Allen Shibu Keighley,
His Excellency, Mar Joseph Srampickal, is due to be ordinated as the very first bishop of the Great Britain Sryo Malabar diocese. Here at MalayalamUk’ English Section, we were blessed with an exclusive interview with his Excellency
Being ordained as bishop is a huge milestone in the life of a catholic Syro Malabar priest living in England. What were your first thoughts when the proposal was revealed to you?
My reaction, to be honest, is that… well I am a person with very close relationships with bishops so I am very familiar with the weight of responsibility that comes with this vocation. Like some bishops say, you become a completely different person. The person’s privacy is reduced, and also you interact with people differently. When you are a priest, in a single parish, you have a small amount of people that you communicate with on a regular basis. But when you become a bishop, you meet new people every day. I have accepted this position self-effacingly, praying and trusting in God, and also with the blessing of Mother Mary.
The number of Syro Malabar Christians in England is rising. What necessary steps will you take in accommodating these people?
The steps that I will hypothesise and create will depend on how the situation will change over time. For example, in Sunday school…nowadays, the younger generations speak English mainly, and that is shown quite clearly. We will try to make the Sunday schools involve more English in their teachings, and also, we will try to use different sources of communication and media, such as Facebook and WhatsApp to communicate with the young people. In that situation, it’s you, children and young adults that must give the suggestions. The church will accept them immediately and also will give great consideration to your ideas.
The young adults and children of today struggle to understand the meaning of true devotion, and have become much more secular. Some studies have predicted that England might become almost fully secular in around 20 years or so. How would the church help these people with these issues?
The people that have predicted this might not have considered the full potential of the Syro Malabar community and also the church in general. Becoming secular is when the word of God is not being preached. In order to counter-act this, the word of God NEEDS to be preached. I participated in a function in which children spanning from very young, to young adults appeared in different performances, which were influenced by the gospel. They ae becoming very familiar with the word of God. That kind of state is not present in very secular place. When we are influenced by the gospel in our daily lives, then the church gains its strength, and the world will be more sacred. It will be more holy.
Do you believe that there are considerable differences between the Syro Malabar church in India and the Syro Malabar church in England? For example, in India, the festivals and feasts of saints and such, are celebrated with great intensity, with parades and programmes lasting well into the night, but here, they are celebrated in a more formal way.
Yes, well, the methods of celebrating such feasts are also changing in India as well. In my opinion, more of these features are here, in the western world. India is also slowly becoming more and more westernised, and therefore the people do not participate in such programmes. But in England, more of the people strive to, for example, come to these events, and to participate in the general life of the Syro Malabar church.
My name is Allen Shibu, and I am an editor for the English Section for MalayalamUk. I am currently in Sixth Form (Year 12). I write and Edit News articles during my free time. This interview with Mar Joseph Srampickal, soon ordinated Bishop of the Great Britain Syro Malabar Diocese, is directed towards all the young people in the Syro Malabar community, who live either in India, or abroad, and I hope that they will all benefit from it.