Auxiliary Bishop Jacob Muricken of Palai has written to the Vatican seeking permission to leave bishopric so that he could lead a strict ascetic life, reports a news portal that claims to have spoken to the prelate.
This is the first time in the Indian Church history that a serving bishop relinquishes his post to pursue a deeper spiritual life like the early hermits of ancient Egypt, reports thenewsminute.com.
“He has applied for permission to leave the bishop’s post. Not sure if it is approved,” a priest of the diocese told Matters India on May 2 on condition of anonymity. According to the priest, Bishop Muricken already leads an ascetic life.
The priest also pointed out that the bishop is related to Saint Alphonsa, the first woman saint of India. “Muricken is the maternal house name of St Alphonsa, and her spirituality has influenced him a lot,” he added.
Bishop Muricken, who had in 2016 created history as the first prelate to donate one of his kidneys, now wants to live alone with limited food and minimum worldly comforts.
The 56-year-old prelate reportedly told the website that he has written to Rome and informed Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Bishop Muricken had actually given a letter to Cardinal Alencherry in 2018. The Cardinal will send it to Rome after getting the approval of the Syro Malabar Bishops’ Synod.
Bishop Muricken said he has been nursing the dream to become an ascetic since 2017. He plans to leave the bishop’s post by 2023.
“The decision was communicated to the Pala Bishop Joseph Kallarangattu earlier in 2017. Initially, the bishop had not given approval for my demand. However, I persisted in my demand and he asked me to continue in the bishop’s position and lead a monastery life. Since that is impractical I have decided to follow my mind,” Bishop Muricken was quoted as saying.
He ruled out any tensions or pressures or schism inside the diocese which compelled him to the decision.
He said that although he was not interested to lead a secluded life it was on “inspiration from God” that conditioned his mind. He has identified Nallathanny in Idukki district as the place for his ascetic life. He has discussed with the church authorities and built a hut there. Right now three laymen live a secluded hermit life inside the forest at Nallathanny.
Bishop Muricken, who hails from a Catholic family in Pala diocese, was born at Muttuchira on June 16, 1963.
After completing master’s degree in Economics, he Joined Good Shepherd Minor Seminary, Palai. He completed his priestly studies at St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary, Kottayam.
He was ordained a priest on December 27, 1993. After a short period of service as assistant vicar at St. Mary’s Forane Church Kuravilangad, he was appointed rector of Savio Home Boarding House, Neeloor. Later he served the diocese in various capacities as professor at the diocesan minor seminary, secretary of Corporate Educational Agency, vicar at Chakkampuzha and Neeloor parishes.
He was appointed the auxiliary bishop of Palai on August 24, 2012, while serving as the diocesan pastoral coordinator. His episcopal ordination was on October 1, 2012 at St. Thomas Cathedral, Palai.
He was the general convener for the 31st Plenary Assembly of Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India held at Palai February 5-12, 2014.