Amid row over myths, clamour to name Oommen Chandy a saint builds

Although the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church does not have a history of awarding sainthood to the laity, a section of Chandy followers hopes the leadership will bend the rules, for once.

Published: 08th August 2023 07:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th August 2023 07:28 AM   |  A+A-

A visitor reads the intercessory prayer requests placed at the tomb of Oommen Chandy at St George Orthodox Church in Puthuppally on Monday | Vishnu Prathap

Express News Service

KOTTAYAM: What has Oommen Chandy to do with the Supreme Court verdict staying Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in the ‘Modi surname’ criminal defamation case? Much, it seems. Many believe Rahul received a favourable verdict as Chandy had blessed him when he attended the latter’s burial in Puthuppally. Furthermore, a faithful even posted a testimony on social media that it helped that Rahul had prayed at Chandy’s funeral!  The post went viral. And more followed. A Kollam native, who visited Chandy’s tomb three times, said she went on to win the lottery. As assertions piled up, people started pouring into Puthuppally from across the state, many with written requests for the departed leader. With many finding it a place for intercessory prayer, demands to declare Chandy as saint have gathered momentum.

Although the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church does not have a history of awarding sainthood to the laity, a section of Chandy followers hopes the leadership will bend the rules, for once. The Church has declared three metropolitans as saints thus far -- St Baselios Yeldho (Kothamangalam Bava), St Gregorios of Parumala (Parumala Thirumeni) and St Geevarghese Mar Dionysius Vattasseril.

The demand to award sainthood to Chandy received a clerical boost when Yuhanon Mar Policarpos, metropolitan of the Angamaly diocese of the Orthodox Church, pitched in at the Chandy commemoration organised by the Ernakulam district Congress committee (DCC) on Sunday.

“I had once shared my thoughts on declaring him [Chandy] a saint with the Orthodox Church secretary. I have made it clear that it’s not mandatory to be a priest to get sainthood,” the bishop said at the meeting attended by Syro-Malabar Church major archbishop George Alencherry and others.

The Church leadership, however, has not responded favourably to the demand. According to Fr Johns Abraham Konat, principal secretary to the Catholicos of the East, who is the supreme head of the Orthodox Church, declaring sainthood is a long and complex exercise. “It is a long-drawn-out process that includes intercessory prayers by followers and reporting of miracles based on such prayers. It takes at least two to three decades to complete the task. The church cannot declare anyone a saint without completing this process,” he said.

Deviating from precedence, Puthuppally St George church allotted a special crypt for Chandy on the church premises, near the tombs of priests. This was the first time in the history of the Malankara Church that a member of the laity was accorded a tomb within the premises of the church. According to the rules of the Church, metropolitans are laid to rest inside the church and priests inside the compound of the church, while the laity are offered a burial place in the cemetery outside the church premises.

Even as talks on declaring Oommen Chandy as saint gathered momentum, CPM state committee member K Anilkumar wrote an open letter to Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan requesting not to make Chandy a myth. According to Anil, Chandy was never a saint till July 18, but a reality. “As he wasn’t a myth, we, the communists, experienced Chandy’s obduracy and ferocity on several occasions. It was the Congress under Chandy that killed Meenadom Avaran during Emergency,” Anil said. Anil, who alleged political gain in Puthuppally bypoll as a motive behind the move, also raised the internal squabbles and group war in Congress when Chandy was at its leadership.  

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