Saffron priest passes away
Former Catholic Bishops Conference of India President and strong votary of Bharatiya Churches, Major Archbishop and Catholicos of Syrian-Malankara Catholic Church, Cyril Mar Baselious passed away in Thiruvanantha-puram, on January 18, 2007. He was 72. He was in hospital for some days due to kidney related problems and died of cardiac arrest.
Right from the time he was the Bathery Bishop, way back in seventies, he gave a Bharatiya approach to Christian rites and beliefs. The chapels were designed in the model of Kerala Temples complete with stone and tall brass lamps. He also took an unique interest in giving Bharatiya names to Christian institutions. The Bishop"shouse was called Dharmapeetom, Seminary-Gurukulam, Service wing - Sreyas, Religious house - Sannidhi and Youth Centre - Prathiksha. Even when the Pazhassi Raja (Hindu Chieftain who fought British and martyred) College in Wynad was taken over by the diocese, the Bishop insisted that the name should be retained, despite pressures to the contrary.
Cyril Mar Baselious merged Bharatiya culture and traditions with Christian beliefs, giving a new tone and tenor to Christianity in India. His palace was named ?Thirusannidhanam? and it was complete with temple model chapel and stone lamps. He took pride in calling himself a Bharatiya first. When questioned of his using saffron dress, he used to say that he has pride in being a link to the great Bharatiya culture and hence has a right and responsibility to use Hindu symbols. ?I am a Bharatiya Saint and what else should I wear, except Saffron.? The Bishop also used to carry a Japamala with him.
The Bishop was the follower of Inter - religious dialogue initiated by his predecessor Archbishop Mar Gregarious. Mar Gregarious cooled frayed tempers during the Nilackel Agitation in 1983, when Christians erected a cross near Sabarimala. He ordered removal of cross and soothed Hindu anger. Similarly when false charges were raised against RSS, on atrocities against Christians in North India, the Bishop who was CBCI President entered into dialogue with RSS leaders and was convinced of RSS"sinnocence. Several Hindu - Christian dialogues were held between Kerala RSS and Christian leaders.
In 2001 under his effort Hindu-Christian dialogue was held at the Kerala RSS headquarter Madhava Nivas in Kochi, in which all major Church factions and Sarsanghchalak Shri K.S. Sudarsan and Shri P. Parameswaran participated.
He was a strong votary of Indianisation of Churches and the brass lamps with oil wicks, Vidyarambam in churches on Vijayadasami, church contribution to Hindu festivals etc. were his exclusive contributions.
The body of the Archbishop was kept in the St. Mary"sChurch for paying homage and later buried with state honours.
RSS Karyavaha Shri Mohan Bhagwat, Former HRD Minister Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi and Former Union Minister O. Rajagopal expressed deep sorrow on the passing away of this unique saint.
The Sangh said, ?The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh expresses its deep-felt condolence in the demise of His Holiness Major Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselius of the Malankara Catholic Church. He was a highly respected spiritual personality. He gave an Indian face to Christian priesthood. He deeply believed in the Indian culture and worked towards the Indianisation of the Indian church. He was in the forefront of Indianising the church services.?
?The respected Archbishop was a great scholar in Indian culture and he was proud of his Indian heritage. He worked for the unity of both Indian Christian denominations as well as of the Indian religions.?
?The RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri K. S. Sudarshan had a couple of meetings with the revered Archbishop and he was involved in the inter-religious dialogue held in Kerala. The Archbishop was openly opposed to conversions by inducement. His contribution to the spiritual evolution of the country will always be remembered.?
?Born in a highly respected Christian family in Ullannor,near Pandalam, District Alleppey, the Revered Archbishop was a former head of the All India Catholic Bishop Conference and at the time of his death he was heading the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council. The entire RSS family offers its condolence to the Malankara Church and the followers of the Rev. Archbishop and we pray that his soul may rest in peace. The RSS Sarsanghachalak is abroad and in his absence, I am offering this condolence on his and the entire RSS family"sbehalf,? said Shri Mohan Bhagwat.
Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, BJP leader and former HRDminister said. ?The Revered Archbishop was a man of great vision. He had a deep knowledge of the Indian spiritual heritage and he worked tirelessly for a better understanding of major religious traditions in the country and their cultural unity. He believed in the independence of the Indian church order and he was a proud Indian who gave an Indian face to his religious order. He believed that the country had to develop on a spiritual path rooted in Indian tradition. I had a number of meetings with the respected Archbishop and we found close similarity in our views on various issues. He was a great educationist. I visited and inaugurated one of the engineering colleges in Triruvananda-puram. I could see that the rituals and services at the Archbishop"shouse were truly Indian. His demise is a great loss in our socio-religious life and I pray for everlasting peace to his great soul.?
Later BJP President Rajnath Singh visited the palace and offered floral tributes before the portrait of the Late Archbishop.