2006-05-01 16:25:16

'Kunjachan', India's Apostle of Dalits Beatified, Pope Recalls Him

Indian priest, Father Augustine Thevarparampil, who was officially declared Blessed by the Catholic Church on Sunday in India was held out as a catalyst for the liberating force of the Gospel for the downtrodden and marginalized of society. Affectionately known as ‘Kunjachan’, meaning ‘little father’ in local Malayalam language because of his short height, Fr. Thevarparampil was beatified at a solemn Eucharistic celebration in his native village of Ramapuram in southern India’s Kerala state.
Cardinal Varkev Vithayathil, the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic church, presided over the ceremony on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI. Apostolic Nuncio or Ambassador of the Vatican to India, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana and the president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI), Cardinal Telesphore Toppo were among eminent church figures at the solemn Eucharistic celebration which was attended by a large congregation of faithful.
A humble and simple priest, ‘Kunjachan’ dedicated his life for the human, social and economic uplift of dalits or outcasts of society, over 5000 of whom he won over to Christ through his love and example. Paying tribute to the new Blessed, Cardinal Vithayathil said ‘Kunjachan’ showed how ‘to share the love of God with the downtrodden’, an example which the cardinal said “must be imitated by the faithful.” Kunjachan is chosen by God as the patron of the poor and the oppressed, he said. Archbishop Lopez Quintana who delivered a papal message regarded Kunjachan as a saint who liberated the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed announcing to them the good news of Christ.
Kunjachan was born in Ramapuram, in the Diocese of Palai, Kerala, on April 1, 1891. He was ordained a priest at age 33, on Dec. 17, 1921. Through most of his priestly life Kunjachan stayed at the St. Augustine's Church as one among the three assistant parish priests for more than 40 years. He died on 16 October 1973, aged 82, and is buried in his St Augustine parish church of Ramapuran, which has now become a place of pilgrimage. This was the first time that the Vatican has given permission for conducting the beatification ceremony of an Indian sainthood candidate in his own village church. A miracle attributed to the intercession of ‘Kunjachan’ was required to clear the way for this beatification. In 1991, Gilson Varghese, a 10-year old boy was miraculously cured of his clubfoot after he visited and prayed at the grave of “Kunjachan.” Gilson, today a healthy young man, was present at Sunday’s beatification.
Meanwhile in Rome, Pope Benedict remembered Father Augustine Thevarparampil, the new Blessed. After reciting the traditional midday Regina Coeli Marian prayer, the Pope greeted the people in English, recalling India’s apostle of the dalits. Numerous Indians, celebrating in Rome the beatification of ‘Kunjachan’, were present in St. Peter’s Square. Listen to the Pope: RealAudioMP3
Before the Regina Coeli prayer, the Pope stressed on the core belief of Christ’s resurrection saying denying it is emptying Christianity of its meaning. His remark came in a meditation on the Gospel passage of Sunday Mass in which Christ appears to his the disciples in Jerusalem after his resurrection. "Christ's resurrection is the central event of Christianity, a fundamental truth that must be reaffirmed with vigour at all times," said the Holy Father. "To deny it in different ways, as has been attempted and continues to be attempted, or to transform it into a merely spiritual event, is to make our faith vain," the Pontiff added. Recalling an expression of St. Paul, the Pontiff said: "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain." The Pope offered Mary as a way of Christian life urging the faithful to rediscover her role particularly in the month of May dedicated to her. After Christ's resurrection, when the apostles gathered with her, Mary was for them both "mother and teacher, a role she continues to carry out for Christians of all times," the Pope said. The Pope invited those present to invoke the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker, whom the Church remembers on May 1st, Labour Day.

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