by transforming the existing Malayali Catholic communities. With their hardcore background from North Indian Missions, faith formation at the grass root level unified the communities under the banner of the Syro Malabar Church.
Rev Fr Thomas Thaikkoottathil.
Fr Thomas is a member of the religious order, Missionaries of Saint Thomas. He is from Vaypoor in the Arch-Eparchy of Changanacherry. He was working in the North Indian villages as a missionary. Fr Thomas organised the faithful of Syro Malabar Church in the Roman Catholic diocese of Salford. He served Central Manchester, North Manchester, Bolton and  Blackburn. He travelled regularly to remote villages in Greater Manchester to teach the children and organise the faithful. Fr Thomas systematically organised Catechism in all the communities and even regular training programmes for the catechism teachers in Central Manchester which were unique. For several Sundays, his homily consisted of teaching about the Holy Qurbana of the Church. One of the prominent English parish priests in Manchester told the author that he was very pleased with the skills of Fr Thomas in uniting the community together. Fr Thomas was always in the local communities organising the church and educating the children.
Rev Dr Lonappan Arangasserry.
Rev Dr Lonappan Arangasserry is also a member of the religious order Missionaries of Saint Thomas. He was appointed as the Chaplain of Syro Malabar faithful in the Diocese of Shrewsbury in 2014. Fr Lonappan hails from Parappoor in the Arch-Eparchy of Trichur. He is an eminent liturgist and scholar of the Syro Malabar Church. He is an author of several books and numerous articles in various journals. He was a Professor in many seminaries and actively involved in the formation of the clergy. He was involved in the Liturgical committees of the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church and involved in preparation and revision of many Liturgical texts.
He always held a strong position in favour of the causes of the Syro Malabar Church and preservation of the liturgical and theological formation in its genuine purity. He stood for the decisions of the Holy Synod and to promote and protect the authentic spirituality and traditions of the Church. Fr Lonappan systematically organised the Catechism teaching by training the teachers, observing the legal formalities of the country like DBS/CRB etc.  Fr Lonappan visited almost all the families of the faithful, reorganised the big communities in Wythenshawe and Wirral, organised the women faithful in the community, organised the younger generation under the banner of  Mission League and  Savio Friends, organised the altar servers with  training and formation to them and strengthened the catechesis by  strictly following the spirituality of the church.
Fr Lonappan was an active promoter and participant of the Festival of Eastern Catholic Churches held in August 2015 organised by the Society of Saint John Chrysostom. Society of Saint John Chrysostom is an organisation of Eastern and Western churches to promote understanding about Eastern Churches to the western Christendom. Cardinal Vincent Nicholls is the president of the Society. Fr Lonappan, along with Rev Dr Joseph Palackal made the festival into a very educational event by his scholarly lecture about the history and spirituality of the Syro Malabar Church.
Eparchy of Great Britain of the Syro Malabars.
 Pope Francis established the Eparchy of Great Britain for the Syro Malabar's and Bishop Mar Joseph Srampickal was consecrated amidst a large crowd of faithful of about 12000 at Preston on 09th October 2016[xvi].
With the establishment of the Eparchy, the Syro Malabar Church in England is thriving in her own spirituality from an 'ethnolinguistic' identity. Comparing to other ethnic groups, the English Catholic Church is hopeful that the Syro Malabar Church would lead a new revival with a different Eastern spirituality in England. The English church is very supportive of the Syro Malabar Church and spirituality and insists that the Liturgy and sacraments of Syro Malabar Church are protected and preserved in England[xvii]. Preserving the upholding the authentic spirituality of the Syro Malabar Church is a witnessing the Judeo Christian movement of the Apostles. It will be a unique spiritual experience to the native English people who are only familiar with the Hellenised Latin West and the Greek East rather than the Judeo Christian Syriac Orient.  It will be a great opportunity for the Syro Malabar Eparchy and faithful to witness and promote faith transmission in the Syriac spirituality to the native English people.
Syriac Spirituality is not alien to the Christianity in the Great Britain. Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury (668-690 AD) was a Greek from Tarsus and was fluent in Syriac[xviii]. He was a monk in a monastery at Rome and was appointed as a Bishop in England. The influence of Syriac exegetic literature is widely seen in the Biblical commentaries of the Canterbury school of  Theodore[xix].
The real 'sleehe' of the Church.
Fr Lonappan and Fr Thomas courageously upheld their Syro Malabar identity and spirituality when many other Pastors were hesistant. They were fully obedient to the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church in celebrating the Holy Qurbana. In fact, these two Priests were the first to implement the decisions of the Holy Synod in the celebration of the Holy Eucharistic Liturgy in the UK. They built the church and community in the authentic spirituality and promoted the Apostolic traditions of the Church. They were the real 'sleehe' of the Apostolic Church of Saint Thomas Christians in the UK who built the Church in a foreign land and then handed over the community to the newly formed hierarchy. It is really a loss to the Syro Malabar Church in the UK but an asset to the Church in the North Indian villages.
It is the duty of the faithful now to continue the pastoral Mission initiated by these two 'sleehe'  by adhering to the Spiritually of the Church. It is the right of the faithful in a foreign land to have their Liturgy and sacraments in its authentic purity as prescribed by the Holy Synod of the Church.



[i] The Roman Catholic Church in the UK is the largest Church in the Catholic communion in the UK. There is an Eparchy of Ukrainian greek catholic Church in London with a number of communities. But Syro Malabar Church is the second largest.
[ii] Pope Paul IV, Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Easstern Rite, promulgated on November 21.1964, Nos 1-6
[iii] Rev. Fr Mathew Thottathimyalil, History of Syro Malabar Church in the UK and Eire, 2005, p6, 37.
[iv] Stephen Fumio Cardinal Hamao, Erga Migrantes caritas Christ, (The Love of Christ towards migrants) Part II, No 26, Pontifican Council for the Pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people, 2004, Vatican city.
[v] Obviously, this did not attract approval from the Pastors  and leaders of the Charismatic movement as they considered the situation as only an ethno linguistic problem rather thah that of a Particular Church and its spirituality and traditions. This caused tensions in the community.
[vi] Synodal News, (Bulletin of the Syro Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church) vol 7, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1999, p71-72
[vii] General Instructions of Roman Missal,  146, 154, 57, 158, 165, 167.
[viii] William Macomber, A History of Chaldean Mass, Worship, Vol 51 No 2, 1977, pp 523-536
[ix] G Vavanikunnel and J Madey, "A Reform of the restored Syro Malabar Qurbana", Ostkirchliche Studien 18,(1969) 172-181 cited by William F Macomber, A History of Chaldean Mass, Worship, No2 1977, pp523-536
[x] Xavier Koodapuzha, Roman Documents on the Syro Malabar Liturgy, OIRSI, Kottayam, 1999, pp 25-26
[xi] Synodal News(Bulletin of the Syro Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church) vol 7, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1999, p71-72
[xii] Synodal News vol 8 No 1 September 2000, p18 . The Holy Synod observed that open clandestine squad work by some groups who influenced others was one of the major factors in the failure to implement the decision. This means there was squad work by certain corners to oppose the unanimous decision of the Holy Synod.
[xiii] Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Syro Malabar Church, Guidelines of Pastoral Care of Migrants, kakkanad, January 23, 2009.
[xiv] Archbishop Vincent Cardinal Nicholls, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, personal letter dated 21 January 2014 to the author with a copy to the then Co ordinator of the Syro Malabar Mission in England.
[xv] Synodal News(Bulletin of the Syro Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church) vol 7, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1999, p71-72
[xvi] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-37587782 accessed on 29 June 2017
[xvii] Archbishop Vincent Cardinal Nicholls, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, personal letter dated 21 January 2014 to the author with a copy to the then Co ordinator of the Syro Malabar Mission in England.
[xviii] Panteleimon Tzorbatzoglou, St Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury 668-690, A Greek from Tarsus of Cicilia in England,: some aspects of his life , Mediterranean Chronicles, Vol 2 2012, Diavlos, p 80
[xix] Sebastian Brock, St Theodore of Canterbury,The Canterbury School and the Christian East, Heythorpe Journal, XXXVI,1995, p433

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

History of Catholic Church of England and Syriac Spirituality

                     History of Catholic Church of England and Syriac Spirituality
Martin Thomas Antony

Introduction.
England is a country organised based on Christian principles. The history of Christianity in England and on a wider sense in Britain is very old going back to first few centuries of Christian era.
Catholic Church in England is a minority Christian denomination. The first authoritative Papal Mission to England was in AD 597 with St Augustine of Canterbury by the establishment of a direct link between the Kingdom of  Kent to the See of Rome and the establishment of the Benedictine form of monasticism.[i] The Christianity in England was always adherent to the Roman Catholic Church but after the Henrician reformation of the 16 th century, the official Christian Church in England became the Church of England and the Catholic Church suffered a lot of persecutions and produced many martyrs. Being a persecuted church, Catholic Church in England still is an active Christian community with a large number of Church attendees compared to Church of England.

Catholic Church.

The term 'Catholic Church' means the Universal Church. In AD 110, Ignatius of Antioch uses the term 'Catholic church' in his epistle to the 'Smyrneans' with the meaning of universal church. This was to differentiate the local particular church under the leadership of the Bishop and the Catholic Church as the aggregate of all local churches.[ii]

The term 'Catholic' also means the true church differentiating from heretic sects. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in the fourth century that the church is called 'Catholic' not only because it is spread throughout the world but also it teaches all the doctrines completely without any defect. Thus, Catholic church means the Universal Christian church which is orthodox in faith.[iii]

The word 'Catholic' word derived from Greek 'Katholicos' and Latin 'catholicus' meaning universal.(Oxford dictionary)

Ecclesiastically, the term 'Catholic Church' means the Universal Catholic Church, the communion of Roman Catholic Church and 23 sui iuris Churches,  the largest Christian communion in the world.
Almost all Christian denominations claim that their church is 'Catholic'. The East Syriac church- the mother of the Syriac stream of Christianity, the continuation of the Judeo Christian movement of the Apostles and the very first Christian Church that got separated from the rest of Christendom after the Council of Nicea which depicted the first uniform Christian creed, - calls their church as Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of the East.

'Catholic' is one of the four attributes or markers of the Christian church according to the Nicean creed promulgated by the first Council of Constantinople in AD 381- One, Holy, Catholic, and  Apostolic.

Christianity in Britain
Celtic Christianity.
Tertullian, the father of Latin theology has commented that by about AD 200, Christianity was spread in to even areas of the Britain inaccessible to the Romans-Britannorum inaccessa romanis loca.[iv] Christianity in Britain had its beginnings with Celtic converts. Celtic Christianity was related Gallic[v] Christianity[vi].[vii] It was easy for the Celtic people to accept Christianity, due to certain similarities between pagan Celtic beliefs and Christian beliefs.[viii]  In the history, the first signs of Christianity in Britain are seen from the early third century. The martyrdoms of Aaron, Julian and Alban are dated in the mid-third century[ix]. These were part of Roman persecutions. British Bishops were documented present in the Council of Arles in AD 314.The early Christianity in the Britain was related to the Roman occupation in the Britain. Much of Great Britain was incorporated into the Roman Empire by 43 AD[x].  Emperor Constantine abolished persecution of  Christianity in the Roman Empire by Edict of Milan in AD 313.  Later, with the Edict of Thessalonica in AD 380, Catholic Orthodoxy as depicted in the Councils of  Nicea (AD 325)  and Constantinople(381)  was declared as the state religion of Roman Empire[xi].
Archaeological studies show evidence of Christianity in Britain in the 4 th century AD  in the form of personal items bearing Christian imagery, liturgical fonts or basins, church structures and burial sites.[xii] Excavations at Canterbury revealed the presence of buildings of Roman period which were Christian Churches, another building at Reculver with archaeological features of a Christian church and a few other buildings at Roman occupied areas in England like Frampton in Dorsetshire and in Chedworth in Gloucestershire with Christian monograms[xiii].
Excavation near Trafalgar square in London revealed at least 1400 yr old Christian burial site in the traditional Christian manner east to west.[xiv] The excavation also shows evidence of Christianity pre dating the Anglo Saxon conversion.
Celtic Christianity has left a large number of Christian buildings, art objects, manuscripts, bronze bells, crosiers etc. Spiritually, their monastic life was intense as seen in Egypt or Syria.[xv] It has been proposed that these Celtic Christians had contacts with the Mesopotamia and Egypt  that  Celtic sacred  manuscript as the Gospel text known as 'The Book of Durrow' and similar figures in Celtic sculptures of the late sixth century derive from the ancient Syriac Gospel book 'Diatessaron' and the Religio cultural symbol of  Celtic Christianity  (like  the Saint Thomas Crosses of India), the 'Celtic crosses' have precedents in the art of Coptic Christianity[xvi]. Thus, we can presume that the  Celtic Christians, even though they used Latin as their liturgical language, was constantly communicating and updating with the Christianity in the land and the culture where it originated, the Eastern Syriac Christianity.
Anglo Saxon period.
Early 5th century, Romans abandoned their hold in England. Jutes, Angles and Saxons from continental  Europe invaded England who destroyed the Christianity. The Christians might have got absorbed into the new society or pushed to the mountains of Wales or Cornish Tores [xvii]. In AD 597, Pope Gregory I sent Saint Augustine from the monastery of Saint Andrew to preach to the Anglo Saxons. Anglo Saxons were the Germanic tribes migrated to Britain from the Continental Europe. The Anglo Saxon conversion was a revival of Catholicism in England.  Bede's ecclesiastical history narrates that Augustine was consecrated as the Bishop with his base at Canterbury. The local King had known about Christians and there was a Bishop already as a chaplain of the Queen who was a catholic.[xviii] This revival continued with two provinces Canterbury and York.
Anglo Saxon chronicles also describe about an embassy sent to India. Anglo Saxon chronicles describe that in AD 883, King Alfred of England sends envoy with offerings that he woved  to Saint Thomas's Tomb in India in thanksgiving for his victory over Dunes in London.[xix]for  and Saint Bar thulomy in India[xx]
Norman period
11th century Norman conquest gave further revival to the English Catholicism with Romanesque Cathedrals  and spiritual revival with Benedictines like Anslem and  Lanfranc. Monasteries and convents flourished as the centres of learning. Pilgrimage was another feature of this period. Walsingham[xxi] in 1061 witnessed a Marian apparition and became a pilgrim centre. Similar pilgrim centres were Holywell to commemorate St Winefred, Canterbury after the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in 1170, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, and so on. Pope Adrian IV was born in England and was elected as Pope in 1954.[xxii]
Henrician reformation and subsequent persecution
Catholicism flourished in Britain in constant communion with the See of Rome until the reformation by Henry VIII. In 1534, Henry VIII suppressed Catholicism in Britain  and established a National Church- the Church of England due to a number of reasons namely the King Henry VIII could not have an heir through his wife Catherine of Aragon and the Pope refused to annul the marriage with her so that Henry VIII can have an heir through another wife. This resulted in King and the Parliament renouncing the authority of the Pope and subsequent legislation lead to the formation of the Church of England with no communion with the Pope of Rome any actions opposing these legislation publicly considered as treason. This lead to persecution of Catholics- Saints John Fisher, Thomas Moore and others were martyred. Even though Henry VIII opposed to Protestantism and did not accept Protestant theology in doctrine or worship, the subsequent Monarchs allowed Protestant influence in the Church of England. Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries and took over the rich properties of Catholic Church[xxiii]. The period immediately followed Henry VIII was volatile. Edward IV (1547-1553)moved the Church of England into Protestant influence. During the period of Queen Mary 1 (1553-58) tried to bring back the Church into Catholicism. Elizabeth I (1558-1603 ) tried to abolish the authority of Pope in England by a number of legislatures by which it was made a crime to assert the authority of a foreign prince, prelate or authority.  Pope Pius V in 1570  in his bull 'Regnans in Excelsis' excommunicated the Queen and obliged all Catholics to try to overthrow her. This resulted in the Government making more rigorous actions against the Catholics and persecutions against Catholics.
An assassination plot against King James I of England and King James VI of Scotland by blowing up the House of Lords with gunpowder on the 5th of November 1605 by a group of English Catholics was foiled and the culprits were convicted. The commemoration of this victory over the rebellion Catholics was evolved into the Bonafire night celebrated even today.
Such actions by Catholics made them appear rebellious to the country and further persecutions followed for next  200 years. The act of settlement of 1701decided that the Monarch of England should only be a Protestant. Catholic presence and influence in the public life was limited, they did not have the right to vote, right to own property was limited. Civil rights were limited.
During these dark years, the Roman Catholic Church existed in England as Apostolic vicariates. Diocesan Episcopacy was restored only in 1850. By 1778, by Catholic relief act, there was some liberalisation in the anti-Catholic laws.
Second Catholic revival
The situation changed by  the influx of French Catholics by the end of 18th century due to French Revolution which was evidently anti-catholic, influx of Irish Catholics in the  19th century due to famine in the background of unification of Ireland leading to increased population of Catholics in England leading to pressure for abolishing the anti-catholic laws. Also some Anglican conversion to catholic church that involved eminent intellectuals. Roman Catholic relief act of 1829 reinstated equal civil rights to Catholics. Catholic hierarchy was restored with the establishment of Dioceses in place of vicariates in 1850.Catholic church grew in 20th century with an increased number of practicing Catholics actively participating in worship on Sundays compared to the Church of England.
Later, with modernisation and liberalisation of the society, practising Catholics became more of the older generation, but, being a persecuted church, Catholics were more in number compared to Church of England in active in religious practices and witnessing. But there was significant reduction in vocations.
By the end of 20th century, further immigration of Catholics from south Asia including South India, Philippines etc further boosted catholic numbers and more and more young people are seen in the church.

Catholic Church of England today.

English Roman Catholic Church comprises of 5  provinces Birmingham, Liverpool, Cardiff, Southwark and Westminster with 22 dioceses. There are about 4.1 million faithful in England according to 2011 census[xxiv]. Archbishop Vincent Cardinal Nicholls is the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales. With the spirit of II Vatican Council, the Catholic Church of England actively participates in ecumenical activities with other Christian Churches. Even being a minority in the country, with the history of a persecuted church, Catholic churches are still very active in religious life compared to the vast majority Church of England.

Post Vatican council II -traditional Catholics versus liberal Catholics.

There is a strong group of Catholics in England who loves the traditional Latin mass. The changes in the liturgy and church architecture in par with the so-called spirit of II Vatican Council  and the liberalism has upset many the traditional catholic faithful. Latin mass Society[xxv] is an organisation promoting the spirituality of Traditional Latin rite.  There are several churches in England where traditional Latin liturgy is regularly celebrated with Gregorian chants and Holy Mass fully ad orietum.[xxvi]

Eastern Catholic Churches.

Syro Malabar Church

Syro Malabar Church is a Major Archi Episcopal Church with a strong base in England. Syro Malabar church is the second largest church in England after the Roman Rite. In the late 20th century, there was a mass migration of Nurses from Kerala to England[xxvii]. Most of these Nurses came over from the Middle East where religious rights to Christians are minimal. They all came over to England with their secret prayer group spirituality. A number of Priests and certain lay leaders led these small communities with regular prayers, night vigils and celebration of Eucharistic liturgy in Malayalam language. These all were on the interests of a few dedicated Priests and the Charismatic movement. The main theme was pastoral care in Malayalam language and regular Charismatic retreats and prayers rather than the spirituality and rite of Syro Malabar Church.
Later, the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church also took initiative and Chaplaincies were formed. In 2007, Pope Francis established an Eparchy of Great Britain for the Syro Malabar's and Bishop Mar Joseph Srampikkal was consecrated amidst a large crowd of faithful of about 12000 at Preston on 09th October 2016[xxviii].
With the establishment of the Eparchy, the Syro Malabar Church in England is growing in her own spirituality from an ethnolinguistic identity. Comparing to other ethnic groups, the English Catholic Church is hopeful that the Syro Malabar Church would lead a new revival with a different Eastern spirituality in England. The English church is very supportive to the Syro Malabar Church and spirituality and insists that the Liturgy and sacraments of Syro Malabar Church is protected and preserved in England[xxix]. It is a great opportunity to the Syro Malabar faithful to witness the Apostolic spirituality of Syro Malabar Church which is closer to the Judeo Christian movement of the Apostles than the familiar hellenised Latin West and Greek East and faith transmission in the Syriac spirituality to the native English people.

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is another Major Archi Episcopal Church which has about 15000[xxx] faithful living in England. They have an Eparchy in London with a Bishop. They take a very active role in introducing the Eastern Churches to the Western church through the Society of Saint John Chrysostom. In 2015, Society of Saint John Chrysostom organised a Festival of Eastern Catholic Churches with the theme on Syriac Christianity and Syro Malabar Church[xxxi].

Other Eastern Catholic Churches.

There are chaplaincies of Maronite Church, Erythtrean Catholic Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Chaldean Church and Syro Malankara Church operates in England adding to the Universality of Catholic Church.

Other Ethno linguistic groups.

Polish migrant Catholics are organised in England as congregations based on a few churches but they are part of English Catholic Parishes. There are large number of Philippino Catholics also in England associated with English parishes.  

Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham

This is an establishment promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 to accommodate the reunion of   Anglicans while preserving the distinctive elements of Anglican Patrimony[xxxii]. A number of serving and retired Bishops and several clergy and laymen joined the movement.

Catholic Church of England and Eastern Spirituality.

The Catholic Church of England is experiencing a new revival with the immigrant Catholics and Eastern catholic Churches, especially the Syro Malabar Church. Syriac Spirituality is not new to England. Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury(668-690 AD) was a Greek from Tarsus but was fluent in Syriac[xxxiii]. The influence of Syriac exegetical literature is widely seen in the Biblical commentaries of the Canterbury School of Theodore [xxxiv]. Now, Bishop Mar Joseph Srampikkal, a Syro Malabar Bishop who had his training and formation in Syriac tradition is leading the Syriac spirituality in England. The young active practicing Catholics of Syro Malabar Church is giving a vibrancy to the English parishes. Large-scale Charismatic prayer meetings and night vigils organised by the Syro Malabar faithful are common in all areas of England attracting the English Catholics as well.

English Saints

There are a large number of native Saints venerated in the English Catholic Church. There are pre reformation saints and fathers and several martyrs during the period of persecution.

Pilgrimage[xxxv].
Walsingham is a Norfolk village where a woman Richeldis de Faverches reported a Marian apparition in 1061. The shrine there is a major place of Pilgrimage. Syro Malabar faithful are also very enthusiastic about Walsingham Pilgrimage. The Syro Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain has also taken a very keen interest in Walsingham pilgrimage.
Holywell in North Wales in the memory of St Winefried, Canterbury in memory of Saint Thomas Becket, Westminster Abbey to commemorate Edward the confessor are a few of them.

Conclusion.

Catholic Church in England is an ancient church with a glorious beginning and then dark ages of persecution. The Church became a minority and viewed by the general public as rebellious and radical to the nation but the spirituality of the Church sustained with the strong faithful. European and Asian immigration gave the English Catholic church great revival. The presence of Eastern Catholic churches adds the richness and universality of the Church life in England. The Catholic Church in England always stood for social justice, rights of the common workers and immigrants.




[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_England_and_Wales accessed on 25 June 2017
[ii] Rev J H Srawley, The Epistles of St Iganatius vol II Early Church classics, Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1910 p 41 foot note 4
[iii] Rev J H Srawley, opus cited p 42 foot note
[iv] Charles Thomas, Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500, University of California press, 1981, p 43
[v] Gaul (Latin Gallia)is a region in the Western Europe which was a heartland of Latin Christianity comprise of todays France, Luxumborg, Belgium, Switzerland and Northern Italy.
[vi] Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, Penguin Books, p330.The Celtic Christians  were vibrant  Catholics. They kept the language of Western Latin Christianity as their sacred and liturgical language . Gallic Christianity was initially Arian Christianity.
[vii] F J Haverfield, Early British Christianity, English Historical review, vol 11, 1896, pp417-430
[viii] Kimberley Rachel Grunke, The effects of Christianity upon the British Celts, University of Wisconsin La Crosse  Journal of Undergraduate research, XI, 2008, p1
[ix] Kimberley Rachel Grunke, The effects of Christianity upon the British Celts, University of Wisconsin La Crosse  Journal of Undergraduate research, XI, 2008, p
[x] Cassiun Dio,Roman History, accessed from  http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/60*.html#19 on 25 June 2017, Book LX, Nos 19-22
[xi] Sydney Z Ehler, John B Morrall, (Ed), Church and State through the Centuries,: A collection of Historic documents with commentaries, Biblo and Tannen Publishers,1967, p 6-7
[xii] David Petts, The oxford handbook of Roman Britain
[xiii] E P Loftus Brock, Christianity in Britain in Roman Times with reference to recent discoveries at Canterbury, Archaeologia Cantiana vol 15, 1883, pp 38-55
[xiv] David M Keys, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/is-1400-year-old-treasure-evidence-of-christianitys-first-foothold-in-britain-426546.html accessed on 26 May 2017
[xv] Diarmaid  MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, Penguin Books, p 332.
[xvi] Diarmaid MacCulloch, opus cit p332
[xvii] John Mooreman, History of the Church in England, III edn,
[xviii] Judith McClure, Roger Collins, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, The Greater Chronicle, Bede's letter to Egbert, Oxford University Press, p 39-40
[xix] Diana Webb, Medieval European Pilgrimage C700-c 1500, Palgrave, p146
[xx] Rev James Ingram, The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, A history of England from Roman Times to the Norman conquest, Red and Black publishers, St Petersburg, Florida, p 57
[xxi] It is not surprising that a large number of Syro Malabar faithful from Kerala are very enthusiastic in Wasingham pilgrimage as they come from Kuravilangad, the ancient church in Kerala where the Mother Mary appeared to children in AD 325. Walsingham could be considered as the Kuravilangad of the England.
[xxii] John Duncan Mackie, Pope Adrian IV: The Lothian Essay, Blackwell Publishers page 5
[xxiii] G W Bernard, The dissolution of the monasteries, History, 2011 cited in Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_England_and_Wales#cite_note-26 accessed on 26 June 2017
[xxiv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_the_United_Kingdom accessed on 29 June 2017
[xxv] https://lms.org.uk/about#introduction accessed on 29 June 2017
[xxvi] It is very sad to note that in one of those English Catholic churches in England where only Tridentine Mass is celebrated, (fully ad orientum)  one of the prominent Syro Malabar Pastors used to celebrate Syro Malabar Liturgy fully ad populum on a regular basis ridiculing the spirituality, traditions and over all of this, the decision of the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar church about celebrations of the holy Eucharistic liturgy among migrants.
[xxvii] Rev Fr Mathew Thottathimyalil, History of Syro Malabar Church in the UK and Eire, 2005, p6, 37.
[xxviii] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-37587782 accessed on 29 June 2017
[xxix] Archbishop Vincent Cardinal Nicholls, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, personal letter dated 21 January 2014 to the author with a copy to the then Co ordinator of the Syro Malabar Mission in England.
[xxx] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_England_and_Wales accessed on 29 June 2017
[xxxi] http://orientale-lumen.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/festival-of-eastern-catholic-churches.html accessed on 28 June 2017
[xxxii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_Ordinariate_of_Our_Lady_of_Walsingham accessed on 29 June 2017
[xxxiii] Panteleimon Tzorbatzoglou, St Theodore, Archbishop of canterbury (668-690AD), A Greek from Tarsus of Cilicia in England: Some aspects of his life, Mediterranean Chronicle, vol 2, 2012 Diavlos, p 80
[xxxiv] Sebstian Brock, St Theodore of Canterbury, the Canterbury school and the Christian East,  Heythorpe Journal, XXXVI, 1995, p433
[xxxv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_England_and_Wales accessed on 29 June 2017