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My good friend, our church’s new leader

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Fr George Mankuzhikary with his old friend and new Archbishop Raphael Thattil. Photo: Supplied

Raphael Thattil, the recently elected leader of the Syro-Malabar Church, has emerged as a steadfast guardian of faith, crossing the highs and lows of life’s journey. His path to church leadership reflects a journey marked by challenges and triumphs. Despite facing life’s uncertainties and navigating difficult paths, he embraced unwavering faith and the endurance of Christ.

“From childhood, Raphael has grown in the refuge of divine grace and prayer,” reminisces his siblings. In his innocent early years, he quietly recited the Holy Qurbana, keeping it a secret from everyone.

Raphael Thattil doesn’t claim to be a theological expert; rather, his sermons and uplifting words touch hearts without relying on erudition or literary beauty. His discourse is a heartfelt conversation that communicates directly from heart to heart.

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The Major Archbishop and I were classmates in the major seminary during our theological studies, fostering a strong friendship that endures to this day. His friendly and amicable nature has always been a cornerstone of our relationship. Notably, his exceptional humanness and patience make him a commendable companion and an attentive listener.

His remarkable concern for those in need is reflected in his consistently open-handed approach to the less fortunate. He is known for making instant decisions in favour of the needy, showcasing his genuine commitment to helping others. A voracious reader and dedicated learner, his thirst for theological has been noteworthy.

From our days in the seminary, he exhibited oratorical skills and actively participated in various spiritual practices. His pleasing personality has endeared him to many, while his deep understanding of the universal Church has set him apart. It brings me immense joy and pride to witness his recent election as the Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church, a testament to his unwavering commitment to the Holy Mother Church and his outstanding qualities as a leader.

Mar Thattil of the eparchy of Shamshabad, the fourth major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, was humble when the news about his new mission arrived. “I don’t believe that I am a very capable person. God has called me for a new responsibility, and I humbly bow myself before Him. I leave everything to God. I want to bring everyone together. I don’t want to keep anyone away. My dream is of a church in which everyone stands together,” he said.

Mar Raphael Thattil is not just a bishop; he is an inspiring retreat guide, orator, and a gentle personality as known among bishops. As a bishop, he embodies humility and simplicity. What sets him apart from many is his willingness to listen to everyone, making him an approachable figure to everyone.

Addressing the people of God in his own hometown, Trichur, upon assuming the role of Major Archbishop, Mar Raphael Thattil expressed his intention to remain the same old brother and father from their neighbourhood. His determination to bring people together and propel progress fuelled his rise to the role of Major Archbishop.

He never aspired for the present title but it is the divine guidance that paved the way for this significant mission.

As for the problems facing the Syro Malabar Church, in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam- Angamaly, in Kerala, including the Unified Holy Mass, he said, “I consider all the adversities as the horizon. And from this very horizon rises afresh the bright glowing sun. So from all adversities, a new sun will rise.”

Fr George Mankuzhikary is a priest of the Syro-Malabar Church based at Christ the King Mission, Villawood

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