(Vatican Radio) Message of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches at the Memorial Lecture in honor of Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios – Pontifical Urbanianum College, Rome, Saturday, 17 October 2015.
Your Beatitudes Cardinal George Alencherry and Cardinal Mar Cleemis,
Honorable Ambassador Sreenivasan,
Reverend Father Rector and brother Priests, Sisters, my dear friends,
We have gathered together for a most propitious occasion: to recall the person of Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios, second Metropolitan of the Syro-Malankara Church in view of the approaching Centenary celebration of his birth. The visit of the Major Archbishops to Rome for the Synod of Bishops has made this possible, along with the generous participation of the honorable Ambassador.
1. It is not my purpose to expound upon the life and vision of Mar Gregorios; I myself have come to learn about this revered figure. I would like to note, however, how very important it is to celebrate such great figures in the life of the Church. A Church is the communion of believers, who receive and transmit the precious gift of faith in many diverse ways. A bishop holds a unique place in this process of extending the life of the Church throughout time and space. In a still more particular way does the Head and Father of sui iuris Church exercise this responsibility. Not only did the man we remember today, Archbishop Mar Gregorios, lead the Syro-Malankara Church for four decades, but he led it through a key time of growth and formation.
2. In a certain sense, Mar Gregorios reflects the early life of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; he was himself a fruit of the Reunion Movement. The young Varghese Thangalathil was inspired by Mar Ivanios, who ordained him to the holy priesthood and entrusted to him the care of the newborn Church. It became, by the end of the Mar Gregorios’s life, a mature and integrated part of the Catholic Church both in India, as manifested his Presidency of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference, and in the world, as manifested by his participation at the Second Vatican Council and reception of Pope St John Paul II in Trivandrum.
3. Every true pastor is a bridge: from man to God, from the past to the future, from the local community to the rest of the Body of Christ. Archbishop Mar Gregorios can surely be seen as a consummate bridge for souls. In particular, he can be an intercessor for the ecumenical movement and, through his promotion of education, for secularists to faith in Christ. These are the tasks, which Providence has assigned especially to the Syro-Malankara Church, in light of its historical and social circumstances. For all her faithful, then, Benedict Mar Gregorios should remain a guide.
4. Lastly, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I note that the late Archbishop’s legendary love of nature, combined with his solicitude for the material needs of the poor, is particularly timely and relevant to us all. As Pope Francis has reminded us in the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si: “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (n. 49). With great interest, I look forward to hearing details about the man whom God called forth nearly a hundred years ago to play such a key role in the Church, especially in our beloved Malankara Catholic Church. Thank you.