ONE @ 50: Benedict Mar Gregorios, India’s Renaissance Man

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. A standout amid dozens of profiles, this feature, originally published in April 1992, highlights Benedict Mar Gregorios and the wealth of knowledge and wisdom he shared.

Read an excerpt from “Benedict Mar Gregorios, India’s Renaissance Man” below, then read the full story, written by Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.

Benedict Mar Gregorios is a man who hurries in a heat of hope!

The Syro-Malankara Archbishop of Trivandrum is an elegant, thin man in perpetual motion. When introduced, he mocked his wispy beard by telling us that children often asked why he never cut it. He laughingly responded, “Would you trim a flower?”

Picture his residence in Trivandrum, Kerala, India – a wooden building with breeze-collecting porches surrounded by exotic plants and flowers, gardens bursting with crops (some unknown and untried throughout his country), rubber trees, animal shelters, chemical laboratories, distilleries for making honey syrup and wine, quail and chicken coops, hybrid-seed-processing areas, libraries and research rooms…picture this, and you will “see” just a small portion of his world.

Our first meeting with Mar Gregorios was at a luncheon. Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Sister Kathryn Callahan, C.S.C., Kamini Desai Sanghvi and I were served quail (grown on his farm), fresh pineapple (grown on his farm), cashew nuts (grown on his farm), honey spread on sweet bread (credit bees with the honey but the bread was home-baked), and coconut milk (you guessed it).

Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios oversaw a period of explosive growth in the Syro-Malankara church in India — and was dubbed “India’s Renaissance Man” for his wide-ranging interests and tastes. (photo: Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)

During the meal, Mar Gregorios quoted literature from half the writers of the Western world. He quoted Horace’s poetry in the original Latin. He is fluent in Malayalam and Tamil, the languages of his archdiocese. He also speaks fluent Italian, French, Portuguese and English.

He maintains correspondence with scientific societies and academic associations throughout the world; collects the latest research on plant life, agricultural techniques, fast-growing trees, mushrooms, small game; breeds dairy cows, anthurium flowers, cacti and roses, spices. You name it, this 76-year-old priest has studied and knows it.

Read more.

Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M., a professional photographer and former programs director at CNEWA, served the agency for nearly 30 years. She entered into eternal life in 2013.

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