Apr 8, 2016

Jesus Youth receives Pontifical Approval

Dear Rev Fathers, Sisters and Friends,

This is truly a moment of gratitude and joy!  
A moment to bow our heads yet again before our mighty God who honours the promise He gave us in the early days of the movement - "I will lead you step by step." A moment to lift our hearts and praise Him with songs of thanksgiving! 

From its small beginnings in Kerala, He took our movement to different parts of India and carried us across 35 countries around the globe! And now, He has given us the privilege of being the first ever Ecclesial movement from India to receive this Canonical approval from the Holy See and the second movement in the history of the Church in Asia.  
In the coming days, I will be writing three mails - this is the first one in the series. In this mail I shall try to narrate the ways in which God led us to receive this approval. In the second mail, I shall share some of the responses from leaders of other movements. In the final one, I shall try to explain the meaning, implications and practical aspects of this approval.

The Process and the People:
The approval from The Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL) was not the result of the work of a few months. The first meeting I had with the PCL was in Nov 2003 - where Mons. Delgado (the present Under-Secretary of PCL) clearly told me that going in for this process of approval was not 'optional’ but ‘mandatory’ if we had dreams of working globally. He advised me to start with the local recognition.  
The first concrete step for the approval was taken in December 2005 when we approached Bishop Thomas Chakiath - who took us to the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Conference (KCBC) meeting and presented the movement to KCBC on the 7th December 2005. The KCBC asked us to approach the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI),  as our movement was functioning on a national scale in India. Along with a covering letter from Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios, we first approached the CBCI in this regard in January 2006. Following the submission of our statutes, the CBCI instructed us to submit the statutes to a local Bishop in Kerala as the movement originated here, specifically to Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of the Syro-Malabar diocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. We approached His Eminence on 22nd January 2007, and he suggested in his letter dated 25th January 2007 that it would be better if we sought approval from a Bishop of the Latin rite as the movement had spread to a number of countries around the world. Hence we made a request and were given a letter of approval by Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara of Nagpur Archdiocese on 8th April 2007. On approaching the CBCI with this letter, we were once again advised to get a letter of recommendation from a local Latin Diocese in Kerala. Accordingly we sought and received a letter of approval from Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of Verapoly Archdiocese on 20th August 2007. We submitted the approval letters from both Archbishops to the CBCI and after several meetings,  the CBCI approved our statutes and appointed His Grace Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara as the Ecclesiastical Advisor for Jesus Youth in India - in October 2008. This is a time when we must voice our heartfelt tributes to the late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, the Late Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil and the Late Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios who played key roles in the initial stages of this journey. 

We started the process of Pontifical Approval on 24th Aug 2009 at 4 p.m. in the Vatican. Here is the mail I sent soon after our meeting, with the subject “Another landmark in the history of Jesus Youth”  
"Just a few minutes ago, we officially began the process of being recognised as an 'International Private Association of the Lay faithful with Pontifical right'. Four of us representing Jesus Youth led by Archbishop Abraham, Fr Chilton, George and  a team of officials from PCL - led by Bishop Joseph Clemens, Msgr Delgado, Fr Kevin and Prof Guzman met in the official conference room.  We had a beautiful meeting with them and submitted the documents (it was around 7kgs of materials including recommendation letters from 21 Bishops). They announced that the process has officially begun now. Praise God! The presence of Archbishop Abraham was a great blessing!”

We received the first response on 30 April 2010 from the PCL asking us to restructure and redraft the statutes in a given format. They recommended that we seek the advice of one of the listed Canon lawyers in Italy. We went to Milan and met one of them - but the cost involved was far beyond us. At that time, I heard about the dean of the Department of Canon Law of Santa Croce University in Rome - Fr Luis Navarro (one of the best Canon lawyers in the Church, especially for guiding movements). Several people told us that he was very busy and there was no point in approaching him. But with the help of Msgr Antony Kollamparambil, I met him and to my surprise Fr Navarro agreed to guide us! Looking back, I see this was one of the crucial moments in our journey towards recognition. 

Back in Kerala, we approached two eminent Canon lawyers, Fr Alex Vadakumthala (Now Bishop of Kannur) and Fr George Madathikandathil (now Bishop of Kothamangalam) to help us in drafting the statutes according to the Code of Canon law (CIC) and code of Eastern Churches (CCEO). We took almost 3 years to prepare a new draft of the statutes - mainly because we wanted to put down what we live in the movement - we never wanted to write something and then try to adjust our lives accordingly. Between 2013 and 4th April 2016, we went through 6 revisions - each revision involving many prayerful discussions and consultations, always trying to follow His will. 

From the beginning to this very moment, it was  a small team that worked together for drafting the statutes - Dr Edward (our incomparable master drafter) and Raiju. We had innumerable consultation meetings with Bishops, Priests and leaders over the last 11 years to format the drafts articulating the work of the Holy Spirit in this movement in the last 30+ years. The last three International teams - specially the last two teams under the leadership of George and Raiju contributed a lot in giving this a proper shape. C.C Joseph played a pivotal role along with the present Council in running the final lap. Fr Pallivathukkal SJ, Fr Bitaju OSST, Fr Thomas Tharayil, Fr Cheriachan, Fr James Anaparampil, Fr Fio Mascarenhas SJ, Fr Shibu OCD, Fr Mathew Abraham CSSR, Babychayan, Sunil Nadarajan… (the list goes on) played key roles in guiding this drafting process. Msgr Antony Kollamparampil from Rome guided us and helped us with the right contacts, while Fr Chilton and Fr Tomy helped us in Rome to make this happen locally. Beena, Anu and Shelton helped us in editing the language.

Siju and Nolly, thank you for hosting us in your family whenever we travelled to Rome; serving food; taking us around for different meetings. May God continue to bless you! And our sincere thanks to our dear Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara - who accompanied us, guided us and blessed us with his wisdom and experience.  Above all, I gratefully remember all the leaders in the movement - from the beginning till now - you gave your very lives for the growth of this movement because of your love for the Lord… Your commitment and sacrifices have gone a long way in making our movement what it is today...

Personally, this was a long journey for me. And coordinating the Canonical approval process was the only responsibility I accepted even during my sabbatical year break.  It was a time to understand the wisdom, beauty and richness of the Church; it was a time when I closely witnessed the mysterious ways in which the Holy Spirit leads the ‘ one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’; it was a time when I learned to be patient, and yet persistent and focused on this God given mission. There were moments of joy; there were disappointments (I still remember a 3.5 hour long, tough meeting I had at PCL from which I took a really long time to recover). There were too, moments of criticism, humiliation and pain mainly because many were not aware of the true meaning of being placed at the heart of the Church, of the importance of having a charismatic and dogmatic foundation; but I gladly accepted it knowing that this was the price I would have to pay in order to witness a greater victory! Looking back now, it is such a joy to see the hand of God opening closed doors, leading us step by step, helping us to grow in ecclesial maturity. I thank the leadership of the movement for the trust you have put in me; I thank my family for coping with my long absences from home; for bearing with the long meetings, conference calls and discussions. 

And thank you Lord, for another experience of the beauty of walking with you, assuring me over and over again that this is a movement that was born of your will within the Church for the mission of the Church and that you are in absolute control! The only thing I have to do is blindly follow you! 

I pray that every Jesus Youth may be transformed by the power of Pentecost and sent forth to be true ‘missionary disciples’ of Jesus, and that we may continue to be a Missionary Movement at the Service of the Church - in the fullness of its meaning. 

Let His name be glorified!

God Bless, Manoj Sunny