Sparks Fly over a Revolutionary Concept in Education

One-and-a-half-centuries after the idea of schools attached to Churches was introduced by the Catholic Church in Kerala, a debate is heating up over who pioneered the concept that played a big role in progressive education in the state.

Published: 12th August 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th August 2014 08:58 AM   |  A+A-

KOCHI: One-and-a-half-centuries after the idea of schools attached to Churches was introduced by the Catholic Church in Kerala, a debate is heating up over who pioneered the concept that played a big role in progressive education in the state.

Chavara.jpgWith just two months left for the canonisation of Fr Chavara, the Kerala Latin Catholic Association has come up with an argument that the idea ‘Pallikkoru Pallikkoodam’ (A school attached to a church) was conceived not by Fr Chavara but by Archbisop Bernard Beccinelli, the then head of the Vicariat of Verapoly, and that the pastoral letter in this regard was issued by Archbishop Beccinelli. Fr Chavara was vicar-general in-charge of Syro-Malabar Christians under the Verapoly Vicariat.

The KLCA Verapoly Archdiocese committee has decided to organise a function to commemorate the 150th year of the pastoral letter in which instructions were issued to the faithful to establish a school attached to every church. ‘’

The pastoral letter containing the idea of school attached to a Church was issued by Bernard Beccinelli. Though a copy of the original pastoral letter is not available now, this fact is evident from the documents related to this,’’ says Kerala Latin Catholic Association president Shaji George.

KLCA also rejected the possibility that Archbishop Beccinelli, through the pastoral letter, had only communicated Fr Chavara’s idea.

“In the Catholic Church, the power to issue a pastoral letter is vested only with a bishop. The bishop is responsible for the content of the letter too. Fr Chavara was the vicar-general and he cannot issue a pastoral letter. In that sense, we should accept the fact that  the idea of Pallikoru Pallikoodam was conceived by Fr Beccinelli,’’ Shaji George says.

But the authorities of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), the religious order established by Fr Chavara, counter the KLCA argument. ‘’It has not been confirmed whether the document in dispute was a pastoral letter or a circular. There is evidence to believe it was a circular. Fr Chavara was the vicar-general for the Syro Malabar faithful under the Verapoly Vicariat.

“There are documents proving that Fr Chavara had the power to address the Syro Malabar community as there was no separate diocese for them. Initially, Fr Chavara would have communicated this idea only to the Syro Malabar community. Later, Archbishop Beccinelli, who found the idea attractive, would have communicated the same to the Latin community,” says Fr Thomas Panthaplamthottiyil, director of Research and Documentation of CMI congregation.          

“It is unfortunate that a controversy is sparked off as the day of canonisation is nearing. During the last 150 years, there has not been any dispute related to Fr Chavara and his contributions,’’ Fr Panthaplamthottiyil says. Fr Chavara will be canonised on November 23.

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