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A Historic Milestone: The Sacred Ordination and Installation of Mathews Mar Pachomios

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In an epoch-making event on February 15, 2024, the Eparchy of St. Ephrem in Khadki, Pune, was blessed with a new shepherd, Rt. Rev. Mathai Kadavil OIC Remban, now anointed as Bishop Mathews Mar Pachomios. The ceremony, imbued with ancient traditions and spiritual fervour, unfolded at Mount Mar Ivanios, Khopoli, marking a historic milestone for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in the region.

The Veil of Humility and the Procession of Faith

The ordination day of Rt. Rev. Mathai Kadavil OIC, henceforth known as Mathews Mar Pachomios, was not just a day marked by ceremonial grandeur but one steeped in profound symbolism and ancient Christian traditions. The morning air at Mount Mar Ivanios, Khopoli, was electric with anticipation as the faithful from near and far gathered, their hearts united in prayer and their eyes turned towards the pavilion that was to be the venue for this sacred event.

As the processional began at 8am, it was a sight to behold – the bishops of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, in their liturgical vestments, entered in solemn dignity, followed by bishops from sister churches. This procession was not merely a physical movement but a spiritual journey, symbolizing the unity of the Catholic Church and the communion of its leaders with the faithful they are called to shepherd.

The entrance of Rt. Rev. Mathai Kadavil Remban, veiled and flanked by two bishops, Thomas Mar Anthonios and Thomas Mar Koorilos, was a moment of deep spiritual significance. The veil, a symbol of humility and consecration, speaks volumes about the sacredness of the ordination rite. In the traditions of the Oriental churches, the veil symbolizes the candidate’s unworthiness and humility before God, as well as the mystery of God’s call to serve. This act of veiling before the unveiling or revelation of the new bishop’s identity echoes Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai, where he veiled his face to shield the Israelites from the glory of God reflected upon it, emphasizing the transcendence and holiness of the ordination ceremony.

The palpable excitement and reverence among the throngs of people, including the religious, priests, sisters, and lay faithful from the Mumbai, Pune, Tamil Nadu, Telangana Karnataka, Kerala, the rest of India and abroad, underscored the communal aspect of the ordination. This gathering was not just a witness to a personal milestone in the life of Mathai Kadavil Remban but a communal celebration of the continuation of apostolic succession and the unity of the Church.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias Delivers a Message of Shepherdhood and Service

During the historic ordination and installation ceremony of Mathews Mar Pachomios, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bombay, imparted a profound message reflecting on the essence of shepherdhood in the Christian faith. Fresh from his journey from Rome, Cardinal Gracias graced the occasion with his presence, underlining the deep connections and collaborative spirit between the Roman Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

Drawing from the Gospel of John 10:1-16, Cardinal Gracias highlighted the figure of Christ as the Good Shepherd, emphasizing the model of leadership that is premised on self-giving, service, and dedication to the flock. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” he quoted, urging the bishop elect and all bishops present to embody this scriptural passage in their pastoral ministry.

Cardinal Gracias reminisced about his collaborative work with the late Benedict Mar Gregorios, Cyril Mar Baselios, and now with Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, illustrating the enduring partnership across the churches. He stressed the importance of being a bridge to God for the faithful, coordinating efforts across various church associations, and focusing on empowering laity, women, youth, and children.

Highlighting the Synodal path embraced by both the Latin and Oriental churches, Cardinal Gracias called for a continued exchange of experiences in synodality, aiming for a Church that lives fully for its people without rest or respite. Reflecting on his experiences, including a visit to a shop named after John 10:10 in Manila, he emphasized the universal call to shepherdhood that transcends geographical and denominational boundaries.

As Mathews Mar Pachomios begins his episcopal journey, Cardinal Gracias’s message serves as a beacon of guidance, underscoring the call to shepherd the faithful towards a life of abundance, marked by the fullness of God’s love and grace.

The Invocation of the Holy Spirit and the Fraternity of Bishops

The core of the ordination ceremony, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, marks a pivotal moment where heaven touches earth, sanctifying the chosen one for his episcopal ministry. As the congregation held its breath, the sacred silence was palpable, a testament to the profound spiritual significance of the moment unfolding at Mount Mar Ivanios, Khopoli.

The assembly of bishops, representing the unity and apostolic succession of the Church, stood in solemn fraternity around Rt. Rev. Mathai Kadavil Remban. This gathering was not just a symbol of ecclesiastical authority but a powerful manifestation of the Church’s universality and the interconnectedness of its members. The bishops, by their presence, affirmed the unbroken line of succession that links the present with the apostolic past, ensuring the fidelity of the Church to the teachings and mission entrusted to it by Christ.

His Beatitude Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, the Major Archbishop of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, presided over the ceremony, embodying the paternal care of the Church for its new shepherd. The reading of the appointment letter by Bishop Thomas Mar Koorilos was a formal acknowledgment of Remban’s new responsibilities, entrusted to him by the Holy See and the Church’s hierarchy. This moment underscored the canonical and spiritual authority being conferred upon the new bishop, binding him more closely to the universal Church and its mission.

The concelebrated Mass that followed was a vivid expression of the Church’s sacramental unity. Led by Cardinal Cleemis, with Bishops Thomas Mar Anthonios and Thomas Mar Koorilos as co-celebrants, the liturgy was a profound communal prayer, invoking the Holy Spirit’s outpouring upon the ordinand. The participation of the entire assembly in prayer and song highlighted the communal nature of ordination, where the Church, both heavenly and earthly, comes together to witness and support the gift of a new bishop to the world.

The presence of ecclesiastical dignitaries, including His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias and the Apostolic Nuncio, His Grace Dr. Leopoldo Girelli, along with bishops from various Christian traditions, His Grace Most Rev. Geevarghese Mar Koorilos, the Metropolitan of Bombay, Malankara Orthodox Church, His grace Felix Machado, Bishop Thomas Elavenal of the Kalyan diocese, Bishop Mar Thomas Padiath, the auxillary bishop of Shamshabad, Bishop Jose Chittooparambil, CMI, Mar Tony Neelankavil , Auxilary of Trichur, Bishop John Rodrigues, the Bishop of Pune, Gheevarghese Mar Aprem, Knanaya Achdiocese of Kottayam and Bishop Malcolm Sequeira of Amravati illustrated the ecumenical dimension of the Church’s life. Their participation was a sign of the universal call to unity among Christians, a unity deeply cherished and continually sought by the Syro Malankara Catholic Church.

The Sacred Ordination: A New Bishop is Consecrated

Following the solemn and reflective moment of the kukilion (Psalms), the atmosphere within the pavilion at Mount Mar Ivanios, Khopoli, transitioned into one of profound sanctity as the ordination service commenced. This segment of the ceremony, led exclusively by the gathered bishops, signified the direct invocation of the Holy Spirit upon Rt. Rev. Mathai Kadavil Remban, now set apart for his episcopal ministry. The bishops’ handling of the incense, a role typically reserved for deacons, underscored the exceptional gravity of the occasion. The assembled faithful, participating with rapt attention and prayerful hearts, bore witness to this sacred rite, a pivotal juncture in the life of the Church where the celestial and terrestrial realms converge.

Central to the ordination was the Gospel reading by His Beatitude Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos. In a gesture laden with symbolism, the Holy Scriptures were placed upon the shoulders of Remban, heralding his commitment to uphold and proclaim the Gospel. This act underscored the bishop’s primary vocation as a herald of Christ’s message, entrusted with the spiritual welfare of his flock.

The ceremony reached its zenith as the episcopal consecration unfolded, marked by the laying on of hands and the prayer of consecration, invoking the Holy Spirit to sanctify the new bishop. The bishops present, each a link in the apostolic chain stretching back to the first apostles, participated in this solemn act, thereby affirming the apostolic continuity of the Church. The silence that enveloped the crowd was a witness to the sacredness of the act being performed, a moment where time seemed to stand still, and the divine touched the mortal realm.

The newly ordained bishop was then vested in the episcopal regalia, signifying his new role and the authority vested in him. Each piece of the vestment, rich in symbolism, was a visual testament to the duties and responsibilities now entrusted to him. The moment of vesting was not only an external transformation but also a profound inward consecration, setting apart Mathews Mar Pachomios for the service of God and His Church.

The climax of the ordination ceremony was the handing over of the pastoral staff, a symbol of the bishop’s shepherding role. As the staff was presented, all bishops of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, according to their rank and age of ordination, joined in holding it before it was finally held by the newest among them at the bottom of the staff, symbolizing their collective support and the unity of their mission. This act illustrated the collegial nature of the episcopacy, with each bishop bearing the yoke of Christ in communion with his brethren.

Blessing the Faithful: A Gesture of Shepherdly Care

With the presentation of the episcopal insignia, the newly ordained bishop blessed the congregation, a first act of pastoral care and benediction. This blessing was not just a formal gesture but a profound communication of grace, signifying the bishop’s immediate assumption of his pastoral role, embodying Christ’s love and care for His people.

The fraternal kiss of peace from each bishop to the newly ordained was a warm welcome into the college of bishops, symbolizing ecclesial communion, mutual support, and the joy of shared apostolic service.

Conclusion of the Ceremony: A Communal Celebration

The ordination ceremony culminated in a Eucharistic celebration, now led by Mathews Mar Pachomios as the main celebrant. His first act of incensing the altar and remembering those who had served before him was a touching tribute to the continuity of faith and service that characterizes the Church’s life.

The Installation of Mathews Mar Pachomios: A New Chapter for the Eparchy of St. Ephrem, Khadki Pune

In a momentous and spiritually charged ceremony, the Eparchy of St. Ephrem, Khadki Pune, welcomed its new shepherd, Mathews Mar Pachomios, marking a new chapter in its history. The installation ceremony, conducted at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Khadki Pune, was not just a formal event but a profound manifestation of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church’s living tradition and its commitment to the Gospel.

A Solemn and Joyful Celebration

The cathedral, adorned with symbols of faith and heritage, became the setting for a historic event attended by the entirety of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church’s episcopacy, clergy and religious of the region. This gathering underscored the unity and shared mission of the Church in India and beyond.

As the clock struck 6pm, the air filled with hymns and prayers, setting a reverent tone for the installation. The presence of His Beatitude Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, alongside bishops from the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and representatives from sister churches, highlighted the ecumenical spirit and the collective support for the newly appointed bishop.

The Rite of Installation

In the pivotal moments of the ordination ceremony, the ancient chant of ‘Oxios’ resonated through Mount Mar Ivanios, Khopoli, as a solemn affirmation of Rt. Rev. Mathai Kadavil OIC Remban’s worthiness for the episcopate. This sacred acclamation, deeply rooted in the traditions of the Church, signifies the congregation’s and the clergy’s collective endorsement of the ordinand’s readiness to assume the bishopric responsibilities.

When ‘Oxios’ was intoned once more during the installation at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Khadki, Pune, it served not merely as a repetition but as a reinforcement of the community’s unwavering support and the Church’s acknowledgment of Bishop Mathews Mar Pachomios’s new role. This double invocation of ‘Oxios’ beautifully bridges the ordination and installation ceremonies, highlighting a continuous thread of ecclesiastical approval and the deepening bond between the bishop and his flock.

Forward in Faith

The installation ceremony concluded with the Agape meal, a tradition that dates back to the early Church, symbolizing fellowship and the shared table of Christ. This meal, shared among the bishops, clergy, and laity, was a fitting end to a day marked by spiritual renewal and communal joy.

The elevation of Mathews Mar Pachomios to the bishopric of the Eparchy of St. Ephrem, Khadki Pune, signifies a vibrant chapter in the life of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. This event heralds a new era of leadership, marked by the legacy of dedication from the pioneering missionaries like Fr. Posinthios, who initiated the mission in this region, to Fr. Berchmans, whose tireless efforts laid the foundation for a unified and spiritual community. Fr. Berchmans, in particular, mirrors the essence of St. Pachomius—his monastic dedication to congregation building and serving the diaspora mirrors the saint’s life of monastic leadership and community building. This legacy was further nurtured by Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas, who shepherded the community as its exarch, and Mar Anthonios, who became the first Bishop of the Eparchy and then provided administrative oversight upon Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas’s passing, because of his appointment to lead the Eparchy of Gurgaon.

Under the guidance of Mathews Mar Pachomios, the Eparchy of St. Ephrem is poised to embark on a journey marked by spiritual fervor, evangelistic zeal, and a deep commitment to the Gospel’s call to love and service. As the community rallies behind their new bishop, the future holds promise for a Church that is ever more united, vibrant, and faithful to its divine mission.

In this spirit of renewal and hope, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church continues its journey, led by its bishops and nourished by the grace of God, towards a future filled with the light of Christ.

Saint Pachomius the Great: Inspiration for Episcopal Service and the Bethany Monastic Vision

In the celebratory ambiance of the ordination of Rt. Rev. Mathai Kadavil OIC Remban as Bishop Mathews Mar Pachomios, the spiritual legacy of Saint Pachomius the Great finds a resonant echo in the monastic ideals of Bethany Ashram, blending Eastern Christian monasticism with Indian Sannyasam. Saint Pachomius, renowned for his foundational role in Christian monasticism, emphasized community living, prayer, and apostolic service—principles that have profoundly influenced the ethos of Bethany Ashram, the first monastic community in the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, established by Archbishop Mar Ivanios O.I.C in 1919.

Bethany Ashram: A Cradle of Monastic Life and Apostolic Mission

Bethany Ashram, under the vision of its founder Servant of God, Mar Ivanios, sought to integrate the monastic traditions of the Christian East with the ascetic life of Indian Sannyasam, creating a unique lifestyle marked by simplicity, communal prayer, and apostolic zeal. The saffron-clad monks of Bethany, living a life of austerity and intense spiritual devotion, soon became beacons of solace and spiritual renewal within the Malankara Church. The ashram’s transformation into a pivotal center for the historic Reunion Movement in 1930 marked a significant chapter in its journey, aligning its members more closely with the Catholic Church and expanding its apostolic activities with an “All India Missionary Vision.”

The elevation of the congregation to Pontifical Status in 1966 and the establishment of two provinces in 2000 further underscored its commitment to theological education, evangelization, and social service. Bethany Ashram Pune, serving as the Major Seminary of the Congregation, and Bethany Vedavijnan Peeth, an Institute of Oriental Studies, reflect the congregation’s dedication to forming seminarians in the theological and spiritual traditions of the East.

Apostolic Activities and the Legacy of Fr. Mathai Kadavil

The apostolic activities of Bethany Congregation, ranging from gospel preaching, ecumenical dialogue, missionary work, social apostolate, to education, embody the expansive vision of its founder. Fr. Mathai Kadavil OIC, now Bishop Mathews Mar Pachomios, as the Superior General of the congregation and a distinguished theologian, has been a pivotal figure in continuing this legacy. His leadership in theological education, coupled with his involvement in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, exemplifies the Bethany mission of church renewal and evangelization.

Bishop Mathews Mar Pachomios: Embarking on a Pachomian-Bethany Mission

As Bishop Mathews Mar Pachomios assumes his episcopal ministry, he brings with him the rich monastic heritage of Bethany Ashram and the apostolic zeal of Saint Pachomius the Great. His background as a monastic leader and theologian positions him uniquely to shepherd the Eparchy of St. Ephrem, Khadki Pune, towards a future where the monastic spirit of prayer, community, and missionary outreach flourishes. In this new chapter, the Eparchy looks forward to embodying the Bethany vision of a church that is deeply rooted in prayer, engaged in the world through apostolic service, and committed to the Gospel’s call to unity and love.

In this spirit, the ordination of Bishop Mathews Mar Pachomios becomes a confluence of the Pachomian ideals and the Bethany Ashram’s mission, heralding a new era of episcopal service that is monastic in spirit and apostolic in action. As the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church celebrates this momentous occasion, it reaffirms its commitment to a journey of faith that is enriched by the legacy of its saints and the living tradition of its monastic communities.

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