Preetha T S
KOCHI: The Jacobite Syrian Church (Syrian Orthodox Church in India), which traces its origins to Saint Peter, is ordaining widows and divorcees as nuns. Conventionally, across various church denominations, only unmarried women are admitted to the fold as nuns. Around 250 nuns are part of the church, which follows Orthodox traditions, and the outreach may increase that number.
The church runs 10 convents in Kerala and with plans to set up a string of hospitals and educational institutions, authorities feel it could do with more hands. “Widows, divorcees and the disabled can get trained and become nuns,” says Father Varghese Kallappara, spokesperson of the Jacobite Church. If the women have children, they would be admitted to children’s homes run by the church, said Fr Kallappara.
Women in their 30s and 40s who remain unmarried due to financial constraints, too, are welcome to take up the vocation, he said.
The Syro-Malabar church, one of the Catholic churches in Kerala, has been admitting widows to its convents, citing that marriage is a holy life, and that there should not be an either-or choice for women. “Divorced women, however, would need special permission from the church to enter the service. We give priority to commitment and virtue,” said Fr Paul Thelakat, spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church, which has more than 30,000 nuns in its fold.
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Indian Malankara Orthodox Church), however, does not plan to change the rules. “This is a vocation, and it has its own rules. We have only a few nuns who joined the service after marriage, and they are housed in our ashram in Coimbatore,” says Fr Johns Abraham Konat, priest trustee of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.