Cyril Mar Baselios, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, died of a heart attack on 18 January at the age of 71. Appointed metropolitan archbishop of Trivandrum by Pope John Paul II in 1995, Mar Baselios became major archbishop one decade later when the pontiff elevated the 405,000-strong Syro-Malankara Catholic community to the dignity of a major archiepiscopal church.
One of the late major archbishop’s last acts was the erection of the new Eparchy of Mavelikara, Kerala, India, naming one of his auxiliary bishops, Joshuah Mar Ignathios, as its first bishop.
Mar Baselios was “a great visionary who understood the meaning of inculturation and encouraged the church to practice it,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Mumbai. The archbishop added that Mar Baselios “showed great understanding and always tried to see things from the others’ perspective.”
The Syro-Malankara Catholic synod of bishops elected 47-year-old Isaac Mar Cleemis, Archbishop of Tiruvalla, as major archbishop on 8 February. Pope Benedict XVI confirmed his election two days later.
One for the Books
On 14 January, CNEWA’s Associate Secretary General, Chorbishop John Faris, inaugurated the renovated library of St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary in Alwaye, Kerala. CNEWA’s generous benefactors provided $94,000 to refurbish the library and kitchen as well as to purchase computers and software.
Hundreds of priests and seminarians attended the ceremony, which also coincided with the 75th anniversary of the seminary.
St. Joseph Seminary has provided theological formation to tens of thousands of priests in the Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches.
Mar Ignatius Antoine II, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Emeritus of Antioch, died on 21 February at the age of 97.
Born in Aleppo, Syria, he was ordained a Syriac Catholic priest in 1933. After studying in Lebanon and Rome, Mar Ignatius returned to Aleppo and served as a parish priest for 26 years until his election as archbishop of Aleppo. As archbishop, he participated in all sessions of Vatican II.
In 1968, the synod of bishops of the Syriac Catholic Church, which now numbers some 124,000 people, elected him patriarch.
Mar Ignatius Antoine II founded Syriac Catholic missions in Australia, Canada, Sweden, the United States and Venezuela. May he rest in peace.
Assessing Damaged Churches
Late last year, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches asked CNEWA’s Pontifical Mission office in Beirut to assess all Lebanese churches and related institutions damaged during last summer’s fighting between Hezbollah and Israel.
On 23 January, our Regional Director for Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, Issam Bishara, presented a 30-page report to a Rome meeting of Catholic donor agencies serving the Eastern churches, which is convoked semiannually by the congregation.
Compiled in coordination with local bishops, the detailed report estimated total damages at more than $1.4 million. Some $120,000, donated from local communities, already have been deployed in diocesanreconstruction efforts.
Hardest hit were religious institutions in southern Lebanon, but significant damages in the Bekaa Valley and the Beirut area were also reported.
Our Pontifical Mission office is coordinating reconstruction efforts, which also include agricultural infrastructure and income-generating projects, all requested by the bishops.
Jerusalem Eye Hospital Modernized
St. John’s Eye Hospital in Jerusalem reopened its refurbished men’s ward on 7 February. Established in 1882, the hospital provides around-the-clock ophthalmic care to tens of thousands of patients each year. The facilities in the hospital’s men’s ward, which were last renovated 46 years ago, required immediate attention.
Funded in collaboration with the British Consulate General, the Jerusalem office of our Pontifical Mission managed the refurbishment of the ward as part of its labor intensive community development program. The project employed 10 Palestinians over a 92-day period.
In addition to its Jerusalem facilities, St. John’s Eye Hospital maintains clinics in Hebron and Gaza City and operates mobile outreach clinics throughout the West Bank.